Demand grows for greener more ethical investments
SOCIALLY conscious investment and emerging technologies are both areas that will require increasing boardroom focus, delegates at ICSA: The Governance’s annual conference in Guernsey heard.
Fiona Le Poidevin, CEO of the International Stock Exchange Group, told the event that recent climate change protests in London and the campaign led by schoolgirl Greta Thunberg were a sign of things to come.
She encouraged companies to focus on accountability, transparency and responsibility in their environmental, social and governance reporting and said that much more capital was needed to address such issues.
She also warned that there was a lack of consistency globally in terms of governmental and regulatory responses to ESG and said that companies are focusing on environmental issues more than on the social or governance side.
Mrs Le Poidevin similarly cautioned that the growing interest in allocating capital to green investments meant that vigilance against ‘greenwashing’ was required.
Duncan Smith, director of iCompli, gave a thought-provoking presentation about the dangers of embracing emerging technologies without giving adequate thought to what the impact of such technologies might be.
The vast amount of personal data now held, and the resulting analysis of this data, was allowing algorithms to make inferences which drove actions often hidden from users.
He advised companies to write and implement adequate data protection and information security policies – and warned of a skills gap in terms of seeing the opportunity afforded by technology and managing the risk.
Millennials could be paired with the senior leadership team, suggested Mr Smith, and recommended that companies should not just embrace change but acquire the expertise to lead it.
Simon Osborne, chief executive of ICSA, said: ‘This year’s conference has been of great use in flagging up to Guernsey’s governance practitioners some of the issues that businesses will be faced with in the future.
‘With climate activism increasing and the ESG market evolving, companies that are not paying close attention risk being left behind.
‘Similarly, it is vitally important that boards consider the ethical impact of technological advancements that allow such things as personal profiling.
‘A smart vending machine might be able to predict customer preferences, but questions remain about whether or not companies should be profiling and corralling customers in this way.
‘Similarly, is it right that the gambling industry targets the poor and ex-gamblers?
‘It is crucial that awareness of such important issues is raised so that boards and the governance professionals who advise them can ensure the continuing vibrancy of Guernsey’s economy.’
Paul Smith, the newly appointed chairman of ICSA’s Guernsey branch, added: ‘The theme of this year’s conference, “Building Board Resilience”, highlights the importance of organisations having a board that is fit for the future. As a leading financial services centre, there is constant scrutiny on Guernsey’s actions, and our members are uniquely positioned to implement good governance and high standards of compliance in order to safeguard Guernsey’s position as a trusted place to do business.’