AICD outflanks Morrison on the left

The Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) doesn’t immediately spring to mind as one of the major progressive voices – except perhaps in contrast with Scott Morrison.

The June issue of their magazine, Company Director, is a good example.

Start with the magazine cover which has a red background; a few pointers to articles inside; some identifying stuff; and a stark headline, ENOUGH, centred in the design.

The sub head: Why Boards must act now to stop workplace sexual harassment.

Over ten pages three writers canvass various sexual harassment issues with Catherine Fox saying “Australia is finally talking about sexual harassment. For boards and management 2021 will be a critical year to lead on this central societal and political issue that has acute repercussions for workplace culture, reputation and wellbeing.”  Fox goes on to focus on transparency, the need to acknowledge the problem and outlines strategies companies should follow.

In an interview in another article Australian Human Resources Institute CEO Sarah McCann-Bartlett says: “Without the board, the executive and managers actually doing their jobs you won’t see any change.”

Which would be very good advice for Morrison, the Morrison Cabinet and backbenchers. As Morrison managed to mansplain Brittany Higgins in their long-delayed meeting it seems the message has not got through yet.

Sally Moyle, former Care Australia CEO, contributes another article urging all staff to address the problem on the principle See Something, Say Something.

There are also links in the magazine to the Australian Human Rights Commission report, Respect@Work: Sexual Harassment National Inquiry Report; the Diversity Council of Australia’s Myth Busting publication; and, two AICD guides to Board roles in dealing with the problem.

There is also an interview with Adore Beauty co-founder and executive director, Kate Morris, about the company’s IPO and market. In 2020 it was the largest Australian female-led market float and has a female dominated board and management. Before you say – well they would wouldn’t they? – ask how many other companies selling mainly to women can say the same.

To top off this ‘woke’ attitude, as John Howard would categorise it, there is also an article on how to develop sustainable First Nations NFPs by Adam Davids a Wiradjuri descendant and non-executive director of Social Ventures Australia.

As if this was not enough to send Scott Morrison (and John Howard’s for that matter) heart racing there was good news for the climate and bad news for the LNP on climate change in the magazine as well.

Reporting on the AICD biannual national survey of issues “which keep directors awake at night” sustainability and long-term growth prospects came out top. This, however, is not environmental sustainability but business sustainability. The issue is followed by cyber crime, then pandemic and data security followed by climate change risk rating next.

Nevertheless, as AICD MD and CEO Angus Armour said: “It is clear that directors understand climate change risk is not a niche issue only relevant to some sectors, with the challenge now a mainstream item on boardroom agendas.”

Without being impolitic enough to draw attention to Scott Morrison’s lack of commitment on climate change, the AICD does highlight that 50% of global GDP and carbon emissions are currently under net zero commitment; and that $US501.3 billion has been committed to decarbonisation globally – up 20% despite the pandemic.

There is also a case study of Worley Company, a professional service provider in the energy, resources and chemical sectors.

Worley Chair, John Grill is quoted saying: “the world doesn’t yet understand the scope of the work required if any country is to get to get emissions free by 2050…(but) There’s no argument we are going to have a much cleaner society to go down the zero emissions society. It’s an evolution that is helping mankind (well not everything in the magazine and director world is woke) in many different ways and we’ll end up with a better result.”

In summarising the market situation and their corporate strategy Grill said: “We’re singing to the choir. It’s what our people want to be doing and investors are putting pressure on also.”

Sadly, Scott Morrison sings to a different choir and we’re not even sure whether he, along with a number of Pentecostals, actually believes in evolution. After all looking around his Cabinet and backbench it would be hard to.

Finally, we ought not get entirely carried away with AICD members embrace of climate change action – very few directors in the survey support carbon taxes. But then who can think of a tax on corporations that the AICD doesn’t oppose?

Declaration of interest: The author is an AICD Fellow.