20th Annual Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD) Fellowship Awards Gala

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Toronto, Ontario, Thursday, June 22, 2017


What a pleasure to be here for this gala evening with all of you.

It’s wonderful to see so many bright and energetic minds in the room.

To borrow a line from President Kennedy: not since Thomas Jefferson dined alone at the White House has there been such an extraordinary gathering of knowledge and talent!

I am truly grateful for your presence at this gala and at the ICD National Conference. The conference theme is “Why Governance Matters” and you are providing the answer:

Corporate governance matters because better boards lead to better outcomes and a better country.

As you may know, the motto of the Order of Canada is They Desire a Better Country, and the same can be said about all of you. You desire a better country, and as leaders you have both a responsibility and an opportunity to make a difference.

It’s no small task. As BMO vice-chair and former clerk of the Privy Council Kevin Lynch put it, we are living in an age of disruption. He identifies seven global trends that are reshaping our world in profound ways.

They include:

  1. Industrial revolution 4.0 – changing everything, everywhere;

  2. Globalization – a hyper-connected world, led by global supply chains;

  3. Climate change – is global warming being arrested? Mitigated?

  4. Demographics – aging affecting health costs, fiscal stability, economic growth;

  5. Energy – revolution in demand, supply and geopolitics;

  6. Governance – growing “governance gaps,” globally and nationally; and

  7. A world of distrust – anti-globalization, anti-immigrant, anti-establishment sentiments. 

Note the inclusion of growing governance gaps in the list of changes taking place, as well as a sense of distrust being felt worldwide.

I would like to focus on trust as my own, broad agenda item to add to your list of topics at the closing of this conference and gathering, and as something to keep front-of-mind as you return to your responsibilities.

When we speak of trust, I often think of a line Mark Carney once shared with us: trust arrives on foot and leaves in a Ferrari.

The truth of that statement reminds us that decisions relating to corporate governance should always consider whether levels of trust are increased or decreased as a result.

Of course trust is not the only factor to consider, but it is a vitally important one. It’s a foundation upon which the other factors build.

The organizations and, for that matter, the nations that succeed best are those that are able to build the greatest amount of trust among those they serve—including employee, consumer, shareholder, investor and citizen.

The global challenge of trust directly impacts your work as leaders in the corporate world. Each of you is a ‘trustee’ in the sense of your having been entrusted with the responsibility of leadership by your respective organizations.

Trust is central to a successful business or organization. This is the case even with a legal document such as a written contract.

As Émile Durkheim famously observed, “in a contract not everything is contractual.”

The invisible bonds of trust are of fundamental importance to all of us.

As leaders, your challenge is to find ways to strengthen and restore trust, both within your organizations and in society at large.

This is not just the right thing to do, but the bright thing. Moreover, it is doing the right thing and doing the thing right. Building trust creates a virtuous circle. So, just as better boards lead to better outcomes and a better country, the reverse is equally true: a better country results in better outcomes and boards.

That’s why this conference and tonight’s celebration is so important. You know that good governance matters to Canada, and vice-versa. In fact, Canada has a trusted brand in governance. In my not terribly objective view we manage trust in governance better than anyone else in the world. What a springboard to take the ICD everywhere in the world.

Let me conclude by offering my congratulations to each of the 2017 Fellows on your well-deserved recognition.

And allow me to thank you all for your dedication to good governance and to working toward a better Canada for all.

Have a wonderful evening.