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Social and environmental issues will drive future governance 

Liz Bradley

Broad social issues, such as demographic and technological change, as well as environmental sustainability will have a greater influence on the future course of governance according to a new report into millennial perspectives on the future of governance, launched last night by ICSA: The Governance Institute. Contributor Liz Bradley, Policy Officer and author of the report – ICSA.

Trends in social attitudes, financial inequality and an ageing population are all expected to have a significant impact on governance, along with technological change in the form of higher risks and costs associated with data protection and cyber security, sector disruption, changes to existing job roles caused by automation and more flexible working conditions for employees. Concerns about extensive regulation and conflicting regulatory frameworks were also flagged as being of significance.

“Our research shows that changing public expectations will have an impact on the future development of governance. Millennials expect organisations of all types to play a part in dealing with economic, environmental and social challenges – not just the organisations that would typically address these issues. Given that millennials will make up roughly 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025, organisations ignore their views at their peril.”

Over 400 company secretaries and governance professionals contributed to the research, which compared the answers of millennial and generation Z respondents (aged 18-35) with respondents aged 56-65. The main findings show that: 81 percent of all respondents believe legislation or other political action will be relevant to how concerns about environmental sustainability influence governance in the future; 87 percent believe that overlapping or conflicting regulatory frameworks are a feature of globalisation that will impact governance in the future; 84 percent of generation Y/Z think technological change is highly likely to cause significant governance challenges compared to 70 percent of established practitioners; 48 percent of generation Y/Z think environmental sustainability is highly likely to cause significant governance challenges compared to 27 percent of established practitioners; 71 percent of generation Y/Z think financial inequality is relevant to governance compared to 62 percent of established practitioners; 69 percent of generation Y/Z strongly agree that the level of scrutiny experienced by organisations will increase in the future compared to 61 percent of established practitioners; 42 percent of respondents think that insufficient time and resource to deal with the volume of applicable regulation will be the biggest obstacle to effective internal oversight in the next 10-15 years.

“It is clear that generation Y/Z governance professionals believe certain issues are more pressing than is currently appreciated by those in senior positions with greater levels of influence. If they are correct, this potentially leaves organisations at risk of being blindsided by social developments, left behind by their competitors or subject to more regulation in response to shifting public sentiment.

If governance professionals feel that the increased willingness of governments and regulators to use mandatory reporting requirements and legislation to tackle issues such as diversity and remuneration is unhelpful, organisations must show politicians and the public that they can effectively address issues of concern without legislative intervention,” says Peter Swabey, Policy and Research Director, ICSA.

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