ESG x Governance (6): Law, Compliance, Value Add – Déborah Carlson-Burkart

This is the sixth of a series of interviews intended to help our IDN members grapple with the ESG topic.
In this episode, we delve into the experiences of a lawyer and INED, and explore the insights she has gained in the course of her career.

Déborah Carlson-Burkart

Déborah Carlson-Burkart, specialises in strategic legal, compliance, and governance matters. She chairs committees for transforming companies and has advised on corruption, fraud, and money laundering investigations throughout her career, guiding regulated, listed, and private firms through transformative processes, especially under regulatory scrutiny.
Currently serving as an independent non-executive director at Visana Insurance Group, Fintech Bank N26, and technology company RUAG International, Déborah holds a law degree from the University of Zurich, an LL.M. from Duke School of Law, and a board certification from INSEAD. Fluent in four languages, she also lectures on governance and compliance at the University of St. Gallen and the Swiss Board School.

In your view: What is the relevance of ESG for overall company governance and success?

As a lawyer with decades of experience in compliance and governance, I’ve come to firmly believe that ESG factors are pivotal for overall company governance and success.
Having worked extensively with companies facing compliance challenges for over 25 years, I’ve witnessed first-hand the significance of ESG. It’s no longer a niche concern but a critical component of every company’s risk management strategy.
Effective governance demands the integration of ESG factors into decision-making processes, serving as a compass for navigating risks and seizing opportunities. This is particularly relevant in three key areas:

  • Risk management,
  • Long-term sustainability, and
  • Stakeholder management.

Companies that prioritise ESG are better equipped to navigate complex regulatory environments and capitalise on emerging opportunities. Even in highly regulated sectors, such as someones I am involved in, ESG-focused companies demonstrate greater agility and resilience.
In my capacity as a guest lecturer, I emphasize the importance of ESG, drawing from practical examples. Across the boards I serve on, ESG has become a central agenda item. While each company may prioritize different aspects of ESG based on its operations, the overarching commitment remains consistent.

For instance, at Beyond Gravity, a company specializing in satellite technology and aerospace, we’ve set ambitious ESG goals, aiming to lead the industry by 2025. This involves a targeted focus on environmental and social aspects, such as supplier monitoring and energy efficiency.
Similarly, at N26, an online bank operating across Europe, our emphasis is on governance and social responsibility, addressing compliance issues and fostering inclusivity.
Finally, with Visana, a comprehensive insurance provider, we’re undertaking specific projects to enhance our ESG performance, from sustainable investments to fostering a diverse and equitable workplace.
In each case, our approach to ESG is tailored to our company’s profile and priorities, reflecting a commitment to responsible and sustainable business practices.

What is the value add of ESG, including compliance and risk management, in overall company governance and success?

In my view, illustrated by the examples I’ve just shared, ESG initiatives offer more than just compliance and risk management—they add tangible value. While compliance and risk management are crucial and easily recognizable benefits, there’s a deeper impact. Allow me to elaborate with a case involving Viasana, where we’ve made numerous investments due to our surplus cash.

Firstly, integrating ESG principles enhances long-term financial performance. This, in turn, elevates our reputation across multiple dimensions. Reputation matters greatly—it not only attracts investors but also makes us an employer of choice. In an era where finding suitable talent for meaningful projects can be challenging, being an attractive employer is paramount.

Effectively, by prioritising ESG considerations in decision-making, we become a sustainable and trusted entity. This not only appeals to investors but also helps in risk mitigation and fosters sustainable growth. The potential benefits are considerable, though it’s important to acknowledge that there are costs involved. However, in my assessment, the positives outweigh the negatives.

How is the perception of ESG shaped differently across various markets?

Geographical disparities in ESG implementation, stem from diverse factors, ranging from regulatory frameworks to cultural norms and stakeholder expectations.
In Europe, for instance, regulatory standards are notably stringent compared to other regions. This is partly due to e.g. a lower tolerance for corruption, as evidenced by the region’s position in corruption indices. Compliance with regulations necessitates a shift in perspective, pushing us to consider long-term goals beyond immediate gains.

To illustrate, at Beyond Gravity, we’ve set an ambitious target to achieve a zero environmental footprint by 2026. While this goal is challenging, we’ve developed a clear roadmap for decarbonization. Operating across 14 different countries adds complexity, but we’re steadfast in our commitment.

Adapting our implementation strategies to accommodate geographical nuances is imperative. However, our overarching objective remains consistent—achieving a zero or net-zero environmental footprint by 2026. We’re making progress, and with continued effort, we’re optimistic about reaching our target.

Based on your experience, where do you see the biggest alignment gaps between executive leadership teams and non-executive boards regarding ESG? What are your recommendations for non-executive boards to address these gaps?

The issue of misalignment between the board and the executive or leadership team is not exclusive to ESG management but rather a pervasive concern. Misalignment can manifest in various areas, and with ESG, given its relatively new prominence, there’s heightened awareness of potential discrepancies. Conversely, in financial matters, there’s often an assumption of alignment, only to realise differences during implementation or when objectives aren’t met.

I perceive three primary sources of misalignment:

  • A lack of understanding,
  • A lack of focused attention, and
  • Divergent goals.

Understanding ESG is complex, encompassing environmental, social, and governance factors with no universally agreed-upon definition. Consequently, there’s a learning curve, compounded by busy schedules, which can lead to knowledge gaps within both the board and executive ranks.

Additionally, competing priorities vie for attention amidst already full agendas, diluting focus on ESG initiatives. Moreover, executives may prioritize short-term gains, while boards often espouse a longer-term, sustainability-oriented perspective, inherently misaligning priorities.

To mitigate these challenges, many companies, including ours, have appointed dedicated managers for ESG, ensuring visibility and cross-functional connectivity. Aligning management and board goals is crucial.

One effective strategy we’ve adopted at one of the companies involves tying the annual bonuses to achieving company specific ESG targets. This approachfosters alignment across the organization, with bonuses linked to collective ESG success.

While not without its complexities, this strategy streamlines efforts toward a shared objective. It underscores the importance of cohesive goal-setting and incentivise alignment across hierarchical levels.

Where do you see the biggest gaps for board directors to become ‘ESG fit’? How can boards efficiently upskill in this regard, and what should be the priorities for board chairs?

Let’s address your second question first. The key to advancing without stepping on anyone’s toes lies in continuous education. INSEAD, for instance, offers a wealth of opportunities for ongoing learning. The courses and resources available are exceptional and immensely beneficial. In my view, just as with any emerging field, board directors must prioritise continuous education to refine their skills and remain effective.

ESG literacy, akin to financial literacy, should be a fundamental requirement for board members. Additionally, as technology like AI becomes increasingly significant, AI literacy will also become essential. In our INSEAD cohort (IDP 29), we’ve fostered a close-knit community. Regular meetings every two weeks allow us to share insights, best practices, and even failures. This collaborative approach ensures that each member stays updated and continually improves.

Continuous education is particularly crucial in the realm of ESG. Given its complexity and evolution, one never truly finishes learning. Engaging with peers and staying abreast of developments ensures that fundamental skills are consistently honed.

Returning to the question about chairing boards, a simple yet effective strategy is to prioritize ESG on the agenda. It’s imperative that ESG principles are deeply understood and integrated into every aspect of board and management decision-making.

As a chair, personal commitment to continuous improvement is vital. For instance, I chair three nomination and compensation committees, emphasizing the importance of ongoing education through these committees’ agendas. Additionally, being involved in two audit committees ensures that ESG reporting is meticulously overseen. However, it’s crucial to remember that execution is just one aspect—cultivating a culture shift towards ESG is equally essential.

In essence, like many endeavours in life, the energy invested in ESG initiatives yields growth. It requires a mindset shift and the dedication of at least one committed individual on the board to champion this cause. Mere box-ticking won’t suffice; what’s needed is a genuine commitment to play by the rules and sometimes a cultural transformation. .

Looking forward, what will be the biggest ESG-related challenges for non-executive boards, and what can companies do to address them?

When considering the most significant risks from a board perspective, three critical areas come to mind, based on my experience overseeing major companies:

  • 1. Environmental Risk Management: Especially when operating internationally, the challenges posed by environmental concerns loom large. Effectively addressing these issues is paramount to our operations.
  • 2. Social Responsibility Assurance: The landscape of social responsibility evolves rapidly, with geopolitical shifts and societal changes. Remaining vigilant and responsive to these changes is essential to upholding our commitments.
  • 3. Governance Oversight: While governance may seem straightforward, the reality is that boards often face challenges in critically assessing their own practices. Vigilance in governance starts at the top and requires continuous evaluation.

In today’s business environment, companies must navigate a myriad of regulations and expectations related to sustainability, diversity, inclusion, ethics, and transparency. The breadth of these considerations is vast and requires constant attention.

ESG serves as a tool to achieve and be held accountable for sustainability, a goal that transcends generations. Cultivating a sustainability mindset among decision-makers and influencers within the organization is crucial. They need not hold formal positions of authority but should influence and advocate for responsible and sustainable practices, recognizing our duty to stakeholders present and future.

I consider myself fortunate to collaborate with CEOs who recognize ESG as not just a moral imperative but also a sound business strategy. Their leadership underscores the potential for ESG initiatives to yield returns on investment and drive growth.

Indeed, sustainability presents not only a responsibility but also an opportunity for innovation. Across industries, including our endeavours at Beyond Gravity, in insurance, and banking, we explore how sustainability can catalyse the development of new products, services, markets, and revenue streams. We leverage sustainability to chart a course towards success and resilience.

The interviewer: 

Dr. Pamela Ravasio, Shirahime

Dr. Pamela Ravasio is the founder and managing director of Shirahime Advisory, a Corporate Development & Responsibility Governance boutique consultancy. She serves as fractional Chief Sustainability Officer for companies and advises boards on ESG and governance. With a background in roles like Global Stakeholder Manager, she played a key role in making the European outdoor industry a leader in future-proofing.
She currently is a member of INSEAD’s International Directors Network.

ESG x Governance (5): The CSRD Challenge – Céline Abecassis-Moedas

This is the fifth of a series of interviews intended to help our IDN members grapple with the ESG topic.
In this episode, we delve into the experiences of a seasoned business academic who is also an INED, and explore the insights she has gained in the course of her career.

Céline Abecassis-Moedas

Céline Abecassis-Moedas is an academic and corporate leader, with over 25 years of experience spanning academia, consulting, and board positions. She is the Dean for Executive Education and Associate Professor at Católica-Lisbon School of Business and Economics, and serves as a non-executive director on the boards of CUF (chair of the innovation and sustainability committee), Vista Alegre Atlantis in Portugal, and Lectra (Chair of the remuneration committee and member of the CSR committee) in France. She also was on the board of Europac in Spain and of CTT and Grrenvolt in Portugal. She earned her PhD from Ecole Polytechnique, a MSc from Dauphine University (France), and is also an INSEAD IDP-C certified independent non-executive board director.

How does ESG, particularly with the emergence of the CSRD, impact company governance and success?

In my view, the relevance of ESG for overall company governance and success is multifaceted. Firstly, it’s a requirement. Legislation is evolving, and 2024 is a pivotal year as companies will need to report increasingly detailed ESG information due When I say it’s a requirement, I’m referring to the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD). The first cohort of large companies will need to report on their fiscal year 2024 activities under this directive.
From my perspective, obtaining this information is quite challenging, especially for SMEs, which are often suppliers to the companies on whose boards I serve. It’s like we’re reinventing accounting or creating a parallel system of accounting. We must report all these new metrics, and many companies are unsure where to begin.

What’s the added value of ESG beyond compliance and risk management, considering your board and academic experience, and do you see any geographical variations in its importance?

Yes, it’s an interesting topic. Last week, during our Advanced Management Programme (AMP)—the most senior programme we have— I invited a guest speaker (a female seasoned expert in the area) to discuss the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) because it’s a major topic. She titled her talk “CSRD: Challenge or Strategic Opportunity,” which aligns perfectly with what we were considering. While not all companies view it as an opportunity, some definitely do.
For example, I serve on the board of a company in technology for the fashion industry that focuses on computer-aided design and manufacturing. They report on metrics such as energy usage and improvements over time. This company structurally benefits the environment by helping its clients reduce waste. However, since it’s their clients’ waste being reduced, it doesn’t directly reflect on the company’s own sustainability metrics, which is frustrating. The fashion industry is highly polluting, but by enabling on-demand fashion and reducing waste, this company contributes to sustainability. This exemplifies how CSRD can be seen as an opportunity rather than just a challenge.
On the other hand, I also sit on the board of a ceramics company, which uses a lot of energy. The recent rise in energy costs has been a financial nightmare for them. They’re now considering changing their energy sources to become less dependent on traditional, more polluting options. For them, CSRD is more of a challenge, but it can become an opportunity.
I notice more industry-specific differences rather than geographical ones. My experience is mostly in continental Europe—Portugal, France, and some in Spain. I suspect the topic is less pressing in the US, but I don’t have detailed information on that.
I am an optimist and believe CSRD presents opportunities for those who understand what is at stake. In the last two years, I’ve seen the growing importance of our role as non-executive directors in this area. While executives drive these initiatives, we have a significant responsibility bring external perspectives and best practice from company to company. This makes our work as non-executives particularly valuable.

What alignment challenges do you observe between executive leadership and non-executive boards in terms of ESG, and what recommendations would you offer to address these?

In terms of alignment, I also see the need to balance the Environmental (E), Social (S), and Governance (G) aspects of ESG. When people talk about ESG, they often prioritize the Environmental part, while the Social and Governance parts receive less attention. Two companies where I serve on the board—a tech company, and a healthcare company—are very people-oriented. Both have faced the issue of doing a lot in terms of social initiatives but not reporting it effectively. It’s a pity because their efforts are not visible. They needed to make an effort to report better, use more KPIs, and show their social impact more clearly.
The environment part is always present and significant but difficult to address. As for governance, it’s often assumed to be well-managed, but it should receive more focus. This could be because governance was previously well-handled, or because the other two areas need so much attention that governance is overlooked. I believe it’s a bit of both.
In governance, two things are particularly important, diversity and processes. Diversity on the board is essential, beyond just gender diversity. Diversity is becoming mainstream, but it’s crucial to extend it beyond gender. More than anything it is the existence of processes that guarantees good governance.
Finally the balance between the three and they interact is core and needs to be looked at.

What are the main gaps for boards to become ‘ESG fit,’ and how can they efficiently up-skill directors? What should Board Chairs prioritize?

What I’ve been observing more and more from the inside is that, in the last year or two, companies are increasingly hiring for ESG roles. They are bringing in consultants and hiring dedicated ESG personnel within the company. It’s like we’re creating a second accounting system and now building the team for it.
If you compare it, today a company might have an accounting team of 25 or 30 people for regular accounting and only two or three for ESG. It will take time to build up to the same level, but that’s where we are getting. As both a board member and an academic, I see that even the most dedicated companies often don’t know where to start. The CSRD rules are very demanding, still being designed, and this creates a significant challenge. Companies often don’t know where to begin. They are seeking help from consultants, but even the consultants are still learning. This situation is both exciting and a bit scary because we are all learning as we go.
For boards to be “ESG fit,” the biggest gap to close is in understanding and capability. Boards need to prioritize building their own knowledge and skills in ESG. This means Board Chairs should create ESG training for board members, hire or consult with experienced ESG professionals, and integrate ESG considerations into the core strategy of the company.
Efficient and effective up-skilling can be achieved through dedicated training programs, learning from best practices, and ensuring ongoing education on the evolving ESG regulations and expectations. It’s essential to foster a culture of continuous learning and adaptation to keep up with this rapidly changing field.

What are the primary ESG challenges ahead for non-executive boards, and how can companies address them effectively?

I think the big challenge is not just having a strategy and an ESG strategy separately, but rather integrating ESG as an essential part of one cohesive strategy. Not all companies are ready for this integration, and in some cases, it might require significant changes that are daunting for them.
The role of the board is essential here. Because we have a broader perspective and can bring insights from across different companies, non-executive directors have a unique responsibility. For example, I serve on the boards of three companies with different activities, but the discussions we have in one often become relevant in another.
One example I’m proud of is how we integrated ESG into the variable remuneration of the CEO at one of the companies. As the Chair of the Remuneration Committee and a member of the ESG Committee, I led multiple discussions to include ESG criteria in the CEO’s variable pay. For 2024, 50% of his variable remuneration will be based on ESG performance, which is a significant change. Next year, we plan to extend this to a few more executives and eventually further throughout the company. This makes ESG truly strategic; if variable remuneration is tied to both EBITDA and ESG, it changes priorities significantly.
Another critical issue is getting the right information, which is often challenging. In the private healthcare group that I sit at the board of, we discovered that anaesthetic gases had the same carbon footprint than their entire fleet of vehicles. Initially, this seemed like a mistake, but after thorough checks, including comparisons with NHS data, it was confirmed (Desflurane has a significantly higher global warming potential compared to Sevoflurane). We then had to convince doctors to switch to the gas with the lower carbon footprint. This example illustrates how crucial it is to have accurate information; without it, significant impacts can go unnoticed.
In summary, for boards to be “ESG fit,” they need to integrate ESG into their core strategy and ensure accurate information flow. Prioritizing ESG training, hiring knowledgeable professionals, and setting clear ESG metrics in executive compensation are key steps. This approach not only aligns short-term actions with long-term goals but also makes ESG a fundamental part of the company’s success.

Could you provide an overview of University’s upcoming CSRD preparation program, its objectives, target audience, and key features?

The programme is still a work in progress, we aim to launch it by October. It will be called ESG Strategy and Reporting. The idea is to address the needs of the many companies that will soon be required to comply with the CSRD. For example, in Portugal, around 1,200 companies will need to report, a significant increase from the current number. The top 50 companies probably have the resources and knowledge, working with large Audit firms. However, the remaining thousand companies probably don’t know where to start.
Our goal is to build a programme that helps guide these companies through compliance. We’re still finalizing the length and cost because it needs to be accessible. We also want to involve the right experts, as few people have deep knowledge of the CSRD requirements. The programme will include expert instruction and numerous guest speakers from top companies that have already begun this process. We aim to create a community where participants can share best practices and support each other during and after the program. These companies are not in competition; they are facing the same challenges and would benefit from working together.
We see this as a significant opportunity, but we acknowledge that auditors are already moving into this space, which is only fair. We will need to collaborate with them to ensure the programme’s success.

The interviewer: 

Dr. Pamela Ravasio, Shirahime

Dr. Pamela Ravasio is the founder and managing director of Shirahime Advisory, a Corporate Development & Responsibility Governance boutique consultancy. She serves as fractional Chief Sustainability Officer for companies and advises boards on ESG and governance. With a background in roles like Global Stakeholder Manager, she played a key role in making the European outdoor industry a leader in future-proofing.
She currently is a member of INSEAD’s International Directors Network.

ESG x Governance (4): White Goods to INED – Bengt Engström

This is the fourth of a series of interviews intended to help our IDN members grapple with the ESG topic.
In this episode, we delve into the experiences of a seasoned industry executive-turned-INED, and explore the insights he has gained in the course of his career.

Bength Engström

Bengt Enström was senior executive at Whirlpool (Global VP Microwave Ovens, Europe VP Manufacturing &Technology, EVP Whirlpool Corporation) and President Whirlpool Europe. After moving home to Sweden, he was CEO of Duni AB and Nordic CEO of Fujitsu.
In recent years, he has worked as an advisor, board member and investor in both large and small companies. His assignments include: Chairman of the board of Nordic Flanges AB, Qleanair AB, Qlosr AB, and IFG Duroc. Board member of Polygiene AB, Scanfil Oy, Real Holding AB, Scandinavian Chemotech AB and KTH Executive School AB.

In your view: What is the relevance of ESG for overall company governance and success?

The up front value is to drive change, which is vital. The entire society needs to shift direction, with businesses playing a crucial role in driving this change. However, this transformation must occur within the framework of business operations, which is crucial. I’m somewhat apprehensive about past experiences where new regulations were introduced without adequate oversight thereeafter. Many individual companies failed to comply without facing consequences. This penalized those who adhered to the rules from the outset, as it imposed certain costs that could initially only be offset by raising prices. This situation could put compliant businesses at a competitive disadvantage. I’m therefore sceptical that adherence to regulations will necessarily result in a marketing advantage. While in some areas, sustainability efforts currently offers an edge, especially among investors and larger companies, which are beginning to cascade requirements down to suppliers, this advantage may diminish as regulations become more stringent. Ultimately, this raises questions about the viability of compliance strategies. So, it’s a complex issue with no simple answer.

What do you see as the added value of ESG beyond compliance and risk management? And: What is your perception of the cultural differences between companies successful in implementing sustainability initiatives and those facing challenges?

If I may draw a parallel: When ISO came into play initially, it was merely about filling out forms and getting them stamped. It was a box-ticking exercise. But over time, it evolved into a management tool. Similarly, when the concept of quality management emerged, it was seen as an added cost. However, it eventually transformed into a means of enhancing and rationalizing business operations.
And indeed, taking again quality management as an example: It did take some time before it became apparent that there were other underlying issues that needed to be addressed to operationalize it. For instance, everyone desired Zero Defects, but achieving this required intervening at multiple levels, providing assistance, training, and continually reinforcing expectations.
Contrasting approaches between the white goods and automotive industries were evident.
While the latter imposed demands on suppliers, we in the white goods industry proactively supported our suppliers.
I recall one supplier who prioritized car production over us, only to realize later our significant role in their development. This underscores the importance of a demanding yet supportive customer base.
In industries with narrower margins, the responsibility extends further back due to less room for error. The disparity in productivity between low and high-margin businesses is considerable. Despite advancements, the cost of washing machines has decreased over time (the opposite is true for cars), and reveal hence differences in marketing approach. But not in engineering prowess.
What does it need? I am Swedish, so I take Swedish examples. For instance, Atlas Copco exemplifies successful decentralization, with P&L responsibility cascading down the organization. This fosters a culture of financial literacy and leadership, enabling seamless transitions to other companies. Conversely, a centralized structure delays exposure to P&L accountability until senior levels, resulting in leadership challenges when individuals transition. Companies that neglect holistic financial understanding often struggle to thrive. Jack Welch’s approach at GE, pushing responsibility downwards, yielded remarkable leadership proliferation. Conversely, increased centralization tends to stifle success.
Hence, the key lies in empowering individuals with accountability and comprehension When responsibility is distributed and ESG principles ingrained in daily operations, success naturally follows.
Until ESG principles become ingrained in everyday business practices, they’ll remain burdensome rather than beneficial. It’s about more than just ticking boxes; it’s about using these initiatives to drive real improvements in efficiency and sustainability, in business processes and business ethics. An overly simplistic example: considering energy conservation measures from the outset rather than as an afterthought.

What are the critical areas for bridging ESG alignment gaps between executive leaders and non-executive boards? Also, which domains are crucial for board members to further educate themselves on?

I perceive no significant disparity in mindset between executive management and the board. Both should prioritise driving improvements rather than mere oversight. This is akin to the distinction between accounting and control; it’s about utilising data to enhance competitiveness. Ultimately, fostering this proactive approach throughout the company is paramount for delivering better products and services to customers, especially in the industrial sector.
For board members, possessing a comprehensive understanding across various domains is essential. However, an inclusive skill set within the board is equally critical for effectiveness. This encompasses expertise in finance, ESG, sales, operations, and more. Recognising that no one individual can excel in every area underscores the necessity for a well-rounded team.
Further: while committees like audit or remuneration are commonplace, extending this approach to ESG preparation could streamline decision-making processes. Leveraging specific skill sets while fostering independence in each area is pivotal. It’s often a missed opportunity to witness topic-specialist committees addressing both operational and board-level concerns simultaneously.

Do you think the public sector can learn from corporate practices? If yes, how do you see this knowledge exchange happening?

It’s quite intriguing. My daughter works in the public sector, focusing on procurement. She’s attended numerous courses on avoiding failure and about rules and regulations, but not a single one on excelling. It’s all about avoiding mistakes rather than seeking improvement. This mentality is evident in hospitals too, where disposables are used excessively without consideration for sustainability. Yet, they continue to request more funding, a scenario unlikely in the private sector, which prioritizes efficiency.
This approach extends to ESG initiatives, where compliance takes precedence over innovation. Changing this mindset will take time, even in the private Med tech sector, where there’s potential for business growth by embracing sustainability. The public sector’s rigid adherence to rules often stifles progress and leads to recurring scandals. It’s a concerning trend.
There are areas where the public sector could well profit from considering ‘common place’ approaches from the private sector. Let’s just take one example that has received considerable attention lately: Apparel, and particularly the recycling of clothing. Interestingly: there are alternative approaches worth considering. Take, for instance, extending the lifespan of clothes through less frequent washing, which reduces material waste, and fibre shedding getting into water ways.
On the other hand: Metal recycling, especially aluminium, is well-established, and other sectors are finally catching up. At Whirlpool, we aimed to minimize water and electricity usage in dishwashers and washing machines, benefiting both the environment and customers. The industry has long been engaged in such efforts, but there’s room for more.
The fascinating thing is: the public sector lags behind due to a lack of incentives. It would be intriguing to explore its untapped potential, as everything holds value in industry, unlike the public sector. What if it were different?

On the shorter term, what are the biggest ESG-related challenges for non-exec boards? Why? And: what can companies do about that?

Certainly, implementation is crucial, but government oversight and enforcement are equally vital. Without effective monitoring, compliance falters, allowing criminal activity to thrive, as seen in recent scandals like illegal waste disposal in Sweden. Trust is valuable, but robust control mechanisms are indispensable to prevent abuse and maintain societal integrity. We must embrace ESG initiatives, integrating rigorous adherence to regulations as an opportunity for innovation rather than a mere cost to pass on to consumers.
Requiring annual reporting of improvements in the annual report is a step towards transparency, but without auditors verifying these improvements ‘hands on’, ensuring accountability becomes challenging. Transparency alone may not suffice, especially considering the risks of corruption. Therefore, a robust system of checks and balances is essential to uphold integrity and foster trust.
Oversight is essential, with larger companies monitoring smaller ones to prevent issues. However, expecting big companies to oversee multiple layers down the supply chain is challenging. Instances like H&M in Sweden illustrate this complexity. Relying solely on private companies to ensure compliance, especially in regions and geographies with limited governmental oversight, may not be feasible.
But: where there are challenges there are also solutions: I am therefore cautiously positive that we will manage to tackle this demanding lift successfully.

The interviewer: 

Dr. Pamela Ravasio, Shirahime

Dr. Pamela Ravasio is the founder and managing director of Shirahime Advisory, a Corporate Responsibility Governance boutique consultancy. She serves as fractional Chief Sustainability Officer for companies and advises boards on ESG and governance. With a background in roles like Global Stakeholder Manager, she played a key role in making the European outdoor industry a leader in future-proofing.
She currently is a member of INSEAD’s International Directors Network.

ESG x Governance (3): An ESG Executive’s Insights

This is the third of a series of interviews intended to help our IDN members grapple with the ESG topic.
In this episode, we delve into the experiences of a seasoned ESG executive, exploring the insights she imparts to non-executive boards regarding ESG-focused interactions.

Kiku Loomis

Kiku Loomis is a seasoned ESG professional bringing 20+ years of expertise in business and sustainability. Guiding global Fortune 500 companies, she strengthened sustainability programs and managed PVH’s human rights supply chain. Kiku directed traceability and certification at the Rainforest Alliance, later integrating Rainforest Alliance and Utz Certified. In 2000 she co-founded World Monitors, and launched the Fair Factories Clearinghouse, acquired by Worldly in 2023. Kiku is a director for the New York Solar Energy Society, former Foundry Theatre director, and on the Advisory Board for a biodiversity research project in Maui. She’s also a member of the ExCo of the INDEVOR Global Club and a founding member of the INDEVOR student club.

How do you perceive the significance of ESG for overall company governance and success?

My inclination is distinctly biased toward the complete integration of ESG into a company’s strategic framework. Over my 25-year career in sustainability, which began in my early 30s, I’ve consistently viewed ESG issues as pivotal business risks. Whether it’s human rights concerns or historical challenges like pollution, these have been part of our discourse for decades. ESG, in its current form, provides a more systematic and advantageous approach for companies, addressing risks while presenting new opportunities.
My focal point has always been ensuring a harmonious alignment of board strategy with the diverse opportunities encapsulated in ESG. For instance, aligning strategy with opportunities like electric vehicles or solar power significantly enhances the prospects of success. As we navigate the challenges of surpassing planetary boundaries, understanding dependencies becomes paramount, especially concerning supply chain risks. ESG serves as an invaluable framework, extending beyond immediate financial considerations to encompass societal values crucial for long-term health and value creation. While it may not yield immediate gains, I firmly believe that ESG plays a pivotal role in shaping a company’s medium and long-term success. This encapsulates the high-level, theoretical perspective I bring to the discussion.

What’s the key ESG misalignment between executives and non-executive board members, and how can non-executive boards effectively address and bridge this gap?

To start out: it is worth noting that not every board is the same! Boards may lack specific ESG knowledge, despite a noticeable rise in ESG discussions, especially in Europe. While board members may be aware of ESG matters, their proficiency in operational aspects could be limited. If an alignment gap exists, it might stem from a divergence in expertise between the board and the company. Turning to the second part, the ongoing discourse on ESG and the board’s agenda has prompted various training opportunities, though current materials often remain foundational. While non-executive board members may have a reasonable ESG understanding, the current imperative is to delve deeper into issues specific to their organizations. We’ve moved past the introductory stage, requiring executives and board members to engage in more profound discussions and tailored learning experiences aligned with their organizational nuances.

What crucial gap must boards address to achieve ‘ESG fitness,’ and how can they efficiently enhance skills in this area? What should Board Chairs prioritize to foster ESG competency among directors?

A significant source of strategic tension derives from a systemic conflict between traditional make-take-waste business models and ESG imperatives, and it calls for a reconsideration of practices, particularly in sectors like apparel, where a shift from linear to circular models is crucial. The challenge also involves the misalignment between financial incentives in capital markets and ESG principles, leading to decisions where financial interests clash with ESG perspectives.
Managing this tension falls to CEOs, who must present these complex issues for collective deliberation. Achieving complete alignment between ESG goals and financial objectives is a broad challenge requiring political attention, with the European Union’s regulatory initiatives seen as a potential model. For board chairs, the recommendation is to foster inclusive conversations across the organization, steering clear of siloed approaches. Integrating ESG considerations into the overall governance framework, whether through committees or alternative mechanisms, is crucial for a holistic and effective approach.

As 2024 approaches, what are the main ESG challenges for non-executive boards, and how can companies strategically address them?

The first imperative is fully integrating ESG into a company’s core strategy to avoid conflicting objectives, going beyond compliance to create a seamless integration into the broader strategy—a crucial safeguard amid evolving ESG landscapes.
A top challenge for multinational companies is to conform with emerging reporting requirements, including developments like the European Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive . This is a substantial challenge for global companies grappling with various jurisdictional reporting requirements. While it entails significant investment and meticulous processes, it’s vital to perceive it as more than compliance—viewing it as a catalyst for progress and valuable strategic insights. This era compels companies to collectively comprehend and fulfil ESG commitments for transparency and accountability.
Then, as we approach 2030, the focus must extend beyond climate commitments to effectively implementing them. Despite substantial challenges, the innovation spurred by collective ESG focus, particularly in climate action, presents significant potential.
For governance, fostering innovation and welcoming solutions aligned with ESG goals, especially in climate-related initiatives, is a strategic imperative propelling progress and integration into the core of business.
Lastly, one emerging concern for boards is the emerging prominence of Biodiversity and Nature loss, with a “nature positive” movement addressing the alarming loss of biodiversity and the impending sixth extinction.

The interviewer: 

Dr. Pamela Ravasio, Shirahime

Dr. Pamela Ravasio is the founder and managing director of Shirahime Advisory, a Corporate Responsibility Governance boutique consultancy. She serves as fractional Chief Sustainability Officer for companies and advises boards on ESG and governance. With a background in roles like Global Stakeholder Manager, she played a key role in making the European outdoor industry a leader in future-proofing.
She currently sits on the boards of Polygiene AB and INSEAD’s International Directors Network.

ESG x Governance (2): Board Level ESG Readiness

This is the second of a series of interviews intended to help our IDN members grapple with the ESG topic.
In this episode, the we look at ‘ESG Readiness’ at non-exec board level, skill gaps, and how to close them.

Federik Otto, Sustainability Boards

Frederik Otto is the founding Executive Director of The Sustainability Board (TSB), an independent think tank that aims to advance sustainable leadership and governance. He has been a leader in consulting multinational companies on organisation and human capital strategy for over 15 years, with a more recent focus on sustainability and ESG. Frederik hosts the ‘Leadership Conversations by TSB’ podcast and further is a member of the Council for Inclusive Capitalism, and a fellow of Salzburg Global Seminar. Frederik has published multiple articles on the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance, and regularly writes for various other resources.

What is the importance of ESG considerations for a company’s governance and success?

While acknowledging ESG’s importance in corporate success and governance, I believe it doesn’t capture the entire narrative. To make it more tangible let’s capture sustainability by the acronym CHANGE:

  • C = Climate change;
  • H = Human rights;
  • A = AI and emerging technology;
  • N = Nature and biodiversity;
  • G = Geopolitics and conflict;
  • E – Equity, diversity, and inclusion.

All these issues illustrate that we have to go beyond ESG, and it is urgent to consider global impacts beyond our company’s sphere. Even if a business has a small environmental footprint, awareness of climate change and broader factors is crucial.
ESG, viewed as an organisational framework, is valuable for this purpose. It serves as a reporting tool, ensuring accountability and establishing a stakeholder governance framework. ESG criteria should be embraced for technical understanding, as they are essential tools to keep us on track. However, we must also remain mindful of the broader societal factors and dependencies that impact the business.

What is the main takeaway or key learning from this year’s findings in the recently published 2023 Annual ESG Preparedness Report?

Every year we evaluate whether boards have formalised an ESG policy, established a sustainability committee or delegated ESG matters to another committee. We also look at the materiality and quality of their charters, and we analyse board diversity and individual ESG engagement of directors of large, publicly listed entities.
This year our ongoing reporting initiative, in its 5th edition since 2019, reveals both familiar trends and new insights. Positive aspects include a rise in sustainability governance, though the messaging from boards in their disclosures is misaligned. Despite a gradual increase over the years, director engagement on ESG matters seems to be plateauing. The percentage of directors tasked with ESG oversight who are also engaged on the topic has risen from 16% in 2019 to 45% in 2022, and fallen to 43% in 2023 – a worrying trend.
Consistently, women directors play a pivotal role in driving sustainability governance, showing over 60% more engagement than male counterparts. A trend consistent since our first report, and a clear case for more gender equal boards.
We also found that management experience is as a key driver for ESG engagement, with directors leveraging their expertise implementing sustainability strategies in executive roles.
Another trend is the adoption of the increasing articulation of ESG in board policies, particularly among American boards, despite the current political polarisation on the ESG moniker.
In summary, awareness of the need to improve sustainability governance is rising, but engagement is fragmented, and skewed towards women.

What is the key gap in aligning boards with ESG standards, and how can Boards of Directors efficiently enhance their skills in this area? What are the key priorities for Board Chairs in this context?

Indeed parts of our research focus on assessing individual board member engagement on ESG. Using a simple checklist across all of the past five years, we find three key criteria for ESG engagement.

  1. Firstly, business experience, like executive or non-executive involvement in sustainability strategies or governance.
  2. The second criterion is personal or non-business experience, such as engagement with relevant non-profits.
  3. The third point is formal education or certification in sustainability, or being a thought leader on the topic.

No hierarchy exists among these criteria, and in our opinion experience can be gained through various avenues. ESG engagement signifies personal commitment, either visible through public engagements like conference and round table attendance, thought leadership on social media, or communicating the business strategy actively in board disclosures or on capital markets days. The level of formal education required depends on the board’s complexity.
As for the role of the chair leading on ESG engagement, jurisdiction surely matters, with American chairs still often doubling as CEOs. Here the role of the Lead Independent Director is just as important. This said, assigning too much accountability on one person should be avoided. The chair, especially if independent, is vital in holding the board as a system together, facilitating resource allocation, enabling committee formation, and overall governance of sustainability. The key is ensuring cohesive board operations with checks and balances for effective sustainability governance.

How do sustainability practices of privately owned or family companies compare to large publicly traded companies, considering the report’s emphasis on the latter?

I’m also an investor in a fast-growing, private UK startup in the food industry, and can see the different governance dynamics very closely in comparison to large public enterprises. For a start, private entities, unlike public companies, have fewer and more personalized interactions with stakeholders, especially investors. The accountability is simply to less people and entities, with private companies generally smaller and less rigorously regulated. That also makes gathering data on sustainability more manageable. Structurally, most private companies aren’t burdened with the same disclosure and reporting requirements as public counterparts. However, they can learn from ongoing standardization efforts and voluntary adopting sustainability governance practices.
Family businesses have a unique opportunity to drive sustainability, especially during generational succession. Newer generations are attuned to sustainability concerns and aim to build a positive legacy. Family businesses can leverage their organization’s might beyond philanthropy, acknowledging and reconciling with, say, environmental impacts caused in the past. Decision dynamics within family businesses, public or private, allow faster implementation of sustainability initiatives compared to non-family controlled companies.

The interviewer: 

Dr. Pamela Ravasio, Shirahime

Dr. Pamela Ravasio is the founder and managing director of Shirahime Advisory, a Corporate Responsibility Governance boutique consultancy. She serves as fractional Chief Sustainability Officer for companies and advises boards on ESG and governance. With a background in roles like Global Stakeholder Manager, she played a key role in making the European outdoor industry a leader in future-proofing.
She currently sits on the boards of Polygiene AB and INSEAD’s International Directors Network.

ESG x Governance (1): The Pulse of EU Regulation

This is the first of a series of interviews intended to help our IDN members grapple with the ESG topic. Given the recent  importance of EU regulation in the area of ESG, and reporting specifically, we chose to conduct the first such interview with a truly long-standing expert in the matter.

Pascale Moreau, Ohana Public Advisory

Pascale Moreau is a seasoned professional with over 15 years in public affairs across diverse industries including textiles, ICT, and healthcare.
As an active citizen and nature enthusiast, she specializes in sustainable development strategies and adeptly navigates complex legal landscapes. Throughout her career, Pascale has excelled in facilitating discussions, bridging differences, and guiding stakeholders toward common goals, driving positive changes. In 2019, she founded Ohana to help companies formulate sustainable development strategies tailored to their markets’ challenges and opportunities.

In your view, drawing on your experience, what is the essential role of a board of directors in public affairs and policy engagement?

In the realm of public affairs, the pivotal role of shaping strategy is essential for aligning agendas with business needs, extending its impact to associations and multi-stakeholder initiatives. The Board of Directors plays a crucial role in navigating this landscape, bridging internal workings with external dynamics. Larger organizations in familiar sectors often designate roles within the Board for public affairs, while in newer sectors, its introduction is met with urgency and the need for preparedness.
In my experience, organizations attuned to public affairs quickly respond to its nuances, ensuring the Board is well-versed. During the 2017-2019 transition, this was evident in the textile industry. In multi-stakeholder initiatives, boards may appoint a specific individual for public affairs, but their effectiveness relies on influence and the ability to drive recommendations, contributing substantively to boardroom decision-making.

You mentioned the unique default structures in different industries, particularly noting the relatively recent engagement of the textile industry. From a European standpoint, which industries have historically been firmly established in public affairs, and, in broad terms (excluding specific businesses), which ones generally demonstrate a greater inclination for such engagement?

In sectors like ICT and electronic equipment, a sustainability lens is integral, driven by long-standing regulation. Leadership in these industries comprehends the importance of sustainability investments. Similarly, food, beverages, and agriculture, well-represented in Brussels, showcase heightened awareness and robust organizational structures. Operational roles handle day-to-day tasks, but top executives from these sectors take the lead in significant events like COP 28, indicating maturity in global sustainability engagement.
Conversely, some sectors, like textiles, historically lagged in sustainability but are now catching up. This observation highlights a proactive stance in regulated industries, contrasting with a slower initial embrace in sectors like textiles.

How can boards of directors augment their capabilities, particularly in the context of public affairs and policy development, building upon our recent discussion?

In organizations with dedicated public affairs teams, fostering collaboration is crucial. Spending quality time with the head of public affairs and national teams in key markets ensures a nuanced understanding of legislative landscapes, focusing on areas like sustainability, trade, and digital domains. Regional nuances in public affairs, whether in the US, EU, or Asia, underscore the importance of engaging with governments, even where public affairs practices may be less prevalent, as such engagements yield tangible business impacts.
Promoting dialogue between business and public affairs professionals, especially in the same room, facilitates mutual education on legislative changes’ financial and strategic implications. For organizations without a dedicated public affairs team, integrating this perspective into MBA programs ensures early recognition of the broader business advantages of engaging with stakeholders. Seeking insights from organizations with established public affairs functions or hiring specialized consultants becomes invaluable in navigating an evolving landscape, emphasizing collaborative stakeholder engagement for a sustainable future.

What are your anticipations for policy trends in the mid and long term, both globally and within Europe? How do these expectations influence the role of a board of directors?

Navigating policy expectations, especially in the realms of digital and sustainability, proves challenging, signaling heightened regulations for industries like textiles. In the mid-term, the EU Green Deal holds significance, serving as a foundational benchmark. For businesses, compliance with voluntary legislation becomes a pivotal board-level decision, prompting a comprehensive reevaluation of processes and external communication to shareholders about the nuanced balance between profitability and compliance.
In the long term, the momentum for sustainability initiatives persists, albeit with a potential EU-level slowdown for implementation focus post-2024 elections. Businesses seek guidance for compliance, placing the Board of Directors in a central role to identify hotspots and manage risks during implementation. Globally, Europe’s lead in sustainability trends, such as extended producer responsibility, might influence global replication. The Board’s responsibility extends to understanding and supporting the entire supply chain, allocating funds for implementation, and advocating for a smooth transition, emphasizing a holistic, 360-degree perspective for a sustainable future.

In your view, what are the primary priorities for boards of directors in the short term, specifically in 2024? Given the ongoing developments within the EU and globally, what aspects should boards emphasize?

Key directives, namely the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) and the European Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD), are currently at the forefront, emphasizing due diligence. Despite potential reductions in board liability in the CSDDD, companies must exhibit due diligence for responsible business recognition. The Board of Directors holds a pivotal role in shaping policies and driving transformative change in response to these directives.
The Taxonomy Regulation, initially perceived as relevant mainly to investors, extends its reach to companies, notably impacting the Board of Directors engaged with investors. Mandating reporting on investments, it requires the Board to establish proper reinvestment processes, accentuating its role in driving impactful change.
In 2024, a crucial year of transition in the EU, marked by elections and industry reevaluation, significant legislative changes are anticipated. The Board must proactively address this, allocating resources and initiating comprehensive compliance projects for short-term action. Obtaining insights from public affairs or legal teams is crucial for informed business decisions, not only within the EU but also globally, emphasizing the paramount role of the Board in navigating evolving regulations.

Concerning directors’ liability, particularly amid the ongoing deliberations on the European Due Diligence Directive, where does this aspect align within the broader European legislative framework you are navigating?

The Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD) represents a significant move by the EU to hold businesses accountable for their social and environmental impacts. While the official text is pending, a crucial political agreement was reached in December 2023, with finalization expected in Q1 2024. The scope of the directive includes companies with 500+ employees or a global annual turnover of 150+ million and those with 250+ employees and a turnover of 40+ million in high-risk sectors like textiles, food, and minerals. The construction sector is also under consideration for inclusion. Parent companies of large groups and non-EU companies meeting turnover thresholds in the EU are encompassed, while the financial sector is partially included, focusing on “upstream” due diligence and climate-related obligations.

A key feature is the requirement for companies to adopt a climate plan aligned with the Paris Agreement. Compliance with the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) is linked to the adoption of CS3D climate plans. Larger companies, with over 1000 employees, can tie additional financial incentives, such as variable remuneration, to plan fulfilment. The directive introduces civil liability for damages caused by a company through intent or negligence, with a minimum 5-year limitation period. Notably, director duties have been deleted from the provisions. While these provisional agreements provide a framework, the final text is pending, and technical meetings are scheduled to address open questions, with the European Parliament voting in plenary in April and Council approval anticipated in April/May. The financial sector’s extent of inclusion and additional details may be refined in the final legislation.

You noted an anticipated release of a substantial volume of legislation at the end of Q1 or the beginning of Q2 2024. Could you offer an overview, at least by name, of the key legislations you expect to be significant?

In 2023, notable sustainability regulations reached finalization, including the Deforestation Regulation, EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), and Empowering Consumer Directive. While the Empowering Consumer Directive’s final text is pending, an agreement outlines a framework for sustainability communication. Anticipated finalizations in Q1-Q2 before the EU elections include the Packaging Regulation, Forced Labour measures at the EU level, Eco-design Legislation, and the Right to Repair. However, advanced regulations like Green Claims Directive and the Waste Framework Directive are unlikely to be finalized.
The urgency to avoid disruptions before the elections is evident, even if subsequent guidelines and secondary legislation are needed for clarity and refinement.

How should the Board of Directors respond when companies see impending policy and legislative changes, particularly related to ESG, solely as compliance requirements rather than strategic opportunities?

The establishment of common rules marks a satisfying moment, potentially mitigating free rider issues. Anticipating stress among companies, a crucial response involves creating a compliance team and undertaking a comprehensive compliance project. This intricate exercise requires mapping sustainability, digital, and trade considerations, necessitating a dedicated individual reporting directly to the Board of Directors. The seriousness of compliance is underscored by its potential impact on the business’s existence, demanding a proactive stance and ongoing commitment, especially in allocating resources and enhancing IT infrastructure. Ensuring the board’s dedicated focus is crucial, with potential reconsideration of its composition if necessary, reflecting a commitment to evolving landscape expectations until 2028-2030.

The interviewer: 

Dr. Pamela Ravasio, Shirahime

Dr. Pamela Ravasio is the founder and managing director of Shirahime Advisory, a Corporate Responsibility Governance boutique consultancy. She serves as fractional Chief Sustainability Officer for companies and advises boards on ESG and governance. With a background in roles like Global Stakeholder Manager, she played a key role in making the European outdoor industry a leader in future-proofing.
She currently sits on the boards of Polygiene AB and INSEAD’s International Directors Network.

43 New board positions for IDN members

Members Board & Corporate Governance Positions Announcement March to August 2023

INSEADs International Director Network, IDN, is proudly sharing the recent appointments of board and corporate governance positions of our members, truly recognizing our members and the strength of our IDN network.

IDN members have been appointed to 43 new board positions in 15 countries, summing up to 728 position announcements in the last 5 years.

As a member of IDN, the network of INSEAD International Board Directors, with full membership open to all INSEAD Alumniwith appropriate directorship experience and which is automatic for Certified Directors (IDP-C) from INSEADs International Directors Program (IDP), you can be truly proud of your network!

You find the IDN members with new board positions below, and why don’t you help share our network’s achievement via Linkedin, to help position also yourself and your membership of a vibrant network via this LinkedIn Post.

And take the time to connect with your fellow IDN members at LinkedIn and expand your board contacts, by clicking their names below and connect with them!

IDN works closely with INSEAD Corporate Governance Centre, which undertakes cutting-edge research and teaching tailored to the needs of boards and international directors. It fosters a global dialogue on the challenges of corporate governance and leadership in an international context.


INSEAD Directors’ Network – Members New Board & Corporate Governance Positions

 IDN members – Certified IDP-C Board Directors

Jan Holm – March 2023 – Independent Non-Executive Director, Chairperson of the CSR Committee (Sustainability and Health & Safety),  Member of the Audit & Risk Committee and Transformation Committee (Strategy and Merger Integration) at Seatrium Ltd (Listed, Singapore)

Michael Hilb – July 2023 – Member of the Global Governance Committee of ICGN (NGO, United Kingdom)

Karen Thomas-Bland – June 2023 – Chair of Archus Ltd (Private Equity, United Kingdom)

Harald Eisenaecher  – Sep 22 – Non-Executive Director at EasyJet plc (Listed, United Kingdom)

Fennemiek Gommer – August 2023 – Non Executive Board Director at Facilicom Group (Family-owned, Netherlands)

Eric Magrini  – December 2022 – Chairman of the Audit Committee at Perfetti Van Melle Group located in Luxembourg (Private, Italy & Netherlands)

Eve Bourdeau – January 2023 – Chairwoman at Orange Nadacia (NGO, Slovakia)

Dominic Gaillard –  April 2023 – Board member at bvv Asset Management AG (Private, Switzerland)

Lee Meng Tat – June 2023 – Independent Board Director at Delfi Limited (Listed, Singapore) | April 2023 – Chairman at Singapore Cancer Society (Charity, Singapore)

Stefan Buser – March 2023 – Non-executive Member of the Foundation Board and Head of the Finance Committee at Hard Foundation, Birsfelden Retirement Center (Private, Switzerland)

Andy Schwarzenbach – June 2023 – Chairman at Kleiner Jung AG (Private, Switzerland)

Konstantinos Yazitzoglou – June 2023 – Chairman of BoD at Greek Mining Enterprises Association (Professional Association, Greece)

Donough Tierney – August 2023 – Board Director at We2Sure Ltd (Private, Ireland)

Monica Porfilo – June 2023 – Non-Executive Board Director at CVC Capital markets S.à r.l. (Private, Luxembourg)

Elena Pistone – March 2023 – Chair of the ICT Group at Confindustria Canavese (Confederation of Italian Industry) | April 2022 – Non Executive Director of the Board, Non Executive Director of the Nomination and Remuneration Committee, Non Executive Director of the Sustainability Committee, appointed Chair in January 2023 of the Related-Party transaction Committee at REVO Insurance (Listed, Italy)

Bas Boots – March 2023 – Board Member at Social Historical Center for Limburg (Private, Netherlands)

Katia Ciesielska – April 2023 – Non-Executive Director at European Capital Solutions GP (part of Deutsche Bank group), (Private, Luxembourg)

Anne Kayser – June 2023 – Non-Executive Board Director at Institut Luxembourgeois des Administrateurs (ILA) , Luxembourg Institute of Directors (Non-Profit, Luxembourg)

Charlotte Pedersen – May 2023 – Non Executive Director at Air Greenland A/S (Public, Greenland)

Petra Zijp – June 2023 – Member of Supervisory Board at Aflatoun International (NGO, Netherlands)

Dr. Christine Theodorovics  – July 2023 – Member of the Board at Association des Compagnies d’Assurances et de Réassurances du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg (ACA) (Private, Luxembourg)

Ghislain Le Chatelier – April 2023 – Non Executive Director at Qosmosys (Private, Singapore)

Johan Vermeiren – April 2023 – Non-Executive Board Member at ACCO Cvba (Private, Belgium)

David Mair – July 2023 – Advisory Board Member at Board Match-Up Pte Ltd (Private, Singapore)

Sue-Ann Ind – March 2023 – Non-Executive Director at Sovereign Pension Services (UK) Ltd (Private, United Kingdom)

Ram Mohan – April 2023 – Board Member at Penn Community Bank (Private, USA)

Jim Strang – April 2023 – Board Director at Pictet Alternative Advisers SA (Private, Switzerland)


IDN Members – Board Directors

Susanne Hannestad – June 2023 – Non-Executive Director at Zimpler AB (Private, HQ Sweden)

Roy Ling – August 2023 – Independent Director and AC Chairman at VinFast Auto Ltd (Listed, Singapore)

Pernille Dahlgaard – June 2023 – Non-Executive Board Director at Naviair (State-owned company, Denmark)

Sergey Nazarenko – August 2023 – Non-Executive Board Director at Caspinet BV (Private, Netherlands)

Frederik-Jan Umbgrove – September 2023 – Chairman of the Risk and Audit Committee of the Supervisory Board at Lloyds Bank GmbH (post-Brexit sub-holding for all continental banking activities of Lloyds Bank Group)  (Listed, United Kingdom) | September 2022 – Board Member/Director Europe at Aston Martin Owners Club  Ltd. (Not Listed, United Kingdom)

Astrid Rauchfuss – January 2023 – Board Member & Audit Committee Chair at Orcan Energy AG (Private, Germany)

Jan De Moor – May 2023 – Board member at Fondation contre le Cancer (Charity, Belgium)

Per Jonsson – May 2023 – Trustee and non executive director at  Council of Lutheran Churches in Great Britain (NGO, United Kingdom)

Christian Joergensen – January 2023 – Chairperson at Stibo Complete Group A/S (private, Denmark)

Kirsten Lange – September 2023 – Non Executive Director at DLA Piper UK LLP (Private, United Kingdom)

Wanching Ang – July 2023 – Non Executive Board Director at Keppel Corporation Ltd (Listed, Singapore)

Jan-Paul van Term – July 2023 – Non Executive Director at Gooisch Leven (Private, Netherlands)

Marta Gómez-Llorente –ómez-llorente/ March 2023 – Non Executive Director and member of its Audit and Risk committees at CNA Insurance Company Europe (Private, Luxembourg)

Margot Schumacher –  July 2023 Member of the Supervisory Board of Eckes AG (Private, Germany)

Previous announcements and more information

Previous board position announcements by shared by IDN;

September 2023  February 2023

For organisations interested in partnering with IDN, please contact IDN President, Helen Wiseman at [email protected]

On Behalf of the INSEAD International Directors’ Network Board

33 New board positions for IDN members

INSEADs International Director Network, IDN, is proudly sharing the recent appointments of board and corporate governance positions of our members from 1 December 2022 to 28 February 2023, truly recognizing our members and the strength of our IDN network.

IDN members has been appointed to 33 new board positions in 13 countries, summing up to 685 position announcements since 2017.

As a member of IDN, the network of INSEAD International Board Directors, with full membership open to all INSEAD Alumni with appropriate directorship experience and which is automatic for Certified Directors (IDP-C) from INSEADs International Directors Program (IDP), you can be truly proud of your network!

You find the IDN members with new board positions below, and why don’t you help share our network’s achievement via Linkedin, to help position also yourself and your membership of a vibrant network via this LinkedIn Post.

And take the time to connect with your fellow IDN members at LinkedIn and expand your board contacts, byclicking their names below and connect with them!

To date, IDP has been completed by 1,827 IDP and IDPB participants, with 1489 certified IDP-C/ IDBP-Cdirectors, and our International Board Network IDN of INSEAD Alumni of 1,570 members.

IDN works closely with INSEAD Corporate Governance Centre, which undertakes cutting-edge research and teaching tailored to the needs of boards and international directors. It fosters a global dialogue on the challenges of corporate governance and leadership in an international context.


INSEAD Directors’ Network – Members New Board & Corporate Governance Positions

 IDN members – Certified IDP-C Board Directors

Douwe Bekius – October 2022 – Non-Executive Board Director at NV Schade (Private, Netherlands) | June 2020 – Chair at Trunkrs (Private, Netherlands)

Déborah Carlson-Burkart –éborah-carlson-burkart/ January 2023 – Board member at N26 Bank (Private, Germany)

Oi-Yee Choo – February 2023 – Board Member at Capitaland Ascendas REIT (Listed, Singapore)

Jean-Philippe Collin – January 2023 – Board Member at CNA (France, NGO) | February 2023 – Board Member at ALTEN (Listed, France)

Pierre Dejoux – June 2022 – Board member at Chamatex Group (Private Limited, HQ France) | April 2022 – Chairman at Special Olympics France (NGO, HQ France)

Giulia Fitzpatrick – December 2022 – Independent Non Executive Director at Żabka Group (Private, HQ Luxembourg & Poland)

Jean-Marie Greindl – February 2023 – Member of the BOD at NTF, Propriétaire ruraux de Wallonie (NGO, Belgium) | February 2023 – Member of the BOD at Greencap s.a. (Private, Belgium)

Thomas Huerlimann – January 2023 – Non Executive Director at Hiscox London Market (Private, UK)

Constant Korthout – February 2023 – Non-Executive Board Director and Chair Audit & Risk Committee at Knab Aegon Bank (Private, Netherlands)

Aubry Pierre – January 2023 – Chairman, at Vedihold (Private, Luxembourg) | January 2023 – Independent Director at Advent International Portfolio Companies (Private, Luxembourg) | March 2021 – Board Member at Arianna s.a. SIF (Private, Luxembourg) | March 2022 – Independent Director at AFI-ESCA (Private, Luxembourg)

Helen Pitcher Obe – January 2023 – Chairman at Judicial Appointments Commission (Arms Length Body of Government, UK)

Alex Price – December 2022 – Non Executive Director at CHT Healthcare Trust (Not-for-profit, New Zealand)

Hagen Schweinitz-Krain – December 2022 – Chairman of the Advisory Board at European Women On Boards (NGO, Belgium)

Ronil Sujan – January 2023 – Director at Omnivore Agritech and Climate Sustainability Fund (Private, Singapore)

Jeremy Tan – January 2023 – Non-Executive Independent Director at Debao Property Development Ltd (Mainboard Listed, Singapore Stock Exchange) | January 2023 – Non-Executive Independent Director at Dynamic Real Estate Holdings (Mainboard Listed, Singapore Stock Exchange) | January 2023 – Non-Executive Independent Director at Derong Real Estate Holdings (Mainboard Listed, Singapore Stock Exchange)

Jillian van Turnhout – January 2023 – Independent Chair at Nursing Homes Ireland (Commercial, Ireland)

Helen Zeitoun – November 2022 – Advisory Board member at Customer Experience Group (CXG) HQ (Private, Hong Kong)


IDN Members – Board Directors

Laurence Amand-Jules – December 2022 – Non-Executive Board Director & Chair of the Finance and Audit Committee at Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) (Not for Profit, Switzerland)

Timothy Cosulich – January 2023 – Chair at The International Bunker Industry Association, Global, (NGO, UK)

Erwin Feldhaus – January 2023 – Member of the Board of Advisors at Reckers & Griesbach (Private, Germany)

Christian Joergensen – January 2023 – Chairperson at Stibo Complete Group A/S (Private, HQ Denmark)

Alexandra Konida – January 2023 – Non Executive Member of the Board of Directors and Member of the Investment, Risk and Audit Committees at HCAP S.A.- Growthfund- Hellenic Corporation Of Assets and Participations S.A., (Government owned, HQ Greece)

Steven John Parker – January 2023 – Executive Board Member at Plus Value Advisory (Private limited B-Corp, UK)

Laurent-Dominique Piveteau – January 2023 – Non-Executive Director at OxyPrem AG (Private, HQ Switzerland)


Previous announcements and more information

Previous board position announcements by shared by IDN;

February 2023 September 2022 March 2022 October 2021 July 2021 April 2021 December 2020 September 2020March 2020 October 2019 July 2019 February 2019 November 2018 July 2018 April 2018 January 2018 October 2017

For organisations interested in partnering with IDN, please contact IDN President, Helen Wiseman at [email protected]

On Behalf of the INSEAD International Directors’ Network Board

What I have valued from peer-to-peer exchanges

What I have valued from peer-to-peer exchanges

Helen Wiseman
12 September 2023

In 2018 I signed up for INSEAD’s International Directors Program (“IDP”) at the recommendation of some Australian director peers through my membership of Women on Boards.

Naturally, the INSEAD Corporate Governance Centre and its Faculty came highly recommended.  Yet I had not appreciated the breadth and depth of talent in the larger community of peers whose insights, wisdom, fellowship and camaraderie would come to mean so much to me.

A few years ago, I was handed a book called “The Power of Peers: How the Company you Keep Drives Leadership, Growth & Success”.   As the authors state at the outset:

“The truth is, we can help each other in ways we can’t find anywhere else. If you want to grow as an individual, become a better leader, and prepare your organisation to meet the challenges of the future, simply step up your level of engagement with a group of peers you respect and who are committed to the same goals, and watch what happens!”

And this is what my IDP-27 peers gave me (thanks guys!).  On completion of the program, I wanted to continue to be part of this unique community of international peer directors and leaders.  So it was a no-brainer for me to join the INSEAD Alumni and the INSEAD Directors Network (“IDN”) when I became certified as an IDP-C 19.

For me, and in the context of the IDN, a Peer network represents a high-trust relationship with others who have sat at the boardroom table dealing with similar challenging decisions and trade-offs.  Those who have experienced some of my doubts and fears, who have confronted challenging board dynamics and who can share great examples of what has worked well.  Peers who, in one way or another have lived their principles, especially in times of crisis and:

“…at best know in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if they fail, at least fail while daring greatly, so that their place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Ok, not every challenge that I might want to run by my peers is of this level of crisis (though I have certainly experienced a few). Rather, when I reach out to my peers, I can take off my armour, confidentially reveal my ignorance despite my boardroom accolades, and ask for help on a particular topic without feeling judged.

Sometimes, the power of peers can be as simple as fellowship – where I can let my guard down, listening to others, and at times, sharing a little dark humour to lighten the load – knowing that it stays in the room. 

My point is that it can be lonely, isolating, confusing, disorienting and sometimes very stressful being a company director or an aspiring company director.  

You can have fantastic governance credentials, but each boardroom is its own case study of unpredictable emergent possibilities and personalities who are often grappling with a volatile, uncertain, complex, hyperconnected, risky and opportunity-laden world.  

How is a Peer different from a Mentor you might ask?  Peers can certainly give mentoring advice, but I see peer relationships as enduring over the long-term, as involving a higher degree of mutual exchange and reciprocity – and even if not directly with each other then certainly within the membership of a network like IDN. 

Lifelong learning is a core tenet of an INSEAD alumnus but that is not enough.  We need trusted peers who we can turn to, to gain other perspectives, to work through or test our own thinking, who may have unique expertise or who can suggest amongst their peers who can help.  

We may want a peer to tell us frankly that we are on the wrong track – or that we are on the right track and here is some added confidence, backbone and messaging that can help us navigate a challenging situation.  

A peer-to-peer exchange can be an effective way of cutting through the tsunami of information, newsletters, webinars etc aimed at the director community to identify those two or three practical actions that can make a tangible difference.  For example, I called upon my IDN peers only recently under Chatham House rules to help me navigate governance oversight of particular cybersecurity challenges directly relevant to specific circumstances on my boards.  It was an excellent discussion. One participant commented along the lines that “if the President of IDN is unsure then it must be OK for me to be unsure”, and promptly signed up for the peer-to-peer exchange.  Ahem, cough….

I also called on a small group of peers to help me frame my approach to a particular board meeting on a very controversial topic knowing that I was going to be heavily challenged for my stance.  

And some years ago, I reached out to peers to help me navigate one of the most stressful board situations of my life, the experience of which is super relevant in today’s capital constrained environment.

I volunteered to be President of the INSEAD Directors Network due to my firm belief in, and my experiences of the power of peers.  I saw the spirit of it in the monthly peer mentee discussions that forms part of the INSEAD Director Mentoring Program, as well as my own ability to reach out and get peer input when I have needed it.

Because I expect that I am not the only one who sometimes feels lonely, isolated, confused, disoriented and sometimes very stressed in my role as a company director.  

So on this Global INSEAD Day, I am reaching out to each of you as a peer, to extend the hand of confidential non-judgemental help; and to invite you, through the IDN Linkedin Group, to propose a small group confidential peer-to-peer exchange on a topic or challenge that is relevant to your current situation where you might need (or crave) help.  

It could be a challenge that is resolved in the space of an hour, or the peer-to-peer exchange could take the form of a regular forum to catch up around a particular theme.  From my experiences, there is enough in, say, navigating boardroom dynamics, or in the Audit and Risk Committee arenas to create valuable peer discussions, let alone in the many other domains that form life in the boardroom.  

Whilst these peer-to-peer exchanges span the global nature of our network, there may be topics that are specific to a region, in which case, our IDN Ambassadors are your peers who may also be able to assist.

Happy Global INSEAD Day.  May the power of peers be with you!

…Oh, and whilst I have your attention, does anyone have experiences of executive incentive programs (i.e. short-term and long-term incentives) backfiring in unexpected ways and the lessons learnt therefrom?  If so, please flick me a message on Linkedin and I will get a peer-to-peer exchange set up!

[1] The Power of Peers: How the Company You Keep Drives Leadership, Growth & Success” Leon Shapiro and Leo Bottary, Routledge, April 2016
[2] IDN membership welcomes all INSEAD Alumni interested in governance and directorship, not just IDP-Cs.

60 new board positions for IDN members

INSEAD’s International Director Network, IDNis proudly sharing the recent appointments of board and corporate governance positions of our members from 1 July 2022 to 30 November 2022, truly recognizing our members and the strength of our IDN network.IDN members has been appointed to 60 new board positions in 18 countries, summing up to 652 position announcements since 2017.As a member of IDN, the network of INSEAD International Board Directors, with full membership open to all INSEAD Alumni with appropriate directorship experience and which is automatic for Certified Directors (IDP-C) from INSEADs International Directors Program (IDP), you can be truly proud of your network!You find the IDN members with new board positions below, and why don’t you help share our network’s achievement via Linkedin, to help position also yourself and your membership of a vibrant network via this LinkedIn post.And take the time to connect with your fellow IDN members at LinkedIn and expand your board contacts, by clicking their names below and connect with them!  To date, IDP has been completed by 1,827 IDP and IDPB participants, with 1,489 certified IDP-C/ IDBP-C directors, and our International Board Network IDN of INSEAD Alumni of 1,562 members.IDN works closely with INSEAD Corporate Governance Centre, which undertakes cutting-edge research and teaching tailored to the needs of boards and international directors. It fosters a global dialogue on the challenges of corporate governance and leadership in an international context.INSEAD Directors’ Network – Members New Board & Corporate Governance Positions 

IDN members – Certified IDP-C Board Directors

Denise Koopmans – January 2022 – Non-executive director, Chair audit committee at Cicor Group (Listed, HQ Switzerland) | January 2022 – Member strategic advisory board at Boards Impact Forum (NGO, HQ Sweden)

Doris Tomanek – July 2022 – Deputy Chairwoman of Audit Committee at UniCredit Bank Austria (Austria) | November 2022 – Member of Supervisory Board at Sparkassen Prüfungsverband, (Austria) | July 2022 – Member of the Supervisory Board at UniCredit Bank Austria AG (Private, HQ Austria) | May 2022 – Advisory Board Member at FinAngel GmbH (Private, HQ Austria)

Gauthier de Biolley – May 2022 – Co-Chairman at Canada Belgium Committee (Private, HQ Brussels & Montreal)

Marcia de Wachter – September 2022 – Chair at Data Trust Associates (Private, Belgium)

Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez – July 2022 – Board Member at Design for Change, NGO (DFC Global Inc., Boston, USA)

Marc Noppen – September 2022 – Non Executive Director at Multipharma Group ( CV, HQ Anderlecht, Belgium )

Yves Poullet – June 2022 – Chairperson at Revalidatieziekenhuis Inkendaal (Private, Belgium)

Hamza Didaraly – September 2022 – Non-Executive Board Director at Credit Mutuel Banque et Assurance (Listed, HQ France)

Alexis Lacroix – July 2022 – Non Executive Director and Strategy Board Member at OFFOLIO SAS (Private, HQ France)

Patrice Ratti – July 2022 – Non-Executive Board Director at SMEG, “Société Monégasque d’Electricité et de Gaz”,  (non listed, Monaco)

Maarten Reenalda – June 2022 – Board Member at Skilleon BV (Private, Netherlands)

Hagen Schweinitz – August 2022 – Chairman of the Advisoy Board at European Women on Boards (EWOB) (NGO, Belgium)

Enrica Rimoldi – June 2022 – Independent Non-Executive Director, Chairwoman of the Risk Committee, ESG and CIBA Committees member at Iccrea Banca SpA (not listed, HQ Italy)

Anne Kayser – May 2022 – Non-Executive Board member at ecoDa (Brussels, Belgium) | June 2022 – Independent Non-Executive Director at CanCorpEurope SICAV-SIF (Luxembourg Investment Fund) (not listed, Luxembourg)

Charlotte Pedersen – July 2022 – Chair of the Safety, Security and Operational Compliance Committee at Wizz Air Plc, (Listed, HQ Switzerland)

Thomas Seale – July 2022 – Chairman of Board of Directors  at Norvestor SPV II Private | July 2022 – Chairman at Norvestor SPV II (Private, Luxembourg)

Jellie Banga – September 2022 – Non Executive Director, member Audit Committee at Invest International (Private, Netherlands)

Fennemiek Gommer – June 2022 – Non-Executive Board Member at TESYA Group, (Private, HQ Milan, Italy)

Rutger Groot – October 2022 – Chairman Board of Trustees at Yayasan Bina Tani Sejahtera (Foundation, Indonesia)

Saskia Kunst – July 2022 – Member of the Management Board at SwitcH2 B,V,: Sewater into clean hydrogen (Privately held, Netherlands)

Jacques Letzelter – November 2022 – Independant Director at Adeunis (Listed, HQ France)

Gbenga Oyebode – November 2022 – Chairman at Teach for All (NGO, New York, USA)

Danko Jevtovic – October 2022 – Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors at ICANN (California nonprofit – Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers)

Jean-Yves Broussy – April 2022 – Non Executive Director at Commonwealth Kokubu Logistics (Private, Singapore)

Mark Shmulevich – October 2022 – Board Member at Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) Innovation Centre (NGO, Singapore)

Edgar Philippin – April 2022 – Non-Executive Director at Ferring International Center SA (Private, Switzerland)

Dr. Andy Schwarzenbach – November 2022 – Board Member at Bluu AG (Private, Switzerland)

Mariateresa Vacalli – July 2022 – Board Member,  at Burckhardt Compression (Listed, HQ-Winterthur Switzerland) | May 2022 – Board Member at Post Switzerland (Private/Government, HQ-Bern Switzerland)

Karen Thomas-Bland – July 2022 – Chair at Optima Partners Limited (Private Equity backed, HQ UK)

Anna Zanardi – August 2022 – Chair of Remuneration Committee at Trevi spa  (listed company, Milan Italy) | July 2022 – Chair of Remuneration Committee at Wateralia Spa (Non listed, Milan Italy) | November 2022 – Chair of Remuneration Committee at Cedacri Spa (Non listed, Milan Italy)

Soula Proxenos – June 2022 – Non Executive Director at South Africa student Accomodation impact investor (Private limited company, South Africa)

Dan Bihi-Zenou – September 2022 – Chairman at Lookmove SA (Private, Switzerland)

Sunny Karkhanis – June 2022 – Non Executive Director at 21 Financen (Private, Liechtenstein)

Thomas Huerlimann – January 2022 – Chairman at FLS Group AG (Private, HQ Baar, Switzerland)

Christiaen van Lanschot – January 2022 – Non-Executive Director at Kroo Bank Limited, Non-Executive Director, UK, Private)

Christiane Schloderer – January 2022 – Board member at NEXSYS-ONE DMCC (Private, UAE)

Hassan Kabbani – June 2022 – Non-Executive Board Directorat NuRAN Wireless (Listed, Canada)

Charles A Mallo – February 2021 – Non Executive Director at VaxEquity Ltd (Private, UK)

Katia Ciesielska – November 2022 – Non-Executive Director at Miya Water (privately owned, Luxembourg)

IDN Members – Board Directors

Henk-Dirk de Haan – August 2022 – Member Supervisory Board at Stichting Kwintessens Educatief (NGO, HQ Netherlands)

Kristina Flügel –ügel-87a2b1160/ October 2022 – Supervisory Board Member at Triodos Bank NV (Private, HQ  Netherlands)

Martin Fraenkel – October 2022 – Chairman of the Board at The Academy of St Martin in the Fields – the world’s most recorded orchestra (Charity, UK)

Elissa Grey – July 2022 – Non Executive Board Director at The Biodiversity Consultancy (HQ Cambridge, UK)

Christian Joergensen – May 2022 – Non-executive member of the Board at Coala Life AB (listed, Stockholm/Sweden)

Lilia Jolibois – March 2022 – Non-Executive Director and Advisory Board Member at Tremau (Private Company, France)

Per Jonsson – May 2022 – Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Swedish Church in the British Isles (Charity, UK)

Kirsten Lange – July 2022 – hairwoman of the Supervisory Board at Blue Cap AG (Listed, Germany)

Andreas Lehmann – July 2022 – Non Executive Chairman at ClexBio (Private, HQ Norway)

Thomas Mason – April 2022 – Non Executive Director at Deltamune (Private Equity)

Chandra P. Leo – July 2022 – Non-Executive Board Director at Dren Bio (Private, HQ USA)

Frank Vogt – September 2022 – Chairman of the supervisory board at Slagwerk Den Haag (Public foundation, Netherlands)

Laurence Amand-Jules – June 2021- Non-Executive Board Director at Geneve Sport SA (Private, Switzerland)

Harald Beck – July 2021 – Non-Executive Board Director at Wallimann AG Alpnach (Privat, Switzerland)

Previous announcements and more informationPrevious board position announcements by shared by IDN;

September 2022 March 2022 October 2021 July 2021 April 2021 December 2020  September 2020 March 2020 October 2019 July 2019  February 2019  November 2018 July 2018 April 2018  January 2018   October 2017

For organisations interested in partnering with IDN, please contact IDN President, Helen Wiseman at [email protected]

On Behalf of the INSEAD International Directors’ Network Board