Director Journal – November/December 2022

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Long Covid threatens to linger for years. Employers need a plan




The ICD-Rotman Directors Education Program is the leading educational program for experienced board directors seeking to advance their contributions to Canada’s boardrooms and beyond.

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Think beyond the boardroom

Director Journal Departments


Jeff Buckstein, Virginia Galt, Gordon Pitts, Serge Rivest, Awanish Sinha, Barbara Smith, Gillian Smith, Prasanthi Vasanthakumar, Colin Way, Shirley Won

Executive Lead

Heather Wilson

Senior Director, Policy and Research

Institute of Corporate Directors

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Editor’s note

Expanding the board’s agenda

CEO insights

Rahul Bhardwaj on the need to have difficult conversations


The reality of ‘quiet quitting,’ Bitcoin’s dirty mines, our livable cities, green optimism, BlackBerry the movie


How to protect your reputation

Directors’ dilemma

Heather Wilson on determining when not-for-profits should merge

Directors on the move

Recent board appointments across the country

Parting shot

Fossil fuel fallout


ICD Fellow insights

Building trust and confidence in Canadian organizations is imperative. At the Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD), we believe that this starts with the right leadership and good gover nance. Directors must lead by being informed, prepared, ethical, connected, courageous and engaged with the world. In the pages that follow, you will find thoughtful and provocative articles that explore these essential leadership qualities. Bâtir la confiance envers les organisations can adiennes est primordial. À l’Institut des admin istrateurs de sociétés (IAS), nous croyons que cela commence par un bon leadership et une bonne gouvernance. Les administrateurs doivent gouverner en étant informés, préparés, intègres, connectés, courageux et ouverts sur le monde. Dans les pages qui suivent, vous trouverez des articles réfléchis et provocateurs qui explorent ces qualités de leadership essentielles.

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Herb Pinder Jr. has served on dozens of boards and supported the evolution of the modern director, but he says the imposition of ESG standards on businesses has gone too far

Cover story

As long Covid afflicts countless Canadians, boards must take steps to ensure the well-being of employees


Companies need fair and transparent tax policies to reduce their financial risk and keep stakeholders on side

Human resources

Why progressive boards have elevated the importance of talent and culture

Recommended reading

In The End of Bias: A Beginning, author Jessica Nordell says it’s time to consider what causes bias and the best ways to counter it

CONTENTS ICD.CA | 3 04 05 06 11 12 44 50 14 22 32 38 46

Expanding the board’s agenda

People really are the most important asset

THE THREAT POSED BY Covid-19 and the damage it causes have been heavily polit icized during the past three years. But as more data emerge, we are getting a clearer understanding of the indisputable effects of the pandemic. It is no longer just healthcare workers sounding the alarm. Business es, economists and investors are starting to connect labour shortages, absenteeism and declining productivity to long Covid.

In our cover story (page 22), the ICD’s Pras anthi Vasanthakumar cites Statistics Canada figures that 14.8 per cent of those who tested positive for Covid-19 experienced long Covid symptoms at least three months after their infection. These include confusion, fatigue, memory loss and headaches, which prevent many people from getting on with their jobs. What has been mostly a public health issue up to now is becoming a growing economic one.

Boards need to consider the magnitude of the effects of long Covid, and prepare for the likelihood that a growing wave of casualties is coming, Vasanthakumar writes. That means ensuring their or ganizations have the right policies to try to limit the spread of the virus, to support staff who get it, and to stand by employees who haven’t yet fully recovered. The cost of shoring up defences, such as improving ventilation in the workspace, should be seen as an in vestment likely to save much more money down the road, she adds.

This idea of putting workers’ well-being on the board’s agenda has gained traction during the pandemic. As Virginia Galt writes in our feature on talent and culture (page 38), enlightened boards want a deeper understanding of HR oversight that goes beyond their traditional responsibility of CEO selection and compensa tion planning. They want to ensure they’re attracting, developing and retaining the people their organizations need to prosper, and they’re recognizing that a shortage of talent has become a very real organizational risk today, she writes.

Putting long Covid and other HR issues on the board’s regular agenda is about more than creating an empathetic work environ ment. It’s about making sure your organization is well-positioned to succeed in an uncertain future. DJ

LA MENACE POSÉE par la Covid-19 et les dommages qu’elle a causés ont été large ment politisés au cours des trois dernières années. Mais à mesure que de nouvelles données émergent, on comprend mieux les effets indiscutables de la pandémie. Ce ne sont plus seulement les travailleurs de la santé qui sonnent l’alarme. Entreprises, économistes et investisseurs commencent à relier les pénuries de main-d’œuvre, l’absentéisme et les déclins de productiv ité à la Covid longue.

Dans notre article principal (page 22), Prasanthi Vasanthakumar évoque les chif fres de Statistique Canada selon lesquels 14,8 pour cent des gens testés positifs à la Covid-19 ont éprouvé des symptômes de la Covid longue au moins trois mois après leur infection. La confusion, la fatigue, des pertes de mémoire et des maux de tête ont obligé plusieurs personnes à interrompre le travail. Ce qui était un enjeu de santé publique est ainsi devenu un problème économique.

Les conseils doivent se préparer à la probabilité d’une vague croissante de décès. Cela signifie qu’ils doivent s’assurer que leurs organisations tentent de limiter la propagation du virus, de soute nir le personnel qui en est atteint et d’aider les employés qui ne s’en sont pas complètement remis. Il faudra considérer les moyens de défense, comme l’amélioration de la ventilation dans les lieux de travail, comme des investissements.

L’idée de placer le bien-être des travailleurs parmi les priorités du conseil a gagné du terrain pendant la pandémie. Comme l’écrit Virginia Galt dans notre article sur le talent et la culture (page 38), les conseils éclairés souhaitent une compréhension approfondie d’une surveillance RH qui va au-delà de la responsabilité traditionnelle de sélection du chef de la direction et de planification de la rémunération. Ils veulent s’assurer d’attirer, de développer et de conserver les gens dont leurs or ganisations ont besoin pour prospérer et reconnaissent que la pénurie de talents est devenue aujourd’hui un risque organisationnel bien réel.

Il ne s’agit pas seulement de créer un environnement de travail empathique, mais de s’assurer aussi que votre organisation soit bien positionnée pour réussir dans un avenir incertain. DJ


A trust-building platform

In order to move forward we must embrace difficult conversations

CANADA IS A LARGE COUNTRY of varied geography, diverse people and disparate points of view. Among boards, executives and political leaders, it’s common to hear contrary perspectives and competing view points. Director Journal hosts and amplifies a regular sampling of these ideas, and noth ing guarantees a reaction from readers more than stories about environmental, social and governance (ESG) matters. ESG, climate and energy issues are of paramount importance to society, wherever you stand on them. In this issue, our profile of ICD Fellow Herb Pinder Jr. touches these hot-button topics. We encourage you to read it and reflect on how it aligns with your perspective on these complex and evolving issues.

We also encourage you to consider it with in the broader context of the magazine’s other profiles and stories, and then share your feedback and ideas with us and your peers. The ICD strives to provide a trusted forum for leaders across the country to come together, share their ideas in a respectful manner, and learn from the rich variety of experiences and viewpoints that members offer.

LE CANADA EST UN VASTE PAYS à la géog raphie multiforme, à la population diversi fiée et aux opinions variées. Un peu partout, il n’est pas rare d’entendre des points de vue contraires et des perspectives différentes. Le Director Journal accueille et se fait l’écho de ces idées et rien ne garantit davantage une réaction des lecteurs que des articles sur les questions environnementales, sociales et de gouvernance (ESG). Les enjeux d’ESG, de climat et d’énergie sont d’une importance primordiale pour la société, quel que soit le point de vue qu’on adopte à leur égard. Dans ce numéro, notre portrait du Fellow de l’IAS Herb Pinder Jr évoque ces questions contro versées. Nous vous encourageons à le lire et à réfléchir à la manière dont ses propos s’alig nent sur votre point de vue sur ces enjeux complexes et évolutifs.

One well-discussed topic recently has been the lack of leadership and accountability at Hockey Canada. Normally, the ICD makes a point of not second-guessing boards, but the failures at the national governing body of hockey have been so abject they cannot be ignored. The cul ture within the organization has undermined much of the social change society has struggled to adopt in the past few years, and the refusal of management and the board to be accountable once the facts became widely known drives home how critical good governance practices are.

Even in these trying times, I do believe there is cause for optimism. As our story on workplace talent makes clear, high-performing boards are growing more aware of the need to oversee the corporate culture and human resources strategies within their organizations. Similar to how the financial crisis ultimately sharpened the financial acumen of boards, the pandemic has brought the people side of business to the top of the agenda. That shift can only be a good thing as we look at new ways to lessen the climate crisis and grow more responsive to the evolving expectations of stakeholders and broader society. DJ

Nous vous encourageons aussi à les en visager dans le contexte plus large des au tres articles et ensuite à partager vos réac tions et vos idées avec nous et vos pairs. L’IAS s’efforce d’offrir un forum de confiance pour que les leaders de l’ensemble du pays convergent, partagent leurs idées en tout respect et tirent des leçons de la riche variété d’expériences et de points de vue de ses membres.

On a aussi longuement discuté récemment du manque de lead ership et de transparence chez Hockey Canada. L’IAS demeure tou jours discret sur les agissements des conseils, mais cette fois nous ne pouvons ignorer la situation. La culture de cette organisation a sapé une bonne partie des changements sociaux adoptés par la so ciété ces dernières années et son refus de rendre compte montre à quel point la bonne gouvernance est essentielle.

Malgré tout, je pense que l’optimisme est de mise. Comme le mon tre clairement notre article sur les lieux de travail, les conseils perfor mants sont de plus en plus conscients de la nécessité d’encadrer la culture d’entreprise et les stratégies de ressources humaines au sein de leurs organisations. De la même manière, la pandémie a fait ressortir l’aspect humain de la gouvernance. Il s’agit d’un changement bienve nu qui réduira le climat de crise et rendra les entreprises plus sensibles aux attentes des parties prenantes et de la société en général. DJ



A digest for diligent directors


It all began with a TikTok video in which a young man mused about the idea of performing one’s job duties without going above and beyond. Since then, “quiet quitting” has made a lot of noise in C-suites and boardrooms. “People who shut down their laptop at 5, want that balance in life … they don’t work for me,” Shark Tank star Kevin O’Leary said in a CNBC video essay. In The New York Times, Amy Mosher, chief people officer at HR software company iSolved, weighed in. “It’s not about the quiet quitters. It’s about everybody else and the unfairness that occurs there.”

But according to Derek Thompson in The Atlantic, quiet quitting is just a new name for the old business of “having a job.” A Gallup poll of U.S. workers finds a slow rise in engagement from 2010 to 2020, followed by a tiny dip in 2022. For Thompson, this mild disengagement is about as novel as cubicles, lunch breaks and the Monday morning blues.

Political writer David Moscrop views it more as a commentary on wage inequality. One study on the productivity-wage gap in Canada between 1976 and 2014 finds median real hourly earnings grew by an anemic 0.09 per cent a year compared with annual labour productivity growth of 1.12 per cent. Why would a worker do anything but the minimum in a system that doesn’t serve their interests, Moscrop asks in the magazine Jacobin. For him, quiet quitting is simply a spinoff of workto-rule. Like unionizing, it’s ultimately a rejection of workplace exploitation and the cult of work. At the end of the day, quiet quitting is just “working.”



The impact of Bitcoin “mining” on the climate as a proportion of market value is on par with that of cattle farming, according to researchers at the University of New Mexico. Mining or validating transactions of the popular digital token, which accounts for 41 per cent of the global cryptocurrency market, uses powerful supercomputers – a process that consumes vast amounts of fossil-fuel-generated electricity. In 2020, it used more energy than all of Austria or Portugal.

This carbon footprint has increased as the cryptocurrency market has matured, raising doubts about the sector’s overall sustainability,


Climate damages as a share of market value

Laura Millan Lombrana reports in Bloomberg Green. The climate damages generated by all Bitcoins mined between 2016 and 2021 could add up to US$12-billion.

There’s still hope for Bitcoin. Faced with plummeting profit margins from mining Bitcoin, miners are turning to more energy-efficient machines and renewable energy sources. Ethereum, the secondlargest cryptocurrency, recently adopted a new management system that it says will cut emissions by more than 99 per cent. If Ethereum’s greener path is successful, Bitcoin may have to follow suit.

Note: Bitcoin mining damages are an average for 2016 to 2021, while other commodities are for a single year.

Source: “Economic estimation of Bitcoin mining’s climate damages demonstrates closer resemblance to digital crude than digital gold,” Bloomberg Green, Sept. 2022.


Scoring 96 points in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU’s) Global Liveability Index, Calgary is the best place to call home in North America. Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal follow closely behind, with Atlanta rounding out the top five. Canadian cities dominate the list because of high marks for stability, infrastructure, education and health care, as well as the country’s rollout of Covid-19 vaccine boosters, The Economist reports.

HOME SWEET HOME Canada boasts the most liveable cities in North America

Calgary 96.3 Vancouver 96.1 Toronto 95.4 Montreal 92.9 Atlanta 92.3

Rank out of 25, 1 = most liveable. EIU does not include Mexico in North America.

Source: The Economist and EIU’s Global Liveability Index, North America, March 2022.

95% 46% 41% 35% 33% 10% 8% 4% 4% 1%
1 2 3 4 5
Coal Natural gas Gasoline Bitcoin Beef Chicken Pork Solar Gold Wind


The story of Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM), the company behind the BlackBerry device and one of Corporate Canada’s greatest tragedies, may be coming soon to a screen near you. Written and directed by Canadian filmmaker and actor Matt Johnson, BlackBerry will chronicle the rise and fall of RIM.

In the early 2000s, the Waterloo, Ont.-based company became a household name when its BlackBerry smartphone permanently changed the way we communicate. Nicknamed the “CrackBerry” for its addictive qualities, the device featured the much-loved external keyboard and BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service.

But after Apple and Android’s touch screens entered the conversation, RIM’s slow response led to its crushing demise. Now called BlackBerry, the company specializes in cybersecurity and connected car technology today.

Feeling nostalgic for BBM? BlackBerry, the movie, will be released in 2023.


The BlackBerry reigned supreme before losing ground to Apple’s iPhone. Source:


From meetings to monologues, information overload is a common problem. This can be especially true of the written word. Wordy sentences force readers to decode what you’re saying rather than think about what you’re saying, says Jane Rosenzweig, director of the Harvard Writing Center. In the Harvard Business Review, the prose pundit offers three strategies to remove the excess.

First, eliminate filler words that don’t add anything to your sentence. Common offenders include: generally, basically, actually, virtually and just. Once you get in the habit of deleting these words, you literally won’t miss them.

Second, remove repetition. We figure out what we think by writing, which is why we tend to repeat ourselves in early drafts. Rosenzweig recommends highlighting repetition as you edit.

Third, dump the preamble. For example, “I will now offer you three strategies to write concisely,” (10 words) can be better written as, “Here are three strategies to write concisely” (seven words). The second sentence shifts the reader’s focus from the author to the advice.

Paring down prose takes practice. When you get it right, your writing will be short and sweet.

Comscore and TechCrunch Month/Year BlackBerry’s market share Jan 2010 43% Jan 2011 30.4% Jan 2012 15.2% Jan 2013 5.9%


Despite the climate chaos of 2022, there is reason for hope, environment editor Damian Carrington writes in The Guardian. The challenge is immense: Carbon emissions must be halved by 2030 to avoid disaster. The onslaught of extreme weather events, coupled with Russia’s energy blackmail, has provided urgency to act. At the same time, a rapid rise in green solutions and intensifying youth activism are signals of change. “We know what we need to do…,” Solitaire Townsend of sustainable development agency Futerra tells The Guardian. “We are in a race between Armageddon and awesome.”


75% vs. 4%

Percentage of all new power delivered by renewable energy versus coal.

Trillions Dollars a swift transition to clean energy would save.

529,000 Sales of electric vehicles in China this August, doubling from a year earlier.

45 Nations that support the Breakthrough Agenda, an initiative to accelerate decarbonization through collaboration.


The first national government to commit loss and damage funds to help developing countries cut emissions, adapt and recover from extreme weather events.

$8.5-billion Funding provided by European nations to South Africa for its green energy transition.

90% Jump in online searches for plant-based diets over the past year.





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Now accepting applications. Space is limited, so apply now to avoid disappointment Think beyond the boardroom.


How to save your reputation

By weighing social issues, boards can determine the best response

THE FUTURE IS RELENTLESS. Over the course of the pandemic, the speed, intensity and variety of international issues have in creased and show no signs of abating. The reach of activist voices is amplified and often rocket-fuelled by social media. Companies are being challenged by calls from internal and external stakeholders for authentic responses to social and political issues.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Black Lives Matter. Jurisdictions legis lating against transgender rights. Where once reputational risk was a matter within a company’s purview – misdeeds caused by employees, partners or suppliers – today’s corporate leaders are confronted by external issues far beyond their direct control. Citizen journalists and social media have transformed the landscape such that issues can arise any time, anywhere, without traditional editorial gatekeeping.

A bungled response can have deleterious consequences for a company’s reputation, and potentially to its survival.

How do boards navigate the treacherous waters of reputational risk when the waves are so powerful and unpredictable? How do they in tegrate this new type of risk into their overall risk management frame work without paralyzing senior management each time an issue arises?

A “SURGE” approach is one way to analyze and filter risk scenarios. This approach examines issues in five dimensions. Simplicity. Is the issue at hand easy to understand? The simpler and more relatable an issue is, the likelier it is to spread.

Ubiquity. Does the issue transcend borders and industries? Has the issue come to dominate social and traditional media? If yes, the need for a potential response increases.

Relevance. While an issue may be simple to understand and ubiq uitous in its reach, is it relevant to a company or its stakeholders?

Gravity. What is the relative seriousness of the issue in the minds of stakeholders? There may be issues that are simple and ubiquitous but aren’t necessarily crucial or specific to a company.

Endurance. Does the issue have the potential to be long-lasting? The longer an issue brews, the likelier a company will be called upon to respond.

Consider the Black Lives Matter movement. Some corporations quickly released statements denouncing systemic racism and police brutality, yet failed to consider whether their own human resources practices had done enough to address diversity and inclusion.

This dissonance between headline state ments and the hard homework of changing a workplace is where reputation risk lies.

Effective reputation risk management involves a company identifying the issues that matter most to its stakeholders, for mulating positions on those issues, and en suring there is as little daylight as possible between the positions developed and the realities of the company. If positions do not immediately line up to reality, a transpar ent, measurable and time-bound process for closing these gaps is critical.

Inauthenticity and hypocrisy will be called out. Boards must hold their organizations to account or risk the wrath of public scrutiny. DJ

GILLIAN SMITH is managing partner of NATIONAL Public Relations’ Toronto office. AWANISH SINHA is co-lead of the public sector group at McCarthy Tétrault LLP and advises boards on legal and political risk.

The five-point ‘SURGE’ approach offers corporate leaders a method for analyzing and filtering risk scenarios created by the wave of social and political issues that stakeholders increasingly expect organizations to address.


The dilemma

time commitment involved. Zanotti recom mends “gently lifting the CEOs” out of the decision-making process and having the joint board committee lead it.

“It is crucial to clearly articulate the vi sion, mission and values of the merged en tity and then develop the detailed strategic plan to achieve them,” DiPaolo adds.

All of this information will need to be con veyed to stakeholders, including employees, clients, partner organizations, donors and government funders as part of the consulta tion and approval process, she adds.

IN ASSESSING A POTENTIAL merger, the board should have a clear understanding of the goals of the organization as well as the issues a potential merger may solve or leave unsettled.

According to Daniele Zanotti, CEO of the United Way of Greater Toronto, who has direct experience with merging NFP organizations, the key question to ask is: “What mission problem or opportunity is the organization trying to solve through a merger?” Boards may jump into considering a merger because there is a crisis or because significant challenges ex ist, but it may not be the best solution.

If feasible, alternatives to a full-on merg er may be considered. For instance, the two organizations might be able to collaborate on a project or share infrastructure or other resources, Zanotti says. In this way, there’s a chance to “test the relationship before you get to the full marriage.”

When considering a merger, the board needs to fully understand the purpose. Is it a merger of growth, of need, or of equals? Zanotti recommends that the board have a clear picture of what a successful merger would look like strategically, financially and operationally, and decide what metrics to

use to measure progress toward those goals.

“Where resource constraints are a driver, it is crucial for the board to understand and model the financial impact of the merger. While the long-term costs can make or break the deal, the immediate costs [such as advi sor fees and potential severance payments] may be prohibitive without additional fund ing,” says Adrienne DiPaolo, a partner at the law firm Torys LLP in Toronto.

Significant short-term costs may include harmonizing salaries and benefits within the two organizations, and consolidating departments such as finance, information technology and human resources, she says.

Due diligence is also key, adds Zanotti. The organizations need to dig deeply into each other’s operations by looking at fi nances and legal issues, and identifying any potential risks in sustainability and revenue structure. The boards should also make sure that their missions and mandates will be strengthened through the merger.

The board may want to create a special joint committee to work on the deal, which will provide an opportunity to explore the merits of the proposal in-depth. Boards should also understand the substantial

It’s also important to ask tough questions about how staff and programming will be in tegrated and to identify the composition re quirements of the new board. Because board members are the stewards of the organiza tion, it is ultimately their responsibility to ex plore the merits of the merger and make the best decision for their organizations.

Although they may work on similar is sues, not-for-profits vary considerably in their organizational cultures. Understand ing how those cultures will be identified and blended will be a key success factor. The board may want to work with manage ment to identify what it would like to see in the culture of the newly created organiza tion and identify appropriate metrics.

After a completed merger, it’s important that the new board directors become strong stewards for the new enterprise, says Zanotti. The board chair can play a key role by building an effective governance structure and by being a strong ambassador for the new organization.

Boards should play a lead role in assess ing the merits of the proposed merger by providing oversight of the process and mon itoring the new organization to ensure that it successfully fulfills the merger’s promise. DJ

Is a merger right for our not-for-profit?

LORSQU’IL ÉVALUE un projet de fusion, le conseil devrait avoir une compréhension claire des objectifs de l’organisation et des problèmes qu’une éventuelle fusion pour rait solutionner ainsi que ceux qui risquent de subsister.

Selon Daniele Zanotti, chef de la direc tion de Centraide du Grand Toronto, qui possède une expérience directe de la fusion d’organisations à but non lucratif, la ques tion clé est la suivante : « Quel problème relatif à sa mission l’organisation tentet-elle de régler ou quelle est l’opportunité dont elle souhaiterait profiter en conclu ant un accord de fusion? » Les conseils ne devraient pas hésiter à envisager une fusion en cas de crise ou pour relever un défi im portant, mais il se pourrait aussi que ce ne soit pas la meilleure solution.

Si cela est réalisable, des alternatives à une fusion complète peuvent être envis agées. Par exemple, les deux organisations pourraient être en mesure de collaborer à un projet, de partager des infrastructures ou d’autres ressources, admet M. Zanetti. Ainsi, c’est une occasion de « tester une relation avant d’en venir à un mariage en bonne et due forme. »

Quand il envisage une fusion, le conseil doit pleinement comprendre les objectifs re cherchés. S’agit-il d’une fusion de croissance née d’un besoin ou d’une transaction entre égaux? M. Zanotti recommande que le con seil se donne une image claire de ce que serait une fusion réussie – sur les plans stratégique, financier et opérationnel – et décide ensuite quels paramètres utiliser pour mesurer les progrès à réaliser vers ces objectifs.

« Lorsque le projet est motivé par un manque de ressources, il est crucial pour le conseil de comprendre et de modéliser son impact financier, affirme Adrienne DiPaolo, associée du cabinet juridique Torys LLP de Toronto. Alors que les coûts à long terme peuvent s’avérer décisifs, les coûts immédi ats (honoraires, indemnités de départ, har monisation des salaires) peuvent être pro hibitifs sans financement additionnel. »

La diligence raisonnable est aussi essen

tielle, ajoute M. Zanotti. Les organisations doivent creuser profondément dans les opérations de l’une et l’autre en examinant leur situation financière, leurs enjeux ju ridiques et en identifiant les risques éven tuels en matière de durabilité et de struc ture de revenus.

Le conseil pourrait vouloir créer un comi té conjoint spécial pour étudier l’entente, pour explorer en profondeur les mérites de la proposition. Les conseils devraient égale ment pouvoir mesurer l’engagement sub stantiel de temps impliqué dans l’opération. M. Zanotti recommande « d’écarter déli catement » le chef de la direction du pro cessus de décision et de faire en sorte que le comité conjoint du conseil s’en charge.

« Il est essentiel d’articuler clairement la vision, la mission et les valeurs de l’en tité fusionné et d’élaborer ensuite un plan stratégique détaillé pour les mettre en œu vre », ajoute Mme DiPaolo.

Tous ces renseignements devront être transmis aux parties prenantes, y compris les employés, clients, organisations partenaires, donateurs et bailleurs de fonds gouvernemen taux dans le cadre d’un processus de consul tation et d’approbation, explique-t-elle.

Il est aussi important de poser des ques tions difficiles sur l’intégration du personnel et la programmation et d’identifier les exi gences relatives à la composition du nouveau conseil. Parce que les administrateurs sont les responsables de l’organisation, il leur re vient ultimement d’explorer les mérites de la fusion et de prendre les meilleures déci sions pour leurs organisations.

La culture organisationnelle des organisa tions à but non lucratif est très diversifiée. La manière dont ces cultures seront identifiées et intégrées sera un facteur essentiel de succès.

Il reviendra à la présidence du conseil de bâtir une structure de gouvernance efficace et d’être un solide ambassadeur pour la nou velle organisation. Les conseils devraient jouer un rôle de leadership en évaluant les mérites de la fusion proposée et en s’assur ant que la nouvelle organisation remplit les promesses suscitées par la fusion. DJ


• Establish a joint board committee to guide the merger process through to completion.

• Identify the cultural attributes of each organization and what needs enhancing.

• Board chairs can play a key role as ambassadors for the new enterprise.

• Établir un comité conjoint spécial du conseil pour faciliter le processus de fusion jusqu’à sa conclusion.

• Les conseils peuvent identifier les attributs culturels les plus souhaitables et surveiller la culture de l’organisation.

• Les présidents du conseil peuvent jouer un rôle clé comme ambassadeurs de la nouvelle organisation.

Send your comments or ideas to: Heather Wilson Senior Director, Policy and Research

Every issue, we will feature a question from readers or one from ICD’s complimentary research service, ICD BoardInfo

Presented in partnership with Torys LLP.


Corporate director and investor HERB PINDER JR. had always been in step with the evolution of Canadian boardrooms. Then came ESG and a clash of values that increasingly separates Westerners with ties to the energy patch from other Canadians, Gordon Pitts writes L’administrateur de sociétés et investisseur HERB PINDER avait toujours été en phase avec l’évolution des conseils d’administration au Canada. Jusqu’au jour où les ESG et un conflit de valeurs viennent diviser de plus en plus les gens de l’Ouest proches des milieux de l’énergie et les autres, écrit Gordon Pitts

HERB PINDER JR. describes himself as “a governance guy,” a cor porate director who has embraced transparency, inclusiveness and effectiveness on boards.

He launched his career in the era of the “old boys’ network” and now, at 75, finds himself living in the age of the professional board whose directors are recruited and judged according to exacting and objective standards.

Pinder has applauded every step in this transition, starting with his support of the Dey Report that kicked off Canada’s governance revolution three decades ago, and the emergence of educational

HERB PINDER JR se décrit lui-même comme un « gars de gouver nance », un administrateur qui adhère à la transparence, l’inclu sion et l’efficacité au sein des conseils d’administration.

Il a entrepris sa carrière à l’époque du « réseau des boys » et aujourd’hui, à 75 ans, il vit à l’ère des conseils professionnels dont les administrateurs sont recrutés et jugés en fonction de normes rigoureuses et objectives.

M. Pinder a applaudi à chaque étape de cette transition, à com mencer par son appui au Rapport Dey qui a donné le coup d’envoi à la révolution de la gouvernance au Canada et à l’émergence d’or


Veteran director and ICD Fellow Herb Pinder says ESG practices have gone too far, too fast, and worries they are wid ening the East-West divide in Canada.

ICD.CA | 15



bodies such as the Institute of Corporate Directors. According to director colleagues, he has made his boards better.

It’s the kind of track record that gets one inducted as an ICD Fel low, which is what happened to Pinder this year.

A dangerous climate

But now, the Saskatoon-based Pinder has encountered a gov ernance phenomenon that deeply troubles him. That is ESG, the broad concept of holding corporations to account in advancing en vironmental, social justice and governance standards.

Pinder is all-in on the “G” factor, but he worries about the im plications of the other two, and particularly the “E.” Amid growing climate-change evidence, large shareholders, governments and reg ulators are pushing corporations to adopt net-zero strategies, and elevate environmental disclosure to the level of financial reporting.

The good-governance community has joined the movement, but to Pinder, this embrace of ESG is “risky and hasty.” He fears ESG zealotry has escalated into one group of citizens trying to impose its values on another. These values, he says, are being foisted onto corporations which have no business wading into the so-called cul ture wars in society.

In describing his concerns, Pinder traces the evolution of the corporation away from its traditional fiduciary duty of returning capital to shareholders. This duty has widened to heeding the inter ests of broader stakeholders – employees, suppliers, customers and communities where it does business.

But now we are entering a new, more dangerous phase, Pinder says, moving into the realm of beliefs and values. Should corpora tions have to incorporate one group’s values in their strategic ob jectives? Further, “is it appropriate for corporations to impose their values on stakeholders?”

And whose values are these? he asks. “Larry Fink’s values?” he

ganisations pédagogiques comme l’Institut des administrateurs de sociétés. Selon des collègues administrateurs, il a rendu meilleurs les conseils où il a siégé.

Voilà le genre d’états de service qui mènent au titre de Fellow de l’IAS, un honneur qui lui échoit cette année.

Un climat dangereux

Mais aujourd’hui, ce citoyen de Saskatoon se trouve face à un phénomène qui l’inquiète. Il s’agit des ESG, ce concept consistant à obliger les entreprises à rendre compte de leurs progrès en matière d’environnement, de justice sociale et de gouvernance.

M. Pinder adhère entièrement au facteur « G », mais il s’inquiète des implications des deux autres lettres, en particulier le « E ». Face aux preuves qui s’accumulent des changements climatiques, les actionnaires de grandes sociétés, les gouvernements et autorités réglementaires poussent les entreprises à adopter des stratégies de carboneutralité et à élever la divulgation environnementale au niveau des rapports financiers.

La communauté de bonne gouvernance a joint le mouvement, mais selon lui cette adhésion aux ESG est « risquée et précipitée ». Il craint que ce zèle revête la forme d’un groupe de citoyens qui tente d’imposer ses valeurs à un autre. Ces valeurs, dit-il, sont im posées à des entreprises qui n’ont aucune raison de patauger dans ces soi-disant guerres culturelles.

En décrivant ses inquiétudes, M. Pinder retrace l’évolution de la gouvernance à l’écart de ses devoirs fiduciaires traditionnels consistant à redistribuer le capital aux actionnaires. Nous entrons maintenant en effet dans une phase nouvelle, plus dangereuse, ex plique-t-il, en foulant le terrain des croyances et des valeurs.

Et qui sont les tenants de ces valeurs? « Celles de Larry Fink? » demande-t-il, évoquant l’influent chef de la direction de Black Rock, le plus important gestionnaire d’actifs au monde, dont les


asks, referring to the influential CEO of BlackRock, the world’s big gest asset manager, whose public letters have led the charge toward mandating net-zero targets.

Worlds apart

Pinder believes this debate has become political, and he worries about its role in widening the East-West divide in Canada. He sees growing anxiety in the West, particularly a belief that ESG is a tool to constrain the region’s foundational energy industry by activists and institutions elsewhere.

It adds to a growing list of Western frustrations, including restraints on pipeline construction. He is concerned that the drive to ESG comes from “those who want a different world and ESG is one of the vehicles to do that. And that is what it feels like in Western Canada.”

He says his remarks have emerged from his continuing study of ESG’s impact and relevance, and he admits he has not completed his inquiries. He continues to bounce his concerns off other direc tors he knows and trusts.

And clearly Pinder is not some lone voice in the wilderness. As ESG investment, measurement and consulting has emerged as a major in dustry, a backlash has flowered. Critics question the indexes and meth ods used by some ESG investment funds. Resistance is particularly strong in the United States, where some politicians, largely Republicans, have lumped in the ESG movement as part of the “woke” mindset.

interventions publiques ont mené la charge vers l’adoption de cibles carboneutres.

Des mondes différents M. Pinder croit que ce débat est devenu politique et il s’inquiète de son rôle dans le fossé qui se creuse entre l’Est et l’Ouest du Canada. Il constate l’anxiété croissante qu’on éprouve dans l’Ouest, en par ticulier le sentiment que les ESG sont un outil dont se servent des activistes et des institutions étrangères pour brider une industrie énergétique fondamentale pour la région.

Cela s’ajoute à une liste croissante de frustrations éprouvées par les gens de l’Ouest, dont celles touchant les restrictions imposées à la construction de gazoducs. Il s’inquiète que la poussée vers les ESG soit alimentée par « ceux qui veulent un monde différent et les ESG sont l’un des véhicules pour y parvenir. C’est le sentiment qui prévaut dans l’Ouest du pays ».

Il affirme que ses commentaires s’appuient sur une étude contin ue de l’impact et de la pertinence des ESG, tout en admettant que cette démarche n’est pas complétée.

Et il est clair qu’Herb Pinder n’est pas une voix solitaire qui prêche dans le désert. Alors que l’investissement, la mesure et les services conseils en matière d’ESG sont devenus une industrie de premier plan, une réaction de rejet a aussi émergé. Certains critiques remettent en question les indicateurs et les méthodes utilisés par

KPMG Board Leadership Centre From insight to oversight Learn more: more

Known as a director who is not afraid to speak his mind, ICD Fellow Herb Pinder says ESG values are being foisted on corporations from 'those who want a different world.'


This ESG skepticism is not some fringe movement but reaches into the ranks of serious-minded directors. And Herb Pinder is known as a director who is not afraid to confront tough issues, publicly and in the boardroom. He is someone “who consistent ly treats other board members with dignity, respect and kindness, while at the same time asks the tough questions, and tackles the difficult issues head on,” says former board colleague Bonnie Du Pont, a long-time director of Canadian companies.

A Harvard MBA, former Olympic hockey medalist and player agent, Pinder has served on at least 50 boards, including 30 busi ness directorships. There have been some major corporate boards – such as Viterra, the big Western agribusiness player – but much of his service has been in start-up, often private, oil and gas concerns.

These are small players whose exploration and development un derpins the Western economy and whose bottom line is severely affected with each new addition to the regulatory burden. Pinder calls himself “a little guy from a little place” – a term that under plays his profile in the West and Saskatoon’s position as a uranium, potash and energy hub.

One director Pinder has reached out to is Tim Hearn, who once led Canadian energy giant Imperial Oil and served as a senior hu man resources executive at its parent ExxonMobil. Hearn believes

certains fonds d’investissement. La résistance est particulièrement forte aux États-Unis, où des politiciens – largement issus du Parti ré publicain – ont assimilé le mouvement ESG à la mentalité « woke ».

Ce scepticisme à l’endroit des ESG ne s’inscrit pas dans quelque mouvement marginal, mais rejoint plutôt les rangs des administra teurs sérieux. Et Herb Pinder est connu comme un administrateur qui ne craint pas de se frotter à des questions difficiles, aussi bien en public qu’à la table du conseil. Voilà quelqu’un « qui traite sys tématiquement les autres membres du conseil avec dignité, respect et gentillesse, tout en posant les questions difficiles et en se me surant de front aux enjeux problématiques », affirme sa collègue administratrice Bonnie DuPont.

Détenteur d’un MBA de Harvard, ancien médaillé olympique en hockey et agent de joueurs, M. Pinder a siégé à plus d’une cinquan taine de conseils, dont ceux d’une trentaine d’organismes à but non lucratif. Beaucoup de ces postes ont été auprès d’entreprises en démarrage dans les domaines du pétrole et du gaz.

Il s’agit là de petites organisations dont les activités d’explo ration et de développement soutiennent l’économie de l’Ouest du pays et dont les résultats financiers sont lourdement affectés par chaque ajout au fardeau réglementaire. M. Pinder se con sidère comme « un petit gars d’un petit bled » – un terme


ESG, like other big ideas, is in danger of reaching too far. He sees particular risks in social justice, where he observes a push to get corporations to do much more than they are equipped to do. Corporations may help fund solutions through donations, but there is a trap in taking their mandate further: “A lot of corpora tions run the risk of going in and trying to solve social problems when they are not suited for it. We shouldn’t ask them to – they may end up making things worse, not better.”

Hearn says Canadian companies are actually making good prog ress on the “E” scorecard, and the governance side is strengthen ing, he believes, well ahead of trends in the United States. “But we have to be very careful on the social side, about what we ask corporations to do.”

Like Pinder, he worries about the regulatory burden falling dis proportionately on the Canadian energy industry. “I come at it from a pragmatic point of view,” he says, arguing that Canada should in vest heavily in science and technology “that drives down our car bon footprint and does not destroy our oil and gas industry.”

Meanwhile, Canadians are watching U.S. developments, includ ing 19 U.S. state governments that say they intend to penalize insti tutional investors that consider ESG factors in deciding where to put clients’ money. Depicting ESG as an attack on the fossil-fuel industry, and threatening anti-trust action, the states say they may bar such investors from doing business with them, including pen sion fund investment.

Contemplating a different future

Trends in U.S. politics often drift north of the border. Will Canada see action by provincial governments to challenge ESG-minded in vestors? Pinder admits he doesn’t know, but he is concerned about where the trends are going.

His thoughts come as the total value of global sustainable investment funds has ballooned to more than US$2.5-trillion, but some funds are under fire over the robustness of their methods and measurements. Certain funds and corporations have been accused of “greenwashing” to artificially inflate their environmental performance.

The U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission has stepped into the fray, seeking to expand and harmonize ESG reporting in a way that complements companies’ financial results. But Pinder worries about heavier compliance costs that will stagger smaller companies.

He says it is too early to codify ESG practices when the concept means such different things to different people, and when there are such varied measures. “It is almost chaotic. So, what are they mea suring and why?”

For directors, it creates a complex mix of considerations on how to make decisions in a cultural, political and financial maelstrom. They have to be aware of the clout of some of the world’s biggest investors, who insist that climate risk is ultimately a financial and an investment risk, and therefore must be addressed – and urgently.

Meanwhile, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to global shortages of oil and gas, setting off price volatility, as well as open ing market opportunities for alternatives to buying from petrotyrants. Others argue that the war has simply underlined the

minimise à la fois sa stature dans l’Ouest et le rôle de Saskatoon comme plaque tournante des secteurs de l’uranium, de la po tasse et de l’énergie.

Herb Pinder a sensibilisé à ses idées l’administrateur Tim Hearn, qui a déjà dirigé les destinées du géant canadien Imperial Oil et oc cupé un poste de haute direction chez sa société mère ExxonMobil. M. Hearn trouve particulièrement risquée l’aspiration à la justice sociale, qu’il considère comme une tentative d’exiger des entrepris es beaucoup plus que ce qu’elles sont en mesure d’offrir.

Les entreprises peuvent contribuer au financement de solutions par le biais de certaines causes, mais ce serait un piège que de les forcer à faire plus. « Beaucoup de sociétés courent le risque de ten ter de solutionner des problèmes sociaux alors qu’elles ne sont pas équipées pour ça. »

M. Hearn poursuit en soulignant que les entreprises canadiennes réalisent des progrès marqués en environnement, en plus de ren forcer leur gouvernance, avec bien plus de succès que les entre prises américaines. « Mais nous devons faire preuve d’une grande prudence quant à ce que nous exigeons d’elles sur le plan social. »

Comme M. Pinder, il s’inquiète du fardeau réglementaire qui af flige de façon disproportionnée l’industrie canadienne de l’énergie. « Mon point de vue est pratique », dit-il, plaidant pour que le Can ada investisse massivement en sciences et en technologies « qui réduisent notre empreinte environnementale sans détruire notre industrie pétrolière et gazière ».

Entretemps, les Canadiens surveillent ce qui se passe aux États-Unis, y compris dans les 19 États qui entendent pénaliser les investisseurs institutionnels qui tiennent compte des facteurs ESG dans leurs dé cisions d’investir l’argent de leurs clients. Dépeignant les ESG comme une attaque contre l’industrie des combustibles fossiles et menaçant de recourir à des mesures anti-trust, ces États pourraient refuser de transiger avec de tels investisseurs, dont les fonds de retraite.

Envisager un avenir différent

Les tendances politiques en cours aux États-Unis débordent sou vent vers le nord. Des gouvernements provinciaux seraient-ils tentés d’agir comme ces États?

La valeur totale des fonds d’investissement durable à l’échelle du monde atteint plus de 2,5 billions $ US, mais certains de ces fonds sont dénoncés pour la robustesse de leurs méthodes et de leurs étalons de mesure. Certaines entreprises et fonds ont aussi été ac cusés de « verdissement » afin de gonfler artificiellement leur per formance environnementale.

La Security & Exchange Commission américaine s’est aussi mise de la partie en cherchant à élargir et harmoniser les rapports sur les ESG de telle manière qu’ils complètent les résultats financiers.

M. Pinder s’inquiète des coûts de conformité qu’entraînerait une telle pratique pour les plus petites entreprises. Selon lui, il est trop tôt pour codifier les pratiques ESG alors que le concept même dif fère tellement d’une personne à l’autre. « Qu’allons-nous mesurer et pourquoi? » demande-t-il.

Entretemps, l’invasion de l’Ukraine a mené à une pénurie qui a pro duit une instabilité des prix de l’énergie. D’autres affirment que la guerre


need to diversify energy sources away from fossil fuels.

It takes a certain chutzpah to step into this minefield. Herb Pin der continues to examine and critique the ESG phenomenon, con sidering it his duty as a Westerner. “To Western Canada, ESG feels liking taking a political position that isn’t good for our future.

“To me and to many, it feels like piling on.” DJ

GORDON PITTS is a Toronto journalist whose latest book, Unicorn in the Woods: How East Coast Geeks and Dreamers Are Changing the Game, was longlisted for a National Business Book award.


Private equity investor and director. Investisseur en capital privé et administrateur.

Born, raised and still lives in Saskatoon. 75 years old.


BA with a major in economics, University of Saskatchewan, 1967.

Law degree, University of Manitoba, 1970.

MBA, Harvard School of Business, 1975.


Member of Canada’s Olympic hockey team, 1968 (bronze medal).

President of Pinder Drugs, his family’s merchandising business, 1975 to 1985.

President of Goal Sports Corp., which managed financial affairs of pro hockey players, 1973 to 2010.

Since 2003, president of Goal Energy, a private equity investor in early-stage oil and gas companies.


First major board: Wascana, formerly SaskOil, a Crown corporation that went public in 1986.

Other corporate boards have included Princeton Developments, an Edmonton real estate firm; Canadian Airlines; Cavalier Inns of Saskatoon; Eldorado Nuclear; and agribusiness company Viterra.

Last major corporate board: Arc Resources, from which he retired 18 months ago.

He has been a director of more than a dozen early-stage oil and gas companies, in addition to some financial and technology businesses.

Extensive charitable and association work includes a 30-year stint on the board of the Fraser Institute, where he is still a director.

Has been active in the C.D. Howe Institute, the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy and the Banff Centre of Management.

A former director of the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.

a simplement souligné la nécessité de diversifier les sources d’énergie.

Il faut une certaine audace pour fouler ce champ de mines. Mais Herb Pinder continue de critiquer le phénomène des ESG, con sidérant que c’est son devoir comme citoyen de l’Ouest. « Pour moi et pour bien d’autres, c’est mauvais pour notre avenir. » DJ

GORDON PITTS est un journaliste de Toronto dont le dernier ouvrage, Unicorn in the Woods: How East Coast Geeks and Dreamers Are Changing the Game, a figuré parmi les finalistes du National Business Book award.

Né et élevé à Saskatoon, où il réside toujours. 75 ans.


B.A. avec majeure en Économie, Université de Saskatchewan, 1967.

Diplôme en droit, Université du Manitoba, 1970. MBA, Harvard School of Business, 1975.


Membre de l’équipe olympique canadienne de hockey, 1968 (médaille de bronze).

Président de Pinder Drugs, entreprise familiale, 1975 à 1985. Président de Goal Sports Corp., gérance de joueurs de hockey professionnel, 1973 à 2010.

Depuis 2003, président de Goal Energy, investisseur en capital privé dans des entreprises pétrolières et gazières en démarrage.


Premier conseil d’importance : Wascana, auparavant SaskOil, société d’État entrée en bourse en 1986.

Autres conseils: Princeton Developments, société immobilière; Canadian Airlines; Cavalier Inns de Saskatoon; Eldorado Nuclear; et Viterra, une entreprise agroalimentaire.

Plus récent conseil d’importance : Arc Resources, qu’il a quitté il y a 18 mois. Il a été administrateur de plus d’une douzaine de sociétés pétrolières et gazières en démarrage, en plus d’entreprises financières et technologiques.

Largement impliqué dans les domaines philanthropique et associatif, dont une période de 30 ans au conseil du Fraser Institute, dont il est toujours administrateur.

Il a aussi été actif auprès de l’Institut C.D. Howe, de l’École de politiques publiques de l’Université de Calgary et du Banff Centre of Management. Ancien administrateur du Panthéon des sports canadiens.

ICD.CA | 21

The pandemic’s grim legacy

Countless workers across North America are struggling with long Covid. Blissfully unaware, many Canadians are partying like it’s 2019. But as shapeshifting variants and waves come at us, the bodies keep piling up. By the end of this year, more Canadians will have died from Covid-19 than in the year before. As stewards of organizations’ long-term success, boards must take action to ensure the well-being of their work force Des millions de travailleurs partout en Amérique du Nord luttent contre la Covid longue. Béatement inconscients, bien des Canadiens font la fête comme s’ils étaient en 2019. Mais alors que les variants en constante évolution nous arrivent par vagues, les morts continuent de s’accumuler À la fin de cette année, plus de Canadiens seront décédés de la Covid-19 qu’au cours de l’année précédente. Comme responsables du succès à long terme des organisations, les conseils doivent agir pour assurer le bien-être de leur main-d’œuvre.

ICD.CA | 23

SUE MATTHEWS CAUGHT Covid-19 in March, 2022. During her infection, the 49-year-old Ottawa school librarian had a cough and sore throat that “wasn’t really all that terrible.” But a few weeks later, she started experiencing crippling headaches, confu sion and memory loss.

“I was at work one day, and I put a bunch of books in order, or so I thought,” says Matthews, who is triple-vaccinated. “When I went back the next day, I don’t know how I could have gotten them so far out of order. Like, they weren’t even close.”

Soon after, Matthews collapsed at work in a stroke-like episode. She then took a month off to rest and finished the school year working part-time. But even spending half a day in the library was exhausting. Matthews would return home at noon every day and crash for two hours.“ In May 2021, I ran a half-marathon,” she says. “In May of 2022, I could barely cross a room.”

Matthews didn’t qualify for treatment at a local long-Covid rehab clinic due to limited funding and more severe cases taking priority. Instead, she stuck with her family doctor. She also saw a specialist through a stroke-prevention clinic. “What I kept hearing from peo ple was, ‘We don’t know what to tell you.’”

Unintended consequences

Nearly three years into the coronavirus pandemic, no one knows much about long Covid. The blanket term covers a dizzying constel lation of symptoms that can occur and persist for weeks or months after the initial infection. A recent Statistics Canada study finds 1.4 million Canadians – 14.8 per cent of those who tested positive for Covid-19 – experienced long Covid symptoms at least three months after their infection. Common lingering symptoms include fatigue, coughing, shortness of breath and brain fog – a term referring to cognitive problems that may include having trouble thinking, con centrating, remembering or planning.

The picture isn’t prettier elsewhere. In the United States, the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based public policy research organization, estimates up to four million working-age Americans with long Covid can’t work at all, potentially accounting for 15 per cent of that country’s labour shortage. Similarly, a quarter of U.K. companies say long Covid is one of the main culprits behind pro longed staff absences, according to a survey by the Chartered In stitute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), a human resources management association.

A CIBC World Markets report from August points to the U.K. as a cautionary tale for Canada. That country’s lax public health measures over much of the pandemic have allowed the corona virus to run rampant. Human suffering aside, employees sick with Covid-19 or long Covid disrupt business productivity and supply chains. Removing public health measures to stimulate the economy could very well have the opposite effect. As the CIBC report notes, dropping measures such as masks, isolation requirements and testing “is likely elevating the peak levels for Covid cases, and thereby increasing the costs of worker absen teeism … and risking longer-term labour market damage due to long Covid.”

SUE MATTHEWS A ATTRAPÉ la Covid-19 en mars 2022. Pendant son infection, la bibliothécaire scolaire d’Ottawa âgée de 49 ans était frappée d’une toux et d’un mal de gorge « qui n’étaient pas vraiment si terribles ». Mais quelques semaines plus tard, elle a commencé à éprouver des maux de tête dévastateurs, de la confu sion et des pertes de mémoire.

« Un jour, j’ai remis en place un paquet de livres. En tout cas, c’est ce que je croyais, explique Mme Matthews qui a été vaccinée trois fois. Quand je suis revenue au bureau le lendemain, je me demandais comment j’avais pu les placer si loin de leur endroit habituel. »

Peu après, elle perdait conscience, frappée par ce qui semblait être un AVC. Elle a alors pris un mois de repos et terminé l’année scolaire à temps partiel. Mais même une demi-journée à la biblio thèque était épuisante. Elle retournait à la maison à midi chaque jour et s’écrasait pendant deux heures. « En mai 2021, dit-elle, j’avais couru un demi-marathon. En mai 2022, je pouvais à peine traverser une pièce de la maison. »

Mme Matthews n’était pas admissible à recevoir les soins d’une clinique de réadaptation de la Covid longue en raison du finance ment limité et de la priorité accordée à des cas plus graves. Elle s’en est donc remise à son médecin de famille, en plus de rencontrer un spécialiste d’une clinique de prévention des AVC. « Tout ce que j’entendais, c’était : ‘On ne sait pas quoi vous dire.’ »

Des conséquences inattendues

Presque trois ans après le début de la pandémie, personne n’en sait beaucoup à propos de la Covid longue. Le terme vague qu’on utilise couvre une vertigineuse constellation de symptômes qui peuvent se produire et persister des semaines ou des mois après l’infection initiale. Une récente étude de Statistique Canada es time qu’environ 1,4 million de Canadiens – 14,8 pour cent des gens déclarés positifs à la Covid-19 – ont éprouvé des symptômes de Covid longue au moins trois mois après leur infection. Parmi les symptômes persistants figurent la fatigue, la toux, le souffle court et le cerveau embrouillé – un terme relatif à des problèmes cognitifs pouvant comprendre des difficultés à réfléchir, à se con centrer, à se souvenir ou à planifier.

Le portrait n’est guère plus rose ailleurs. Aux États-Unis, la Brookings Institution, une organisation de recherche en poli tiques publiques établie à Washington, estime que jusqu’à quatre millions d’Américains en âge de travailler atteints de la Covid longue ne sont plus en mesure de le faire, ce qui représente potentiellement 15 pour cent de la pénurie de main-d’œuvre dans ce pays. De la même manière, le quart des entreprises britanniques est d’avis que la Covid longue est l’une des principales responsables des absences prolongées du per sonnel, selon une enquête menée par la Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), une association de gestion des ressources humaines.

Un rapport de CIBC Marchés mondiaux datant du mois d’août estime que le Royaume-Uni représente un avertissement pour le Canada. Les mesures de santé publique laxistes adoptées pendant le gros de la pandémie ont permis au coronavirus d’y prendre


The problem with ‘individual public health’

This dichotomy between health and the economy has never made sense to Sabina Vohra-Miller.

“You can’t have a thriving economy if you don’t have thriving people,” says the co-founder of the Vohra-Miller Foundation, a To ronto-based organization that focuses on improving the health of people and the planet.

From flip-flopping on masks to peddling the idea of “individu al public health,” – a contradiction in terms – communication by politicians and public health authorities has been inconsistent and trust in public health institutions has suffered as a result, she says.

Amid a push by all parties to declare the pandemic over, infec tion and reinfection with different variants will increase hospital izations, morbidity and the likelihood of acquiring long Covid, in fectious disease experts say. The prognosis is especially concerning, given the current state of our health-care system, they say.

“Many people have no idea that a Covid-19 infection can result in downstream issues like strokes, heart attacks and embolisms months after you’re sick,” says Vohra-Miller, who serves on the Dal la Lana School of Public Health’s dean’s strategic committee and the advisory committee for the Institute for Pandemics. “At some point, this will take a huge toll on us. If you don’t have a healthy work force, it will have a trickle-down effect on everything, includ ing finances, the economy, jobs and employment. There’s so much

de l’ampleur. Outre les souffrances humaines, la Covid-19 ou la Covid longue qui frappent les employés perturbent la productivité des entreprises et la chaîne logistique. En supprimant les mesures de santé publique pour stimuler l’économie, on pourrait bien sus citer l’effet inverse. Comme le souligne le rapport de la CIBC, le retrait de mesures comme le port du masque, l’isolement et les tests de dépistage élève sans doute à un niveau record les cas de Covid et accroît ainsi le coût de l’absentéisme et risque de causer du tort au marché de l’emploi.

Le problème de la santé publique sur le plan individuel

Cette dichotomie entre la santé et l’économie n’a jamais eu de sens aux yeux de Sabina Vohra-Miller.

« On ne peut pas avoir une économie vigoureuse si les gens ne sont pas eux-mêmes vigoureux », affirme la cofondatrice de la Fondation Vohra-Miller, une organisation torontoise vouée à l’amélioration de la santé des gens et de la planète.

Alors qu’on observe un fort désir de décréter la fin de la pan démie, l’infection et la réinfection par des variants différents en traînera une hausse des hospitalisations, de la morbidité et de la probabilité d’attraper la Covid longue, affirment les experts de la maladie. Le pronostic est particulièrement inquiétant, compte tenu de l’état actuel de notre système de santé.


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our founding partners, who bring over 65 years of combined expertise.
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that we need to do, and we should have done it yesterday. Frankly, I’m a little afraid of what [the long-term effects] will look like.”

Most health experts agree prevention is the best cure: The best way to avoid long Covid is not to get infected with the coronavirus. But if recent trends are any indication, a tsunami of Covid casual ties is coming our way.

Stemming the tide

But business leaders are not helpless. Vohra-Miller, who is also vicechair of the board of Lymphoma Canada and a board member at The Stop Community Food Centre, urges organizations to offer a mini mum of seven to 10 days of paid sick leave a year. Allowing workers to stay home and rest during a Covid-19 infection reduces workplace transmission and their likelihood of developing long Covid.

Like Vohra-Miller, Laurel Hyde believes boards should consider the magnitude of threats like long Covid. “Boards have a responsibility to ensure the health and safety of stakeholders,” says Hyde, chair of the Board of Governors at the University of Manitoba. “Yet, at the same time, we have to move forward to fulfil our mission of academic and research excellence … and never lose sight of the importance of the connectivity that comes from face-to-face learning. It’s a fine balancing act.”

Mandatory masking seemed like a good way to achieve both ends. It was also overwhelmingly what stakeholders wanted, as de termined through consultations with faculty, various unions and the university’s Covid-19 recovery steering committee. At a time when masks seemed so passé, the University of Manitoba mandat ed face coverings for the fall term.

In Hyde’s view, asking management for high-level data on dis ease activity in the school, listening to the advice of university re

« Bien des gens n’ont aucune idée qu’une infection à la Covid-19 peut entraîner des problèmes en aval, comme des AVC, des infarc tus et des embolies plusieurs mois après avoir été infecté, soutient Mme Vohra-Miller, qui siège au comité stratégique du doyen et au conseil consultatif de l’Institut de la pandémie de l’École de santé publique Dalla Lana. Nous finirons par en payer le prix. Il y a tant à faire et nous aurions dû le faire hier. Franchement, je crains les effets à long terme. »

La plupart des experts de la santé conviennent que la prévention est le meilleur remède. Le moyen le plus sûr d’éviter la Covid longue est de ne pas être infecté par le coronavirus. Mais si les récentes ten dances veulent dire quelque chose, il faut s’attendre à un tsunami de morts attribuables à la Covid.

Endiguer la marée

Mais les leaders d’affaires ne sont pas sans ressources. Mme Vohra-Miller presse les organisations d’offrir un minimum de sept à dix jours de congés de maladie par année. En permettant aux tra vailleurs de rester à la maison durant une infection de Covid-19, on réduirait la transmission sur les lieux de travail et la probabilité de développer une Covid longue.

Laurel Hyde croit aussi que les conseils devraient tenir compte de l’ampleur des menaces de Covid longue. « Les conseils ont la responsabilité d’assurer la santé et la sécurité des parties prenantes, explique la présidente du Conseil des gouverneurs de l’Université du Manitoba. Mais du même souffle, nous devons remplir notre mission d’excellence académique et de recherche … et ne jamais perdre de vue l’importance de l’apprentissage en personne. C’est un exercice d’équilibre. »

Allowing workers to stay home and rest during a Covid-19 infection reduces workplace transmission and their likelihood of developing long Covid.
En permettant aux travailleurs de rester à la maison durant une infection de Covid-19, on réduirait la transmission sur les lieux de travail et la probabilité de développer une Covid longue.

Keeping people healthy and at work

Steve Rastin, a personal injury lawyer in Barrie, Ont., is seeing an uptick in clients with long Covid disability claims. Many of these long-haulers fall through the cracks of a strained healthcare system and don’t receive support to thrive in the work force. And the virtual workplace is masking many of these issues, says Rastin.

Sudden absences, applications for disability leave, and “presenteeism” – the act of being at work while feeling out of it – are common indicators of long Covid. For those employees suffering in silence, holding down a job can be hard work.

From a human resources perspective, managing and supporting employees with unexpected health concerns comes with the territory, says Denise Lloyd, founder and CEO of Engaged HR, a management consultancy in Victoria, B.C. Unlike many illnesses, the poorly defined and unpredictable nature of long Covid can complicate matters. Lloyd urges business leaders to be flexible, empathetic and communicative with employees. She also encourages additional training and support for people managers.

Alex Boucher, a health management consultant at Mercer Canada, views the Covid crisis as an opportunity for business leaders to revisit how they accommodate employee needs. With a view to physical health, culture, equity and psychological safety, employers can create a space that enables workers to be as productive as possible.

“The spectrum of attendance support from prevention through to accommodation and return to work is becoming much more critical amid the Great Resignation and war for talent,” Boucher says. “Keeping people healthy and keeping them at work – these are the spaces we see leading employers pulling the levers.”

For boards, this approach means a few things. First, they must review health and disability benefits every three to five years, says Lloyd, who previously served on the boards of Beacon Community Services and Volunteer Victoria. Second, directors need to make sure the organization’s culture supports the needs of the current work force. Third, the board should ensure management has a business continuity plan that includes a Plan B for mission-critical roles. Finally, it must remember to be kind.

“Boards need to keep in mind that, long Covid or not, their organizations have been through a lot,” says Lloyd. “The more they can enter this work and management of people still suffering the effects of Covid-19 with empathy, the more productive conversations can get. … It’s hard when you’re worried about getting the work done and fulfilling your mission. But these people allowed you to do that during the pandemic. So how do we make sure we still take care of them?”

Steve Rastin, un avocat spécialisé en préjudices corporels établi à Barrie en Ontario, constate une hausse des réclamations de clients liées à de l’invalidité due à la Covid longue. Plusieurs de ces cas passent à travers les mailles d’un système de santé mis à rude épreuve et ne reçoivent pas le soutien nécessaire pour demeurer dans le monde du travail.

Les absences soudaines, les demandes de congés de maladie et le « présentéisme » – le fait d’être au travail tout en ayant la tête ailleurs – sont des indicateurs communs de la Covid longue. Pour ces employés qui souffrent en silence, une journée au boulot peut être difficile.

Du point de vue des ressources humaines, la gestion et le soutien aux employés affligés de problèmes de santé inattendus fait partie du travail, explique Denise Lloyd, fondatrice et cheffe de la direction d’Engaged HR, une firme de services conseils en gestion de Victoria en Colombie-Britannique. Comme c’est le cas de bien des maladies, la nature mal définie et imprévisible de la Covid longue peut compliquer les choses. Mme Lloyd exhorte les chefs d’entreprise à se montrer flexibles, empathiques et communicatifs avec les employés.

Alex Boucher, consultant en gestion de la santé chez Mercer Canada, considère la crise de la Covid comme une occasion pour les leaders d’affaires de revoir leurs façons de répondre aux besoins des employés. Ayant à l’esprit les notions de santé physique, de culture, d’équité et de sécurité psychologique, les employeurs peuvent créer un espace qui permet aux travailleurs d’être aussi productifs que possible.

« Le spectre du soutien à la participation, de la prévention à l’accommodation et au retour au travail, devient de plus en plus critique dans la recherche de talent, soutient M. Boucher. Garder les gens en santé et les garder au travail – voilà les espaces où les employeurs de premier plan tirent les leviers. »

Pour les conseils, cette approche a des significations multiples. D’abord, ils doivent mesurer les avantages en matière de santé et d’invalidité tous les trois à cinq ans, explique Mme Lloyd, qui a auparavant siégé aux conseils du Beracon Community Services et de Volunteer Victoria. Deuxièmement les administrateurs doivent s’assurer que la culture de l’organisation soutient les besoins de la main-d’œuvre. Troisièmement, le conseil doit s’assurer que la direction a un plan de continuité qui comprend notamment un plan B pour les postes essentiels. Enfin, il importe de demeurer bienveillant.

« Les conseils doivent garder à l’esprit que Covid longue ou non, leurs organisations ont connu des moments difficiles, dit Mme lloyd. Plus ils feront preuve d’empathie face aux gens qui subissent encore les effets de la Covid, plus les conversations seront productives. Il s’agit de continuer de prendre soin d’eux. »

- PV

searchers studying Covid-19 and long Covid, and using a robust enterprise risk-management program are part and parcel of a mea sured response. A willingness to listen and communicate clearly, and a trusting relationship with management are critical.

“We listened to all perspectives,” Hyde says. “And we used our values as a lens to find the best solutions.”

Rules versus recommendations

But mandates can be a tough sell, says Soumi Eachempati, co-found er and CEO of Cleared4 Inc., a global health-monitoring platform. Formerly a professor of surgery and public health at Weill Cornell Medical College, a trauma and critical care surgeon, and an ER physi cian who treated Covid-19 patients in New York, Eachempati believes education is a better approach. He urges businesses to encourage and support access to Covid-19 and flu vaccinations and use rapid tests for entry at special events to maintain safety.

Moving forward, Eachempati, a corporate director at Deep Knowledge Investing, thinks boards should monitor sick days as a key performance indicator of work force health. They should also consider appointing chief medical officers to scan the horizon for new health threats. Indeed, many corporations created these posi tions during the pandemic to help manage the work force and put in place Covid-19 safety measures. In the next phase of the pan demic, this role would report on emerging diseases in the commu nity and how they could affect the company.

New roles in the C-suite don’t come cheaply, which is why Eachempati expects larger corporations will seek this expertise. How

L’obligation de porter un masque semble un bon moyen d’at teindre les deux objectifs. C’est aussi ce que souhaitent massive ment les parties prenantes, s’il faut en croire les consultations menées auprès des enseignants, des divers syndicats et du comité de coordination du rétablissement de la Covid-19 de l’université. À un moment où le masque semble appartenir au passé, l’Univer sité du Manitoba a décrété l’obligation de le porter au cours de la session d’automne.

Selon Mme Hyde, une réponse mesurée consisterait à demander à la direction des données poussées sur l’activité de la maladie, à écouter les conseils des chercheurs de l’université qui se penchent sur la Covid-19 et la Covid longue et à instituer un programme ro buste de gestion du risque d’entreprise. La volonté d’écouter et de communiquer clairement ainsi qu’une relation de confiance avec la direction sont aussi essentielles.

Règles versus recommandations

Mais il n’est pas facile d’implanter des mandats, soutient Soumi Eachempati, cofondateur et chef de la direction de Cleared4 Inc., une plateforme mondiale de surveillance de la santé. Urgentologue qui a traité des patients Covid à New York, le Dr Eachempati croit que la formation est une meilleure approche. Il presse les entrepris es d’encourager et de soutenir l’accès à la vaccination et l’utilisation de tests rapides à l’entrée d’événements spéciaux.

Le Dr Eachempati croit que les conseils devraient surveiller les congés de maladie comme des indicateurs clés de la santé de leur main-d’œuvre. Ils devraient aussi envisager la nomination

ICD.CA | 29
‘We know this virus spreads through the air, which means buildings are the first line of defence.’
Nous savons que le virus voyage dans l’air, ce qui signifie que les immeubles constituent la première ligne de défense »

ever, amid the growing pressures of inflation, he worries cost-cutting will remove basic Covid-19 health protections across many businesses.

“I’m fearful that [companies] will decrease supportive health care for labour, and I think that’s a mistake,” he says. “Preventing Covid-19 in your work force, for a company now, will have major benefits in decreasing their labour costs in the long term.”

Healthy building, healthy people

For Joseph Allen, improving ventilation and air quality in buildings is fundamental to a healthy work force. “We know this virus spreads through the air, which means buildings are the first line of defence,” says Allen, who made a presentation at the White House’s first-ever Indoor Air Quality Summit in October. As an associate professor and director of the Healthy Buildings program at Harvard University’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health, he has long advocated for “healthy buildings.” These spaces feature better ventilation and air filtration, critical to curbing Covid-19 transmission, as well as elements like improved water quality, acoustics, temperature and lighting.

The math adds up, too. In his latest book, Allen shows that invest ing in a healthy building strategy can improve a company’s bottom line by 10 per cent.

He observes organizations around the world reorienting their businesses around healthy-building strategies, rethinking in vestments in commercial real estate, reorganizing environmental health and safety teams, and elevating the role of facilities manager.

“The difference now is the C-suite is paying attention because it’s a business-continuity issue,” he says.

For boards of directors, this means tracking health performance indicators (HPIs) that measure indoor environmental quality as key performance indicators (KPIs). For example, boards must consider building performance before management invests in a new proper ty or leases out a space.

“Building performance drives human performance, which drives business performance,” Allen says. “Your employees are asking about it. Investors are asking about it. The business case is crystal clear. Business leaders who aren’t paying attention will be left behind.”

The long game

Until long Covid is better understood and treated, many Canadians will continue to struggle through their days. Some, like Sue Mat thews, will show up to work and do their best.

“Now, I’m operating at 75 per cent,” says the school librarian. “I still feel like I could do a good job. But I’m not sure I’m as great at my job as I was.”

From paid sick days to improving air quality in buildings, it will take time and money to manage the fallout of Covid-19. In their cost-benefit analyses, boards and business leaders should take the long-term view.

“We really should be in this together,” says Vohra-Miller. “What we’ve realized is we’re all in it together, but we’re in different boats. Some people have rafts, and some have yachts. Making the playing field more equitable should be our responsibility.” DJ

PRASANTHI VASANTHAKUMAR is the ICD’s manager of editorial content and a regular contributor to Director Journal.

de chefs de la direction médicale afin de détecter de nouvelles menaces à la santé.

Les nouveaux postes de direction ne sont pas bon marché. Toute fois, sous la pression croissante de l’inflation, M. Eachempati s’in quiète de ce que plusieurs entreprises pourraient ainsi abandonner les mesures de protection contre la Covid-19. « Je pense que ce serait une erreur, assure-t-il. La protection des employés contre la Covid procurera énormément d’avantages en réduisant le coût de la main-d’œuvre à long terme. »

Des immeubles sains, des employés en santé

Pour Joseph Allen, l’amélioration de la ventilation et de la qual ité de l’air dans les immeubles est essentielle au maintien d’une main-d’œuvre en santé. « Nous savons que le virus voyage dans l’air, ce qui signifie que les immeubles constituent la première ligne de défense », explique M. Allen, professeur associé et directeur du programme Immeubles sains à l’école de santé publique T .H. Chan de l’Université Harvard.

Dans son dernier ouvrage, il montre qu’une stratégie d’inves tissement dans des immeubles sains peut améliorer de 10 pour cent les résultats financiers d’une entreprise.

M. Allen observe que partout dans le monde, les organisations réorientent leurs activités autour de stratégies d’immeubles sains, repensent leurs investissements immobiliers, réorganisent leurs équipes de santé et sécurité environnementales et accordent une importance accrue à leurs gestionnaires d’installations.

« La différence est qu’aujourd’hui, les équipes de direction ac cordent plus d’attention à ces questions parce qu’il s’agit d’enjeux de continuité des entreprises », ajoute-t-il.

Pour les conseils d’administration, il s’agit donc de suivre les indicateurs de performance en santé qui mesurent la qualité en vironnementale à l’intérieur des édifices à titre d’indicateurs clés de performance.

Le long jeu Jusqu’à ce que la Covid longue soit mieux comprise et traitée, bien des Canadiens continueront de la subir au quotidien. Cer tains, comme Sue Matthews, se présenteront au travail et feront de leur mieux.

« Présentement, je suis à 75 pour cent, explique la bibliothécaire scolaire. J’ai le sentiment de pouvoir effectuer du bon travail. Mais je ne suis pas certaine d’être aussi bonne qu’avant. »

Des congés de maladie payés à l’amélioration de la qualité de l’air dans les immeubles, il faudra du temps et de l’argent pour gérer les répercussions de la Covid-19.

« Nous devrions vraiment faire face à cet enjeu ensemble, af firme Mme Vohra-Miller. Nous avons réalisé que nous sommes tous dans cette situation, mais dans des bateaux différents. Certains sont dans des radeaux, d’autres dans des yachts. Nous devrions prendre la responsabilité de rendre le terrain plus équitable. » DJ

PRASANTHI VASANTHAKUMAR est directeur du contenu éditorial de l’IAS et collaborateur régulier du Director Journal.

experience @ @
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ultimate hybrid

A taxing matter

Boards of directors must ensure that companies have fair and transparent tax policies if they want to keep stakeholders on side and reduce financial risk at a time when authorities are cracking down on avoidance strategies, Jeff Buckstein writes

ICD.CA | 33

LAST SPRING at its annual general meeting, Amazon faced down a shareholder proposal from two institutional investors calling for greater tax transparency that would have required the company to release tax reports on a country-by-country basis.

Amazon has faced more public criticism and legal scrutiny than most large companies with international operations that reduce their tax bills by offshoring profits in jurisdictions with low tax rates. But the practice has become increasingly widespread in recent years. For instance, at least 55 of the biggest U.S. companies paid no federal corporate income taxes on their 2020 profits, according to the U.S. Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. Even though these cor porations’ tax avoidance schemes fall within the law, the widespread effect of depriving governments of billions of dollars of annual reve nue has begun to spark public anger and investor concern.

Despite Amazon’s victory, tax specialists say the shareholder vote has opened the way for investors to sharpen their tools and to challenge oth er companies to provide clearer information about their taxes.

In today’s new environment, boards must understand that an evasive tax strategy can create financial risk, reputational damage, problems with stakeholders and barriers to raising capital.

Tax has become a key element of corporate governance and an essential part of a director’s duties because “every constituent of our country in theory stands to benefit or suffer as a result of an organization’s decisions around taxpayer and tax transparency,” says Matt Fullbrook, executive-in-residence at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. “The potential weight or gravity of a board’s, and an organization’s, decisions on this top ic are pretty consequential.”

Companies are now expected to come clean on a whole range of top ics, including greenhouse gas emissions, health and safety data, human rights practices, and measurements of their own diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, says Karina Litvack, a non-executive director of Eni SpA, a multinational oil and gas corporation headquartered in Rome.

“The list is endless. And tax is a very big one [too], because how we uphold our responsibility to our host governments is crucial,” says Litvack, who serves as chair of Eni’s sustainability and scenar ios committee. Based in London, she is also chair of the Climate Governance Initiative, a global project launched with the World Economic Forum to equip board directors with skills to confront the climate emergency.

Competitive advantage

Strong tax transparency can create numerous advantages for a cor poration. Key stakeholders and communities, for instance, are more likely to welcome a company and allow them to put down roots if they know it will pay taxes to the home government, says Litvack.

“The main benefits of tax transparency are systemic: They con tribute to strengthening fiscal governance and government ac countability, which can help curb corruption and ensure govern ment funds go where they are supposed to,” she explains.

Tax transparency can provide an organization with a competi tive advantage, argues Dean Landry, national tax leader for Price waterhouseCoopers LLC (PwC Canada) in Toronto. That’s because

certainty over its tax position can benefit its share or unit price.

The best way for a company to achieve cer tainty over its tax position is to be transparent with the tax authority about the positions it is taking, Landry says. “As a board, certainty is a good thing. It correlates very directly to share value. The corollary of that is if you don’t have certainty over your tax positions, it can have a very negative impact on share value.”

Moreover, “I think today with this whole ESG phenomenon, that private equity, pen sion funds and other investors are looking for companies that have strong tax trans parency as a place to invest. It’s part of a broader trust and fairness issue in society that people are looking at,” he adds.

For example, if a corporation were to con duct a transaction where they take profits and strip them out into a low-tax jurisdic tion, but there is no substance in that juris diction, “that doesn’t seem fair to the aver age person,” Landry says.

Board control

It’s important for boards to understand that if their organization tries to skirt tax laws, the strategy will create greater risk. For example, a company can incur material fi nancial risk as a result of an aggressive tax structure that authorities can unwind.

“Aggressive tax behaviour can lead to enforcement actions against the specific company, or lead indirectly to broader pol icy change, which can have big impacts on taxes paid and on financial returns,” says Matthew Genasci, senior investment stew ardship manager with the corporate gov ernance team at Norges Bank Investment Management in London.

“Taxes are so important. It shouldn’t just be left to a tax department that’s only peri odically checking in with the board. It needs to be something where the board is taking an active role,” Genasci says.

A process needs to be in place where by management is regularly reporting to the board. Annual approval of tax strategy, and a report to the board on items such as country-by-country reporting, total tax contributions, and tax controls and risks are essential, says Landry. As tax has an impact on every business decision that is


made, there should be at least one person on the board with the tax expertise to ensure that management is seeing every business issue it must deal with through a tax lens, he recommends.

For example, “if you’re entering into an acquisition, there’s going to be a big tax impact. If you’re changing your supply chain, there’s going to be a tax impact. So, what control do you have over that? You need to ask some of those questions if you’re on the board any time you deal with a significant transformation, or big business is sue,” he elaborates.

Corporate character

Tax transparency is also a key element of managing reputational risk.

Directors don’t want to see their companies on the front page of a major newspaper as a result of an aggressive tax plan, and so they need to ask themselves, “‘How would we feel about that if it were to be in the public light?’ If I’m a director, that’s the lens I always want to be asking management about,” says Landry.

The potential damage to a company’s reputation from the use of complicated mechanisms to avoid paying taxes “has to feature prominently in boardroom conversations,” agrees Fullbrook.

Investors have become increasingly concerned about aggressive tax avoidance, even though they realize short-term profitability might be hurt by higher tax payments. That’s because companies that have been caught out with extremely aggressive tax minimization policies have suffered significant reputational damage, says Eni’s Litvack.

“If your core business goals involve de livering value to your stakeholders, as well as your shareholders, then transparency and accountability is part and parcel of that, [and] tax transparency is an enabler of that strategy. You can’t win the trust of your key stakeholders if they think you’re hiding something from them, so that is a really important contributor to building that trust,” she says.

A damaged corporate reputation could also lead to other severe negative conse quences, such as diminished chances of being able to raise capital, tax specialists say.

“We are now seeing, in our practice, capital providers asking questions about tax prin ciples which we had never seen before, so that’s an interesting development,” says Paul Lynch, a KPMG in Canada partner in Toronto, who leads the firm’s national tax centre.

Historically, they mainly wanted to know whether there were any hidden tax ex posures. But now the questions are much more detailed. Investors want to know more about the approach, attitude, philos

ICD.CA | 35
‘Taxes are so important. It shouldn’t just be left to a tax department that’s only periodically checking in with the board. It needs to be something where the board is taking an active role.’

ophy and behaviour of the company in order to gain a fuller assess ment of “how comfortable they are with what has been put forward as the tax position of the company,” he says.

Global pressure

Lynch says tax transparency reporting requirements for corporate stakeholders, including shareholders, have been amplified over time, spurred by both domestic and international pressures.

“If we look at Canada Revenue Agency as a key stakeholder, there is a tremendous amount of transparency required in tax reporting. A current hot topic in Canada right now is new mandatory disclosure rules [MDRs] that corporations and taxpayers involved in certain transactions need to bring forward to tax authorities,” Lynch says.

“The new MDR rules are about providing tax authorities with more detailed information to allow them to examine higher-risk transactions and then decide if a review is needed to assess tax compliance,” he explains. “The penalties for failing to comply with the new rules can be quite steep, so conducting a full analysis to determine if a transaction meets the new definitions and lower thresholds, and then reporting on it in a timely way, is critical.”

The changing tax landscape has also led to more international co-operation and focus on tax behaviour.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is providing much more guidance about mandatory coun try-by-country reporting, to illustrate where taxes are being paid in relation to where a multinational corporation is operating and earning its profits, says Lynch.

The OECD’s support of a global minimum tax of 15 per cent is also designed to minimize the incentive for companies to establish a shell corporation in a low- or no-tax jurisdiction, he adds.

In the face of increased national and international pressure, hav ing a set Canadian and international tax strategy, which is approved annually by the board of directors, is necessary. That includes hav ing a corporate policy covering tax havens, and a definition of what is required for a transaction to have substance, which is a key ele ment in transparency. Those are fundamental controls that need to be in place, says Landry.

“You want to make sure that when you enter into a transaction or structure, say in a foreign jurisdiction, that you actually have phys ical or economic substance in that entity. Historically, that has been the concern with tax structuring, where entities would flow prof its through a tax haven, [pay] very little tax associated with it, and then flow the cash back into their home country,” he says.

“The basic principle of paying taxes where you earn the money stands,” adds Litvack.

The board needs to provide the necessary oversight to ensure that enhanced tax disclosure and transparency requirements are met. This is now a strategic imperative, and not just an operational issue, which heightens the need for board involvement, Lynch says. DJ

JEFF BUCKSTEIN is an Ottawa-based freelance business writer with a CPA, CGA designation. He writes about personal finance, accounting and other business-related issues and current events.

Taxes are a social responsibility

In an era where companies are expected to be transparent about many issues, in cluding the approach taken to their envi ronmental, social and governance (ESG) practices, opacity about corporate taxes raises suspicions among shareholders and other stakeholders that serve to damage credibility, says Karina Litvack, a London-based non-executive director of the Italian oil giant Eni SpA.

Moreover, “the world has changed, and there’s a real acknowledgement that we exist in a system that cannot function if governments can’t collect the taxes that are rightfully owed to them,” she says.

Smart companies realize they can only function well and efficiently by relying on highly functional public services. The more a government’s finances become depleted because companies don’t pay their taxes, a lot of those public services become deficient, she says.

“We view taxes as an incredibly import ant part of companies’ roles in society, and an important part of how businesses contribute to societies,” says Matthew Genasci, senior investment stewardship manager with the corporate governance team at Norges Bank Investment Man agement in London.

“It is important for companies to take a more proactive approach in demon strating the value they are contributing to society. Transparency in their tax disclosures is a key part of that,” says Genasci.






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Putting the focus on people

Boards are paying much closer attention to their talent and culture

Les conseils portent une attention croissante aux ressources humaines

AS THE BOARD OF Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada searched for a new CEO early this year, they were paying close at tention to the organization’s people and culture.

After extensive discussion about the ideal leader for the times, the board chose seasoned financial executive Pamela Steer to re shape the organization and prepare for the future. She comes with an impressive track record of “transforming organizations, build ing positive cultures [and] promoting sustainability,” the board said in appointing her. Steer, in turn, promptly recruited a chief people officer, a new role for CPA Canada – a pivotal role, she be lieves – as the profession moves to address emerging issues and stay ahead of the curve.

The strategic advantage of embracing a supportive, inclusive peo ple culture cannot be overestimated, says Steer, a CPA Fellow who previously served as chief financial officer and chief strategy officer at the Canadian Payments Association (Payments Canada). “An im portant discussion for boards is to recognize that it’s going to have lasting benefits for those who really act on it.”

The promotion of a positive, inclusive culture is key to making the profession future-ready, she adds, pointing to a new plan by the national accounting body to explore skills CPAs will need down the road to advance the profession.

“We are in a significant time of change in terms of the economy’s expectations of CPAs, in terms of the evolution of the profession

LORSQUE LES COMPTABLES professionnels agréés du Canada se sont mis à la recherche d’un nouveau chef de la direction cette an née, ils ont porté une attention particulière aux gens et à la culture de leur organisation.

Après des discussions soutenues sur le profil idéal d’un leader à no tre époque, le conseil a choisi Pamela Steer, une directrice financière chevronnée, pour relancer l’organisation et préparer son avenir. Elle s’amène avec un parcours impressionnant en matière de « transfor mation des organisations, de l’établissement de cultures positives [et de] promotion du développement durable », a souligné le conseil en annonçant sa nomination. Mme Steer, de son côté, a promptement recruté un chef du capital humain – un poste nouveau pour CPA Canada et essentiel à ses yeux – au moment où la profession doit se mesurer à des enjeux émergents et conserver sa longueur d’avance.

On ne peut sous-estimer l’avantage stratégique d’embrasser une cul ture qui soit favorable aux gens et inclusive à leur endroit, affirme Mme Steer, une Fellow du CPA qui fut précédemment cheffe de la direction financière de l’Association canadienne des paiements (Paiements Can ada). « Il est important pour les conseils de reconnaître que l’avenir procurera des avantages durables à ceux qui agissent en ce sens. »

La promotion d’une culture positive et inclusive est essentielle pour préparer la profession à l’avenir, ajoute-t-elle, en soulignant le nouveau projet de l’organisme comptable national d’explorer les tal ents dont les CPA auront besoin pour faire progresser la profession.

ICD.CA | 39

itself, in terms of our relationship with the stakeholders,” says CPA Canada board chair Richard Olfert, a Winnipeg-based senior part ner of Deloitte Canada. “Any governance expert would tell you that the board has to be preoccupied with strategy . . . and people lie at the heart of getting strategy done today.”

Shifting conversations

This high-level focus on people and culture is gaining traction with proactive boards, as directors – particularly those on human resourc es and compensation committees – seek deeper insights from CEOs and HR leaders on how they are attracting, developing and retaining the people they will need to prosper in the post-pandemic world.

“Boards are definitely taking an increased interest in what’s happen ing in HR – not just in HR, but culture, people strategy, anything to do with having an optimized work force,” says corporate director Rachelle Gagnon, chair of the Institute of Corporate Directors’ Atlantic chap ter and vice-president of people and culture at Champlain Seafood in Dieppe, N.B. The perennial line in annual reports that “people are our most important asset” is not so much a cliché any more, she says.

There’s a downside for organizations that don’t develop strategies to maximize the potential of their people, Gagnon says. HR issues have moved up on the risk radar in tandem with recession risk in the current environment. While coronavirus health and travel restrictions have been eased, and people are being called back to the office, new challenges have emerged: Staff shortages are so se vere in some sectors that airline flights have been cancelled and emergency rooms have temporarily closed; organizations are los ing top performers in a fierce war for talent; skills development is not keeping pace with demands in new fields. “All of a sudden on boards you’ll see an HR risk cropping up as an important organi zational risk. That wasn’t necessarily the case in the past when you would do the risk register. There would be some issues on HR, but not to the level we are seeing today,” says Gagnon, a board member and vice-chair at LearnSphere, a Fredericton-based organization that provides economic development and training services.

At the same time, boards face increased scrutiny by sharehold ers and other stakeholders, says corporate director Sue MacKenzie, lead instructor of the ICD’s course on human resources and com pensation committee effectiveness.

“Culture is a big deal. When I do shareholder engagement for some of the organizations that I serve on the boards of, the investors I talk to want to know about the organization’s culture, how it supports what we exist to do . . . and how we hold leadership to account for that,” says Calgary-based MacKenzie, who serves on the boards of Enerplus Corp., Precision Drilling Corp. and MEG Energy Corp.

HR and compensation committees need to be on top of this. “That’s something that should be on the agenda [in conversation with the ex ecutive teams]: ‘Tell me what’s shaking, what’s on your radar, what’s coming up, what are you seeing today that might be new to us?’

“But it’s also the responsibility of the committee members to be out there doing that kind of scan as well, so you can come togeth er and say ‘What kind of work force strategies do we need to be thoughtful of post-Covid?’”

« Nous vivons à une ère de grands changements quant à l’apport économique des CPA, à l’évolution de la profession et à nos rela tions avec les parties prenantes, explique le président du conseil de CPA Canada Richard Olfert, associé principal de Deloitte Canada à Winnipeg. N’importe quel expert de la gouvernance vous dira que le conseil doit se préoccuper de stratégie … et que les gens sont aujo urd’hui au coeur de l’accomplissement de cette stratégie. »

Changer la conversation

Cette attention élevée portée aux gens et à la culture gagne du ter rain au sein des conseils proactifs, au moment où les administra teurs – en particulier les membres des comités de ressources hu maines et de rémunération – attendent des chefs de la direction et des leaders en ressources humaines qu’ils leur indiquent des moy ens d’attirer, de développer et de conserver les gens dont ils ont be soin pour prospérer dans l’univers postpandémique.

« Les conseils accordent clairement un intérêt accru à ce qui se passe dans le milieu des ressources humaines – et pas seulement là, mais dans la culture, les stratégies à l’égard des gens, tout ce qui permettrait d’optimiser les performances de la main-d’œu vre », souligne Rachelle Gagnon, présidente du conseil de la sec tion de l’Atlantique de l’Institut des administrateurs de sociétés et vice-présidente du capital humain et de la culture chez Champlain Seafood, de Dieppe au Nouveau-Brunswick.

Il y a un risque pour les organisations qui n’élaborent pas de stratégies pour optimiser le potentiel de leurs gens, affirme Mme Gagnon. Les enjeux de RH ont pris de l’importance sur le radar des risques, s’ajoutant à ceux lié à la récession. Alors que les re strictions liées au coronavirus se sont résorbées et que les gens retournent au bureau, de nouveaux défis se posent : les pénuries de personnel sont tellement graves dans certains secteurs que des vols commerciaux ont été annulés et que des salles d’urgence ont été temporairement fermées; des organisations perdent leurs em ployés les plus performants dans le cadre d’une guerre féroce pour l’obtention de talents; le développement des compétences ne tient pas le rythme de la demande dans certains domaines nouveaux. « « Tout à coup, les conseils d’administration voient les RH devenir un risque organisationnel de première importance, ce qui n’était pas le cas auparavant », poursuit Mme Gagnon, vice-présidente du conseil de LearnSphere, une organisation de Fredericton qui offre des services de développement économique et de formation.

Du même souffle, les conseils subissent une surveillance accrue de la part des actionnaires et autres parties prenantes, souligne Sue MacKenzie, instructrice principale du cours de l’IAS sur les ressou rces humaines et l’efficacité du comité de rémunération.

« La culture est primordiale. Quand je suis chargée d’un engage ment auprès des actionnaires pour certaines organisations dont je suis administratrice, les investisseurs auxquels je parle veulent en savoir plus sur la culture de l’organisation, comment elle soutient notre mission et de quelle manière les leaders s’acquittent de cette responsabilité », dit Mme MacKenzie.

Les comités de RH et de rémunération doivent être bien au fait de ces questions. « C’est une chose qui doit être au programme [des


HR’s expanded role

There’s an enormous appetite in the governance community for a deeper understanding of HR management oversight that now extends well beyond the core responsibility of CEO selection, compensation, evaluation and succession planning, MacKenzie says, adding that the HR and compensation courses on the ICD’s director education calen dar sell out quickly. The course incorporates risk oversight, organi zational talent management, culture, equity, diversity and inclusion work, effective stakeholder and shareholder relations, employee en gagement “and other emergent issues” raised by course participants. There are questions about how to support managers as they learn to operate in the hybrid work world as knowledge workers alternate between on-site and remote locations; about digitization, retraining and professional development; about burnout and mental well-being; about attracting and retaining talent that could go anywhere.

“It’s a trick shot for most organizations to try to land somewhere that meets their strategic objectives,” says MacKenzie. “At the end of the day, it’s about delivering your strategy, and employee perfor mance is directly linked to that,” she adds, reflecting the sentiment of the CPA Canada board.

As key participants in every sector of the economy, CPA Canada, its provincial partners and individual members have a lot on their plates – including a prominent role in the drafting of new international sus tainability-reporting standards. The scope of the accounting profes sion’s audit responsibilities has broadened considerably,” says Olfert. “Now we have sustainable finance, we have IT, we have artificial intel ligence, we have data processes, we have a whole variety of things that feed into evaluating businesses and assessing corporate performance.

“There is no doubt that people who qualify as professionals to day need to supplement that with the ability to lead teams, man age people and build the performance of people they are working with today – that’s almost a given, as a supplement to professional

conversations avec la haute direction] : ‘Dis-moi ce qui se passe, ce qui est sur ton radar. Qu’est-ce que tu vois aujourd’hui qui pourrait être nouveau pour nous?’ »

Le rôle élargi des RH

Il existe un énorme appétit dans la communauté de la gouvernance pour une compréhension plus approfondie de la surveillance de la gestion des RH qui va maintenant bien au-delà de la responsabilité de la sélection, de la rémunération, de l’évaluation et de la relève du chef de la direction, assure Mme MacKenzie, qui ajoute que les cours sur les RH et la rémunération figurant aux programmes de formation de l’IAS trouvent rapidement preneur. Le cours intègre la surveillance du risque, la gestion du talent organisationnel, la culture, l’équité, la diversité et l’inclusion, les relations efficaces avec les parties prenant es et les actionnaires, l’engagement des employés « et d’autres enjeux émergents » soulevés par les participants au cours. Des questions sont posées concernant la façon de soutenir les gestionnaires au moment où ils apprennent à opérer dans un univers du travail hybride où les travailleurs du savoir alternent entre le bureau et le télétravail; au sujet de la numérisation, de la formation et du développement profession nel; au sujet de l’épuisement professionnel et du bien-être mental, de l’attraction et de la conservation des talents.

« Il s’agit, dit Mme MacKenzie, de livrer une stratégie à laquelle la performance de l’employé est directement reliée. »

À titre de participant clé dans chaque secteur de l’économie, CPA Canada, ses partenaires provinciaux et ses membres ont du pain sur la planche – qui comprend un rôle prépondérant dans l’ébauche de nouvelles normes internationales des rapports environnementaux. L’ampleur des responsabilités d’audit de la profession comptable s’est considérablement élargie, soutient M. Olfert. Nous avons des finances durables, les TI, l’intelligence artificielle, des processus de gestion des données et toute une variété d’outils qui nourrissent

ICD.CA | 41
HR issues have moved up the risk radar as companies face staff shortages and skills develop ment is not keeping pace in new fields.

DEFINING CULTURE So much more than metrics

Turnover, employee engagement scores and absenteeism rates are all important indicators of corporate culture, along with diversity, equity and inclusion measures.

But culture is also defined by atmosphere, management style, policies and practices that allow people to do their best work.

“People want flexible, dynamic, motivating, challenging and rewarding workplaces – and that’s at every age level and in every type of business and industry,” says corporate director Rachelle Gagnon, chair of the Institute of Corporate Directors’ Atlantic chapter. It’s a challenge for directors to get a feel for what’s really going on in their organizations.

“Employee engagement surveys are a tool that some folks use to try and get under the hood to see if we are really as good as we think we are,” says corporate director Sue MacKenzie, lead instructor of the ICD’s course on human resources and compensation committee effectiveness. “But are we also walking the talk . . . and acting on what we learned from those employee engagement surveys?”

Some boards, in partnership with their CEOs, hold informal meetand-greet dinners or similar events to get to know the people who work in their organizations. “My personal favourite is just striking up conversations in the elevator,” MacKenzie says.

There is no across-the-board template for culture; each organization is unique in terms of the culture it needs to support its strategic objectives, Gagnon says. - VG

designation, in order to have business success,” Olfert says.

The issues Olfert raises about sustainability, technology, leader ship and the future of work apply across the spectrum, as a new report by Deloitte Canada – The Elevated Talent and Culture Agenda in the Boardroom – indicates. Research led by corporate director Zabeen Hirji, Deloitte’s executive advisor on the future of work, examines the expanded role of chief human resources officers in creating the strategies and culture that organizations need today to keep their work forces engaged, innovative and adaptive.

Culture change doesn’t happen overnight; it’s a process, and it starts at the top, Hirji said in a recent webcast sponsored by De loitte. “I’m seeing organizations adding empathy as a leadership competency,” says Hirji, who serves as chair of the HR and com pensation committee on the board of Sleep Country Canada.

MacKenzie expanded in an interview: “I would argue that, in any organization, the executive team should be thinking about their humans all the time.”

Thinking ahead

Even the best-managed organizations with the best cultures are go ing to lose their seemingly happy high performers to other opportu nities, so it’s important to have succession plans to ensure continuity

Les taux de roulement, le degré d’engagement des employés et les taux d’absentéisme sont tous des indicateurs importants de la culture d’une entreprise, tout comme le sont la diversité, l’équité et les mesures d’inclusion.

Mais la culture se définit aussi par l’atmosphère, le style de gestion, les politiques et les pratiques qui permettent aux gens de donner le meilleur d’eux-mêmes dans l’accomplissement de leurs tâches.

« Les gens veulent des lieux de travail flexibles, dynamiques, motivants, stimulants et gratifiants, quels que soient leur âge et le type d’entreprise où ils travaillent », affirme Rachelle Gagnon, présidente du conseil de la section régionale de l’Atlantique de l’Institut des administrateurs de sociétés.

« Les sondages sur l’engagement des employés sont un outil qu’utilisent certains pour entrer dans la tête des gens afin de savoir s’ils sont aussi bons qu’ils le croient », soutient de son côté Sue MacKenzie, instructrice principale du cours de l’IAS sur les ressources humaines et l’efficacité du comité de rémunération.

Certains conseils, en partenariat avec leur chef de la direction, tiennent par ailleurs des dîners informels ou événements similaires pour mieux connaître les gens qui travaillent au sein de leurs organisations.

Il n’existe pas de modèle universel pour la culture d’entreprise. Chaque organisation est unique quant au type de culture dont elle a besoin pour soutenir ses objectifs stratégiques, explique Mme Gagnon.

l’évaluation des entreprises et la vérification des performances.

« Il n’y a aucun doute, poursuit-il, que les gens qui se qualifient comme professionnels doivent ajouter la capacité de diriger des équipes, de gérer des gens et de bâtir les performances des gens avec qui ils travaillent. Il s’agit presque d’une nécessité, comme le supplé ment d’un titre professionnel, afin d’obtenir du succès en affaires. »

Les enjeux soulevés par M. Olfert s’appliquent à l’ensemble du spec tre, comme l’indique un récent rapport de Deloitte Canada intitulé « The Elevated Talent and Culture Agenda in the Boardroom ». Ce document, dont la recherche a été menée par Zabeen Hirji, le conseill er exécutif de Deloitte sur l’avenir du travail, examine le rôle élargi des principaux responsables des ressources humaines dans la création de stratégies et d’une culture dont les organisations actuelles ont besoin pour maintenir leurs employés engagés, innovateurs et adaptables.

Le changement de culture ne se produit pas du jour au lende main. C’est un processus qui commence au sommet, explique M.Hirji. « Je vois des organisations qui ajoutent l’empathie à leurs compétences en leadership. »


Même les organisations les mieux gérées et dotées des meilleures cultures perdront leurs meilleurs éléments. Il est donc important


in key roles throughout the ranks, says Gagnon. Attention should also be paid to fair compensation at all levels, particularly with infla tion taking a bite out of the purchasing power of paycheques.

When boards are looking at CEO compensation, they might also want to ask about the rest of the work force. “If your CEO’s pay is com petitive, but none of your employees’ pay is . . . well the CEO can’t do every job, and it creates a huge [flight] risk for the organization,” Gag non adds. These are the types of issues that leaders of organizations have to consider in the current environment because “it doesn’t really matter what kind of job, if it’s senior level, entry level in whatever in dustry, it is a challenge filling any kind of role these days.”

Each organization has to define its own culture and talent man agement agenda, says MacKenzie. But it basically comes down to this: “What kind of experience, behaviours and skills does the or ganization need? How are we building it, supporting it, strengthen ing it and ensuring that we are focusing on areas that are going to drive the business forward . . . and, in some ways, provide a com petitive advantage?” DJ

VIRGINIA GALT, a former business and education reporter for The Globe and Mail, covers legal, education and management issues for a number of publications.

d’avoir des plans de relève pour assurer la continuité dans les rôles clés, soutient Mme Gagnon. Il faut aussi porter attention à la ré munération à tous les niveaux, en particulier dans un contexte où l’inflation gruge le pouvoir d’achat.

Lorsque les conseils examinent la rémunération du chef de la direc tion, ils devraient aussi se préoccuper du reste de leur main-d’œuvre. « Si la rémunération de votre chef de la direction est concurrentielle, mais que celle de vos autres employés ne l’est pas … le chef de la di rection ne peut pas tout faire et cela suscite un immense risque pour l’organisation, ajoute Mme Gagnon. C’est le type d’enjeux que les lead ers d’organisations doivent envisager dans l’environnement actuel. »

Chaque organisation doit définir sa propre culture et son programme de gestion des compétences. Mais fondamentalement, tout revient à ceci : « Quels sont les expériences, les comportements et les compétences dont l’entreprise a besoin? Comment allons-nous les bâtir, les soutenir et les renforcer, tout en nous assurant que nous nous concentrons sur les zones qui permettront de faire avancer l’organisation et, en quelque sorte, offrir à l’entreprise un avantage concurrentiel? » DJ

VIRGINIA GALT, ancienne journaliste aux affaires et à l’éducation pour le Globe and Mail, couvre les questions juridiques, d’éduca tion et de gestion pour un certain nombre de publications.

Diversity in corporate Canada: Is progress being made?

Osler’s 2022 Diversity Disclosure Practices report provides a snapshot of the representation of women, members of visible minorities, Indigenous peoples and persons with disabilities in the boardrooms and at senior leadership levels of Canadian organizations. Gain insight into recent developments and best practices for improving diversity and inclusion among boards and executive teams.

Download a free copy of our report at

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Confronting our biases

BIAS IS PERVASIVE IN OUR SOCIETY –whether it is based on gender, race, ethnici ty, religion, class, age or physical disabilities. And unconscious or implicit bias – where prejudicial behaviour clashes with one’s own beliefs and values – can be found in many professions and workplaces. Bias blind spots can hurt employee morale and performance, block potential for advance ment and cause loss of talent as people quit their jobs. Still, there is hope. In her book

The End of Bias: A Beginning, U.S. author Jessica Nordell argues that biased behaviour can change even if there isn’t a silver bul

let. We asked Nordell, a science and culture journalist, how unconscious bias works, why diversity training has limits, and what strategies individuals, institutions and busi nesses can use to combat prejudice.

What was the motivation for writing your book?

It stems from my experience with gender bias. When I started as a journalist, I tried to get a culture essay placed in a national magazine in the United States, but was not successful. Time was running out to have a relevant news peg, so I sent out the same

pitch with a masculine-sounding name –J.D. Nordell instead of Jessica Nordell. That piece got picked up right away and started my career. I began writing about bias, and eventually became impatient with just fo cusing on the problem. I wanted to find out what approaches changed people’s be haviour to become fairer, more humane, [and were] also measurable.

Why do you focus on unconscious bias? Unconscious bias is about growing up in a particular culture. We learn the categories of people in that culture – whether it’s race

It’s time to rethink what causes prejudice and the best ways to counter it, argues science journalist JESSICA NORDELL

In her new book, The End of Bias: A Beginning, author Jessica Nordell says checklists that use objective criteria ‘can wring bias out of the decisionmaking process.’


or ethnicity, or ones based on class, ability, disability, gender or sexual orientation. We learn beliefs, stereotypes and ideas about those groups. When confronting some one belonging to one of those categories, all that information stored in our memo ry influences the way we interact with that person. It can happen spontaneously, and conflict with our values. This kind of bias is pervasive, and can be underappreciated in terms of consequences, which can be severe.

Diversity training has become a big industry, with institutions and companies turning to these programs to reduce discrimination. What problems do you see with this strategy?

We often don’t know what effect this train ing has. The only follow-up is an evaluation where attendees are asked if they enjoyed the training and got something out of it. It doesn’t measure if their behaviour has changed. Research suggests that mandatory

[training sessions] can sometimes also cause a backlash. After 30 years research ing corporations with diversity programs, sociologists Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev found that the likelihood of white women, women of colour, and men of co lour ascending to management decreased after these sessions. One reason why this training backfired, they hypothesized, is that the leaders and managers don’t like to be told what to do. It causes them to retrench and hold their original positions even more firmly.

You suggest that mindfulness practices can help reduce bias. How does it work?

If you think about bias as an automatic reaction to a situation, mindfulness medi tation can help us see what is happening, and make those responses less automatic. It can decrease chronic stress and help regu late emotions so that people are less likely to resort to bias. In Oregon, some police organizations are using mindfulness to im prove police behaviour. Research is in the early stages, but some pilot studies found that officers who participated in mindful ness meditation courses had an easier time managing emotions, and were less angry, impulsive and aggressive. A police depart ment employing some of these techniques found that complaints from citizens about police behaviour also dropped.

Your research indicates that some doctors and health-care professionals can be prejudiced when treating patients. How does this occur?

We think of the medical profession as peo ple wanting to help others and do good in the world. But doctors, like everyone, grow up in a culture, and learn categories and associations [for groups of people]. In some cases, the study of medicine can exacerbate that. For years, medical students learned that Black patients are at higher risk for hy pertension or metabolic diseases. But there isn’t something inherently different about the biology of people of one race. Rather, race is an invented idea. So really, the rea son that African-Americans in the U.S. have a higher risk for certain metabolic diseases stems from living in a historically and pres


ent-day racist culture. Researchers have also found that Black patients are less like ly to receive pain medication for the same symptoms than white patients. They attri bute it to false stereotypes that Black people don’t feel pain to the same degree. That is not true, but this is an idea that medical pro viders might subconsciously be harbouring.

How can bias be reduced in a medical environment?

One promising approach is the use of a [di agnostic] checklist, which was tested by the trauma department at Johns Hopkins Hos pital in the U.S. The team was not trying to reduce bias, but to improve blood-clot pre vention. It required doctors to go through a standardized list of questions for all pa tients to assess what kind of blood-clot pre vention they should get. The result was that blood clots went down, and the appropriate blood-clot prevention went up. They also found that, before the intervention, women were almost 50 per cent more likely to miss out on the right treatment. After the inter vention, that gender disparity disappeared.

The checklist forces the provider to stick with an objective set of criteria, and wrings bias out of the decision-making process.

Are affirmative-action programs effective in lessening bias?

If there are two equally qualified candi dates, I take affirmative action to mean actively choosing the candidate who has a disadvantaged status. It could be a woman or someone from a racial or ethnic group. Affirmative action is important, valuable and effective, but we also must be honest about the potential costs. When I was an undergraduate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology [MIT], which then had affir mative action for female students, I sensed that others thought I had gotten in because I was a woman. I think that I would have been accepted regardless, but knowing that MIT was eager to recruit women cre ated a cloud of doubt over women students, whether they benefited from affirmative action or not. That can have a harmful ef fect, psychologically, on the person on the receiving end of it.


Some companies are motivated to increase diversity for business reasons. Is that a good motive?

Whether the motivation is for ethical or busi ness reasons, decreasing bias is better for an organization. When people work in an un fair, biased workplace, they are less engaged, less committed and less trusting. Empirically, what I have found is that companies with a business imperative were the most effective at moving the needle in creating more equita ble environments. When leaders feel that it is essential for the future of the company, that is a powerful motivator. They’ll devote resourc es to it and do the hard work to get through any conflicts. When a company doesn’t see reducing bias as a business strategy, it’s easier for these initiatives to get cut, or be seen as nice to have, rather than a must-have. DJ

SHIRLEY WON is a Toronto-based free lance journalist and former business and investment reporter for The Globe and Mail. She also worked as a business reporter for the Montreal Gazette, covering transporta tion, real estate, retail and banking.


Fossil fuel fallout

Air pollution caused by burning coal, oil, natural gas and biomass worldwide kills 1.2 million people a year, reports the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change. According to the group’s 2022 study, our fossil fuel addiction is intensifying the health impact of climate change.

The heat is on: Extreme drought is parching nearly 30 per cent more of the globe’s land area than it did 50 years ago. Extreme heat left 98 million people hungry in 2020. Heat-related deaths soared 68 per cent in the fouryear period from 2017 to 2021 when compared with the period from 2000 to 2004. And almost half a trillion hours of work were lost in 2021 owing to heat exposure, with low- and middle-income countries taking the greatest hit. Will political and business leaders act? Governments continue to send a mixed message. The report found that 80 per cent of 86 countries studied subsidized fossil fuels at a collective cost of US$400-billion in 2019. In 2020, the International Institute for Sustainable Development estimated Canada’s fossil fuel subsidies added up to at least CDN$4.8-billion a year.




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