About editor2

This author has not yet filled in any details.
So far editor2 has created 6 blog entries.
9 Jul, 2019

The Resilience and Wellbeing Springboard; a Guide to Managing Stress 

2019-07-09T16:17:54+01:00July 9th, 2019|News|Comments Off on The Resilience and Wellbeing Springboard; a Guide to Managing Stress 

The Resilience and Wellbeing Springboard; a Guide to Managing Stress

The Resilience and Wellbeing Springboard; a Guide to Managing Stress 

Liz Kearney

I’m always a bit sceptical about quoting statistics and some time ago I came across a very clever comment online that ‘coined’ my thinking. It cited that “64 per cent of statistics are made up”. I often share this with my workshop groups and it never fails to put a grin on their faces. One statistic however that I do think we need to take seriously as I believe it to be very close to reality is this:

50% of the reasons why people go to the doctor are stress related.

Stress can manifest itself in many different ways. Anything from the common cold to chronic pain, not to mention heart disease, diabetes, cancer and many more illnesses can so often be linked to stress in some form or another.  The bad news is that there is now concrete evidence that workplace stress is increasing. Stress when not managed and controlled can be linked to anxiety, depression and eventual burn out. The impact of all of this on the workplace results in unnecessary pressure, hostility, conflict, presentism, poor performance and absenteeism to name just a few.

So what can we do? First of all the good news is that this research is not being ignored and there is already a lot been done.  Many organisations are very aware of the impact of stress and are actively providing support and introducing initiatives to combat these issues. Workplace health information is now widely available to all employees both through internal procedures and the internet.

Whereas this is very positive and reassuring, having spent most of my career in a pressurised financial corporate environment I believe that stress has to be addressed at the source. By this I mean the management of stress, the control of stress and an effort to combat stress has got to start with the individual themselves. This means taking responsibility, gaining some knowledge, understanding implications and culturing a shift in mind-set.  Employees need to become aware of the choices available to them.

The first thing to recognise is that not all stress is bad. Stress is a necessary emotion. Our brains are hardwired in such a way that it is difficult for us to take action until we experience some level of stress. Stress can motivate us and take us out of our comfort zone. In doing so we can create new pathways in our thinking and new patterns in our behaviour thus creating a more positive environment.  On the other end of the scale bad stress even mild bad stress, if left to fester can wreak havoc on our health and wellbeing over time.

Combating stress I believe ultimately comes down to two things:

1) Challenging our perception of stress and

2) Our level of resilience.

We create and cultivate our own stressors and it is only until we become aware of our negative responses are we able to change them and take back control. Learning about our survival technique and what negative stress can physiologically do to our body is the first step required to encourage us to learn how to choose a different response and create new pathways and habits. We have a choice.

Building resilience is a day in day out activity that needs to become a habit. It involves actions and activities that will strengthen the mind the body and the soul. If we make these behaviours part of our everyday we will in time strengthen our protection mechanism, create a more positive outlook, maintain equilibrium and bounce back when challenged with adversity. If we all take some responsibility in making this happen a kinder, more respectful, empathetic workplace will ensue. But this wellness will not just be contained to the workplace it will spill over into our personal lives, our relationships and our overall sense of happiness and wellbeing. It also will hopefully reduce the number of visits to the GP giving everyone more time to live life to the full.

Liz Kearney will speak at PAI’s Corporate Resilience and Wellbeing Springboard on the 24th September. This event is CPD accredited.

Speakers


Liz Kearney is a professional trainer and a qualified business coach specialising in well-being in the workplace. She has worked with many Corporates, The Public Sector and SME’s delivering programmes on Stress, Wellbeing and Resilience and has been an associate trainer with Aware for the last 5 years. She is a Qualified Financial Adviser, an accredited DiSC psychometric practitioner and holds a diploma in Psychology, CBT and Emotional Intelligence.

 

27 Jun, 2019

Blog: Good Governance needed to tackle Climate Change in Ireland

2019-07-02T12:36:25+01:00June 27th, 2019|News|Comments Off on Blog: Good Governance needed to tackle Climate Change in Ireland

Urgent action is needed if a global climate disaster is to be avoided. Ireland has responded with the Government’s Climate Action Plan. It sets ambitious targets to tackle the many climate challenges.

https://www.dccae.gov.ie/documents/Climate%20Action%20Plan%202019.pdf

The Climate Action Plan has been informed by the work of the Citizens Assembly and the work of the Oireachtas All Party Committee on Climate Action, chaired by Hildegarde Naughton, T.D.

 

Serious challenges

Taking decisive action to confront climate disruption is a major challenge for all parts of society. The message is getting home to people that climate disruption is having wide ranging negative impacts on Ireland’s environment, society, economic and natural resources. This action plan clearly identifies the nature and scale of the challenge. It charts a course towards decarbonisation by 2050, with sub-targets for all sectors of the economy. In simple terms, decarbonisation means reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – see Box A.

Box A: What are greenhouse gases?

·         Greenhouse gases contribute to climate change. The most important greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). Other greenhouse gases comprise so-called F-Gases, a wide variety of man-made gases used in various applications, such as refrigeration and air conditioning. Collectively these greenhouse gases are the subject of international agreements.

·         Different greenhouse gases have different atmospheric characteristics, including global warming potentials (GWP). This is a measure of the cumulative warming of a gas over a specified time period, usually 100 years. This is expressed relative to carbon dioxide (CO2) which has a GWP of 1.

·         The amount emitted of any greenhouse gas multiplied by its GWP gives the equivalent emission of the gas as carbon dioxide. This is known as CO2 equivalent. This makes it easier to sum up the emissions and contribution of greenhouse gases to climate change and determine options to address climate change.

Source information: Climate Action Plan, June 2019

 

The climate change plan covers every relevant sector in Ireland: electricity, enterprise, housing, heating, transport, agriculture, waste, and the public sector. It sets out over 180 actions, together with hundreds of sub-actions, that need to be taken over the coming years and decades. The targets are ambitious to say the least. But, if achieved, the overall result will be a cleaner, safer and more sustainable future for the Irish people. John FitzGerald, Chair of the Climate Change Advisory Council, responded to the climate change plan at a recent meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Budgetary Oversight. He noted that – “Ireland has set itself a binding target to decarbonise by 2050, with key milestones along the way. The All of Government Plan… crystallises the sectoral challenges for 2030. Failure to reach these milestones will have multiple adverse consequences” www.climatecouncil.ie/media/Budgetary%20Oversight%20Committee%20Oireachtas%20Statement%20John%20FitzGerald%2018.06.2019.pdf

 

It would be very easy to suggest that there are no threats from climate change for Ireland. But it is not possible to stop the world and let Ireland off. A new paper from the International Monetary Fund points out that – “As the frequency and intensity of natural disasters is projected to increase over time with climate change, the economic and social impact of disasters can also be expected to increasehttps://www.imf.org/en/Publications/Policy-Papers/Issues/2019/06/24/Building-Resilience-in-Developing-Countries-Vulnerable-to-Large-Natural-Disasters-47020

 

Governance Structures

Taking decisive action to confront climate disruption is a major challenge to every sector of our society. It is Government that has to ensure cohesion and co-ordination as between climate change work in the different sectors. The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, recognised the lead responsibility of Government at the launch of the Climate Change plan. He said that the Government – “… will work with people, industry and communities to chart the best and most inclusive way forward. A way forward that is both effective and sensible. One that achieves our targets, and in a way that is thought through and considered, supports employment and living standards and enables a just transition.” https://www.dccae.gov.ie/en-ie/news-and-media/press-releases/Pages/Giving-Ireland-a-Sustainable-Future.aspx

 

The Government has an important central role to play in tackling climate change. That role is described in Chapter 5 of the plan, which is entitled ‘Governance of the Challenge’. It sets out a new set of governance arrangements and how progress on the roll-out of the plan will be tracked. Progress on target achievements will be monitored on a regular basis and the results published. Specifically, the Plan will be monitored quarterly and updated annually, with a Climate Action Plan 2020 published in early 2020. It also gives a commitment that new actions would be added each year as needed. There are a series of other initiatives that are being introduced. These include a Climate Action Delivery Board that will be set-up within the Department of An Taoiseach, which will hold each department and public body accountable for the delivery of actions set out in the Climate Action Plan. As regards carbon-proofing, the plans states that all Government memoranda and major investment decisions will be subject to a carbon impact and mitigation evaluation, for which a template will be developed. This will be incorporated in Cabinet procedures, in regulatory impact assessments, and in project evaluation processes. The main governance actions are summarised in Box B.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other initiatives

The Plan also announced the establishment of a new Climate Action Council. This will be a successor to the Climate Change Advisory Council. It will have additional powers to, in particular:

  • Recommend to Government the appropriate five-year Carbon Budgets;
  • Monitor the progress of the State in reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, based on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emissions reporting, and
  • Provide policy evaluation advice to the Government, based on best available science

Other important initiatives are planned:

  1. The establishment of a Standing Committee of both Houses of the Oireachtas on Climate Action, to hold Ministers and public bodies accountable for their actions to deliver our climate targets.
  2. The establishment of a Climate Action Office, within the Oireachtas, to provide robust advice and evidence to the Standing Committee regarding the impact of particular policy decisions on our decarbonisation and climate action objectives.
  3. The introduction of a new Climate Action (Amendment) Bill, which will introduce a requirement on Government to propose carbon budgets for three five-year periods.

Meeting the Challenges

The Climate Change Plan is rightly ambitious. It comes with new and expanded governance arrangements. It is now necessary to ensure that the new arrangements are fully and quickly implemented. In particular, it means the public sector needs to increase its expertise to service the different committees, councils and offices that are being set-up in line with the Climate Change Plan. Richard Bruton, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, highlighted the need for early action on the Climate Change Plan. He puts the challenge well – “We have a short window of opportunity to act. We must act now and leave a better, healthier, more sustainable Ireland for future”. https://www.dccae.gov.ie/en-ie/news-and-media/press-releases/Pages/Giving-Ireland-a-Sustainable-Future.aspx

 

 

 

Tom Ferris is a Consultant Economist specialising in Better Regulation. He lectures on a number of PAI courses and contributes blogs regularly to PAI. He was formerly the Senior Economist at the Department of Transport.

27 May, 2019

Blog: European Commission did improve Better Regulation, in the years 2015 through 2018

2019-05-27T12:22:25+01:00May 27th, 2019|News|Comments Off on Blog: European Commission did improve Better Regulation, in the years 2015 through 2018

 

The European Commission set itself ambitious targets in 2015 to improve Better Regulation over a four year period. My blog of May 2015 summarised those challenges https://www.pai.ie/1765-delivering-better-regulation-at-eu-level/  at the end of 2018, the Commission took stock of performance, which included wide consultation. Overall the results are positive for Better Regulation. However, the Commission admits that there is more work that needs to be done. Specifically, it states that – “… there is room for further improvement and we have identified areas which should be explored in a wider debate on future improvements. These will depend on a stronger shared effort by all those involved in designing and implementing policy solutions”. https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/better-regulation-taking-stock_en_0.pdf  .

 

Wide consultation

The consultation process was quite wide ranging. The stocktaking exercise focused on the years 2015 through 2018, and relied upon a mixture of evidence. The European Commission used external assessments (from the OECD and the European Court of Auditors), reports from the Regulatory Scrutiny Board and a broad range of consultation activities. These included:

  • interviews and meetings to consult Commission staff working in a range of different departments and functions, including better regulation support staff, senior managers and members of Commissioners’ political teams,
  • a public consultation of all external stakeholders,
  • targeted consultation meetings with the administrative secretariats of the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union, the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee,
  • an opinion from the Platform of the Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT),
  • discussion in the Competitiveness and Growth Working Party of the Council (better regulation).

 

Lessons learned

The European Commission concluded that there are positive and negative lessons to be learnt from the stocktaking. They are summarised in Box 1:

Box 1: European Commission

‘Better Regulation at the heart of policy making: ‘What we’ve learnt’

• The concept of better regulation is univocally supported and should remain at the heart of our decision-making processes for the future

• In a ‘post-fact’ world of fake news, the rationale for evidence-based regulation is only growing stronger.

• Better regulation supports political decision-making but it does not substitute it.

BUT…

• The public and stakeholders would like to be even more engaged in EU policymaking and get better feedback.

• There is still room for improvement when it comes to the way we design and evaluate EU policies.

• There is a clear need for better communication and awareness, raising opportunities for citizens to participate in EU policymaking.

• Better regulation needs to be a shared effort of all those involved in designing and implementing policy solutions.

Source: https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/file_import/br_factsheet_en.pdf

 

Shared efforts

Better Regulation cannot be created in a vacuum. The recent EU stocktaking exercise shows that better regulation must be a shared effort. As the tools and processes deployed by the Commission improve, further advances increasingly should focus upon improvements the Commission can facilitate but not ensure by itself. As the Commission put it – “… the stocktaking clearly showed that the quality of evaluation depends on a shared understanding with the co-legislators and Member States on when best to evaluate, which indicators and frameworks to use for measuring performance, and how to efficiently collect the necessary monitoring information”. https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/better-regulation-taking-stock_en_0.pdf

The European Commission uses a number of tools to ensure better regulation. The tools include impact assessments, evaluations, road maps and supporting instruments (including the better regulation guidelines and toolbox) and the independent quality control provided by the Regulatory Scrutiny Board. All these tools are used to translate evidence and stakeholder input into objective analysis supporting political decision-making. The Regulatory Scrutiny Board, as an independent group of Commission officials and external experts, plays a ver important role by checking the quality of all impact assessments and major evaluations. The results of their work are presented in its regular annual reports. These are accessible on an excellent website https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/law-making-process/regulatory-scrutiny-board_en#latest

In order to ensure that legislation is fit for purpose, the European Commission initiated a Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT). It makes sure that EU laws deliver their intended benefits for citizens, businesses and society at minimum cost and in the simplest way. The REFIT Platform advises the Commission on how to make EU regulation more efficient and reviews the suggestions that EU citizens, businesses, national authorities and other stakeholders send via an aptly named website ‘Lighten the load’. https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/lighten-load_en

At the heart of the work of the EU are the Directorate Generals of the the European Commission. They are the ones that carry out the evaluations, the impact assessments, the road maps and draft legislation. The assessment of those reports is the done by the Regulatory Scrutiny Board and Refit Platform. Figure 1 summarises the work, under a number of headings, during the period 2015 to 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Challenges ahead

The outgoing European Commission has done a good job on better regulation. The incoming European Commission will face new challenges. It will not be all plain sailing. For example, the stocktaking showed that stakeholders had mixed views on the Commission’s efforts to simplify existing EU laws and reduce costs where possible. While the Commission’s efforts to simplify and reduce unnecessary burdens have delivered results, there are critics who would suggest that these are neither well communicated nor generally regarded as sufficient. Accordingly, while the changes introduced under the outgoing Commission have gone in the right direction, there is scope to do better. In particular, it will be important for the new European Commission to undertake work at an early stage to ascertain the reasons why simplification has proven to be so complicated and burden reduction so burdensome.

 

Tom Ferris

Tom Ferris is a Consultant Economist specialising in Better Regulation. He lectures on a number of PAI courses and contributes blogs regularly to PAI. He was formerly the Senior Economist at the Department of Transport.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20 May, 2019

Blog: OECD Report shows that Ireland needs to improve Regulatory Performance

2019-05-20T09:58:41+01:00May 20th, 2019|News|Comments Off on Blog: OECD Report shows that Ireland needs to improve Regulatory Performance

There is scope for Ireland to improve its regulatory performance according to statistics produced recently by the OECD. The statistics are contained in the recently published ‘Better Regulation Practices across the European Union, 2019’. This report was prepared by the OECD at the invitation of the European Union  http://www.oecd.org/publications/better-regulation-practices-across-the-european-union-9789264311732-en.htm

 

Why improve Regulation Policies?

Laws and regulations affect the daily lives of businesses and citizens. High-quality laws promote national welfare and growth, while badly designed laws hinder growth, harm the environment and put the health of citizens at risk. The introduction to the OECD Report points out that  – “… Countries need to strengthen their regulatory processes and the institutions involved. At a time of fiscal stringency and heightened global uncertainty, regulatory policy remains a key government tool for ensuring the safety and well-being of citizens while stimulating innovation and economic growth and prosperity , Despite some improvements much work remains to be done to reap the rewards of better regulation”. http://www.oecd.org/publications/better-regulation-practices-across-the-european-union-9789264311732-en.htm

 

The OECD’s Scoring System

The OECD uses three main indicators to measure regulatory performance:-

  • An indicator on Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA);
  • An indicator on Stakeholder Engagement and
  • An indicator on Ex-post Evaluation, i.e. reviewing performance.

In turn, each of these indicators has four components:

  • Methodology: how good or bad is the methodology used for RIAs;
  • Oversight: If there is an oversight body, how effective is it;
  • Adoption: How consistently are RIAs undertaken, and
  • Transparency: To what extent are results of RIAs made publicly available.

The maximum score for each component is one and the maximum score for each aggregate indicator is four. A perfect country could score twelve points i.e. three times four. No such score has ever been recorded by any Member State.

 

Ireland’s Performance for RIAs

Table 1 reproduces the OECD scores, for 2014 and 2017, for Ireland’s performance of in the area of Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA). The overall results show Ireland achieving a “good pass”, but not an “honours” result in both years. It is interesting to note that where Ireland achieved an aggregate result of 2.09 in 2017, the European. Union achieved an aggregate result of 3.28. Put differently, Ireland only achieved 64 per cent of the EU result in 2017.

Table 1: IRELAND – Regulatory Impact Analysis for Primary Laws
Category Year 2014 Year 2017 Change
Methodology 0.72 0.73 0.01
Oversight 0.19 0.15 -0.04
Adoption 0.80 0.80 0.00
Transparency 0.41 0.41 0.00
Aggregate 2.12 2.09 -0.03
Note: Maximum score of 1 for each category and
maximum score of 4 for the aggregate of four categories

 

Ireland’s Performance under Stakeholder Engagement

Engaging with those concerned and affected by regulations is fundamental if the quality of regulations is to be improved. OECD now produces statistics on stakeholder engagement. Table 2 reproduces OECD scores for Ireland on stakeholder engagement in 2014 and 2017. The results are quite disappointing. Where Ireland achieved an aggregate result of 1.7 in 2017, the European. Union achieved an aggregate result of 3.41. Put differently, Ireland only achieved half of the EU result for stakeholder engagement in 2017.

 

Table 2: IRELAND – Stakeholder Engagement for Primary Laws
Category Year 2014 Year 2017 Change
Methodology 0.44 0.44 0.00
Oversight 0.00 0.25 0.25
Adoption 0.62 0.62 0.00
Transparency 0.31 0.39 0.08
Aggregate 1.37 1.70 0.33
Note: Maximum score of 1 for each category and
maximum score of 4 for the aggregate of four categories

 

Ireland’s Performance under Ex-post Evaluation

Only after laws have entered into force can governments assess their full effects on society. Conditions change over time and even regulations can become outdated. Accordingly, the OECD advises countries to regularly review their stock of existing regulations. For its part, the OECD measures the extent to which countries carry out ex-post evaluations. Table 3 reproduces OECD scores for Ireland for ex-post evaluations in 2014 and 2017. The aggregate results are extremely low, with some components actually recording zero results.  Where Ireland achieved an aggregate result of 0.79 in 2017, the European. Union achieved an aggregate result of 3.08. Put differently, Ireland only achieved a quarter of the EU result for stakeholder engagement in 2017

 

 

Table 3: IRELAND – Ex-post Evaluation for Primary Laws
Category Year 2014 Year 2017 Change
Methodology 0.00 0.00 0.00
Oversight 0.00 0.17 0.17
Adoption 0.43 0.49 0.06
Transparency 0.13 0.13 0.00
Aggregate 0.56 0.79 0.23
Note: Maximum score of 1 for each category and maximum score of 4 for the aggregate of four categories

 

Scope for improvement

There is certainly scope for Ireland to improve its regulatory performance if Ireland’s scores, as published by the OECD, are accepted as reflecting actual performance. In the text accompanying the statistics, the OECD notes that – “ Ireland recently made some improvements to its regulatory policy system, particularly in the areas of consultation and ex post evaluation”. However, it suggests that – “ In order to more effectively monitor and assess the quality of RIA implementation, Ireland should consider establishing a central oversight body”. This suggestion of having an oversight body was also made recently by The Law Reform Commission – see my blog https://www.pai.ie/is-there-a-need-for-a-regulatory-guidance-office/ . While the advent of a robust oversight body would be helpful, it would be only one of a number of things that needs to be done to improve regulatory performance across the public sector. The overall objective should be one of designing, developing and delivering good regulatory policies for all citizens.

 

Tom Ferris is a Consultant Economist specialising in Better Regulation. He lectures on a number of PAI courses and contributes blogs regularly to PAI. He was formerly the Senior Economist at the Department of Transport.

 

Tom Ferris

2 May, 2019

Blog: Corporate Governance in Sport

2019-05-02T16:05:44+01:00May 2nd, 2019|News|Comments Off on Blog: Corporate Governance in Sport

With major concerns being raised in relation to corporate governance arrangements within the FAI and Scouting Ireland and previously in other voluntary sporting organisations, it is timely for sports Clubs generally to be reviewing their own governance arrangements in line with best practice, but, in addition, do the public at large need higher levels of assurance in relation to compliance with the law generally.

Sports Clubs fall into various legal categories.

Some are companies limited by guarantee regulated by the Companies Registration Office, with the ODCE overseeing compliance. Others are charities regulated by the Charities Regulator and ensures compliance in that sector. Most sports clubs are, however, registered clubs with the District Court, under the Registration of Clubs (Ireland) Act,1904 which introduces very minimum governance requirements. For the purpose of obtaining sports grants and other State funding, sports clubs are obliged to hold tax exempt status from Revenue which imposes certain governance requirements in relation to disposal assets or surpluses in the event of wind up, but many clubs do not fall into this category.

We traditionally think of corporate governance arrangements in terms of prudent financial management and compliance with companies act obligations, but there are broader obligations in which compliance must be assured to be taken into account in sport e.g. in the areas of health and safety and the safeguarding of children.

Available at www.goverancecode.ie is a Governance Code which is a resource to assist community, voluntary and charity (CVC) organisations develop their overall capacity in terms of how they run their organisation. It a voluntary code provided free to all boards/committees/ executives of not-for-profit groups to encourage them to check themselves against best practice in the management of their affairs.

Given the dependence of Clubs on voluntary donations and State funds, is it time for NGBs in sport to be critically reviewing governance arrangements within member clubs and requiring them to have annual/ biennial compliance audits in respect of all their statutory obligations undertaken by an external body, in the interest of members and all stakeholders. The same applies to registered clubs generally and is the Registration of Clubs(Ireland) Act 1904 in need of updating?

In short, perhaps is it now time for all community, sporting and voluntary groups to have an external review undertaken of their all their governance arrangements and obligations on an annual/biennial, with external support.

 

By: Andrew Cullen, Corporate Governance Consultant, PAI.

Andrew Cullen is course leader on PAI’s Certificate in Public Sector Corporate Governance.

Andrew is a former Assistant Secretary in the Civil Service, where his career focused mainly on corporate governance and regulation in the transport, energy and telecommunications sectors, and strategy and investment in the public transport sector. He has extensive experience in dealing with State bodies and with the EU and international bodies, including serving for a period in Brussels with the Department of Foreign Affairs.

 

24 Apr, 2019

The Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies should be immediately amended…

2019-04-24T13:38:54+01:00April 24th, 2019|News|Comments Off on The Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies should be immediately amended…

I hope to address this challenging topic at the forthcoming PAI Governance Conference in May. Herewith are a few of the issues I’ll be raising. Comments or counterviews will be warmly welcomed.

The SDGs

Along with 192 other countries, Ireland signed up to the UN 2030 Agenda in 2015. That Agenda is comprised of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their 169 targets. From the outset, the UN declared that the SDGs could not be achieved without the business community being actively involved on a global scale. Its Global Compact (UNGC) division was appointed to develop the guidelines and roadmaps that would encourage businesses to engage and report their progress on an annual basis up to 2030. To-date over 12,000 companies from 160 countries have enrolled including a modest 13 from Ireland. The question arising is:

Why has Irish business not yet bought into the SDGs and the transformative sustainability revolution currently underway across the commercial world?

The Business Perspective

I conducted a recent round-table discussion on this question among a group of my business clients to determine board member interest in SDGs as change of this nature must be led from the boardroom. The following comments summarise the exchange:

  • “What are SDGs?
  • “That’s overwhelming – that’s for governments not business”.
  • “In Ireland, over 90% of businesses are SMEs. Our priority is survival. The last thing we need are another 169 compliance obligations”.
  • SDGs – CSR – KPIs – GRIs – IAEG – ESG – UNGC – EUNFR – TCFD – it’s bewildering.
  • “I don’t hear anything from government about SDGs. I hear energy, carbon and climate change but not SDGs”.
  • “That’s too big an agenda for SMEs – government agencies must take the lead”.
  • “State bodies are not adopting their own SDGs – I see no example being set there”.
  • “The State Body Governance Code does not even mention SDGs”.
  • “Large corporates are very active in this space through the CSR Forum”.
  • We’d have an interest but on a scale we could manage – we’d need help”

The State Body Perspective

I came away from this round-table with the impression that State bodies are perceived to be giving mixed signals to the business community on SDGs. The fact that the Governance Code, which defines how State boards should run their organisations, doesn’t mention SDGs is testimony to that. Initiatives like the SDG Stakeholder Forum are great but all State bodies should be leading by example. Every State body should then be partnering with business groups within their jurisdictions to establish sectoral SDG Networks. The message is clear, all State boards should show leadership in rallying businesses behind the SDGs with particular focus on SMEs. I concluded that the starting point was an SDG addendum to the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies that would give immediate effect to these actions.

The Governance Code

The recent revision of the Code was published in 2016, one year after the signing of the UN 2030 Agenda. There is a lot of noise being correctly made by the DCCAE and its agencies on climate change but the SDGs go much wider than that to cover economic, social and environmental topics. Yet there is potential SDG alignment in the current Code where, in the introduction to Section 8, it defines good governance in these terms…

“Good governance… requires effective arrangements for defining outcomes in terms of sustainable economic, social, and environmental benefits which should be included in the State body’s oversight agreement with their relevant Minister/parent Department”.

So, emerging thinking suggests that the starting point to showing leadership on SDGs is to build on the above principle and insert an immediate addendum to the Code that would encourage State boards to both:

  • adopt SDGs relevant to their own State Body and annually report outcomes
  • partner with businesses to form Sectoral SDG Networks sharing common targets.

Might that be a runner I wonder?

 

 

By: Alan McDonnell, Founder & Principal Good Governance Solutions

 

To book your place on PAI’s upcoming Corporate Governance Conference click here.