Educating board members to make better-informed decisions with Helle Bank Jorgensen
Helle Bank Jorgensen is the CEO of Competent Boards, which offers the global online Climate and ESG Competent Boards Certificate Programs, with a faculty of over 100 renowned international board members, executives and experts. Helle is the author of the newly published book “Stewards of The Future: A Guide for Competent Boards.”
Tell us about Competent Boards and your priorities for inclusive capitalism.
Our mission at Competent Boards is to “educate and empower board members and senior executives to make better-informed decisions that impact the world today — and tomorrow”. It’s at the heart of everything we do. We believe that only through education can people gain the knowledge they need to make better decisions about our planet and our children’s future.
Inclusive capitalism provides a foundation for our flagship Global ESG Designation and Certificate programs. Sustainable value creation – primarily through principles of good governance, but also people, planet, and overall prosperity – all serve to advance the Sustainable Development Goals, with is the common thread that weaves our program content together.
What inspired you to join the Council?
It was simple really – our values are so tightly aligned with the Council, it just made good sense. Our programs are designed to inspire leaders to do business in ways that benefit people, our communities, and the planet. We join your members in wanting to accelerate market moving reforms for a more inclusive capitalism.
Tell us about the ESG Competent Boards Designation and Certificate Programs.
Our ESG training programs are based on 12 strategic topics that cover the full range of ESG risks and opportunities, from climate change, supply chain and cybersecurity to human rights, anti-corruption and stakeholder engagement. Those taking the Designation program can join live discussions with many of our 150-plus world-class faculty of experts. There are also fireside chats, podcasts and case studies to enjoy as well as a curated topical reading list. Both the Designation and Certificate programs last around six months, with the latter being a self-paced program that attendees can fit around their schedule. Whichever stream attendees take, they leave well equipped to take part in board or executive discussions around the rapidly evolving global ESG landscape.
Why is it important for board directors to receive ESG training and how can they implement their training to help their organizations?
Incorporating ESG considerations into decision-making is fast becoming the corporate imperative. Investors have come to realize that ESG matters, including climate change, are financially material. As such, ESG needs to be incorporated in risk management processes, which means board directors must be much more literate on ESG matters – it’s their fiduciary duty if they’re to make effective business decisions. Our programs provide insight, and foresight, so board directors, both current and future, can provide effective oversight.
Taking our ESG programs has helped many of our attendees prepare themselves for future C-suite and board positions. Our education is a fundamental grounding in becoming a future-fit leader. After our programs, board directors take the experience and knowledge they’ve gained from our world-leading experts to show their companies how ESG issues play out at a broader strategic level.
What were the initial reactions to implementing the ESG Competent Boards Designation and Certificate Programs? How has this evolved?
It was slow to start, as we were true pioneers, running our ESG programs before ESG as a concept was as prevalent as it is now. Program uptake has now soared, as business leaders and board directors seek to get better educated in this fast-evolving landscape.
We have countless testimonials from attendees over the past three years as to the value that our programs have given them and their companies. Here are just two:
“By focusing on the role of the board, and those within companies who advise boards, Competent Boards is addressing a unique need at a critical time for corporates facing higher expectations from their employees, shareholders and customers around ESG and corporate responsibility. There really is no other leadership forum that can compete.”
Jennifer Varey, Director, CSR & Community Investments, Enbridge, Canada
“I believe the Competent Boards program is the most comprehensive in the market, and ESG needs to be a crucial focus for effective board members in the future. I gained a much more comprehensive understanding of the breadth and depth of ESG topics and how to put them into practice as a board member. I highly recommend the program. The speakers are the top people in the world in their fields.”
Maureen Metcalf, Founder and CEO, Innovative Leadership Institute
Tell us about your book – Stewards of the Future: A Guide to Competent Boards.
Climate change and other environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks and opportunities dominate many boardroom agendas. The book focuses on many of these areas, demonstrating that for companies to achieve long-term profitability and sustainability, they need the insights to ask the right questions about climate change, ESG, cybersecurity, corruption, supply chain management, human trafficking and more.
What are the most important issues board directors need to focus on in 2022?
Start with listening to your stakeholders. A company’s stakeholders come from many sources, all with a wide range of opinions, influences and motivations. These include shareholders, customers, suppliers, employees, politicians, activists and social-media influencers.
See the bigger picture. Nothing you do is in isolation. Everything has outcomes and impacts in the short, medium, and long term. For example, if you buy an EV, you might be happy that you’re reducing your carbon footprint. However, if the mining that extracts the necessary metals creates lots of carbon dioxide, have you done more harm than good?
Top of the list is still education. Get the insight that enables foresight.
What do you most hope to gain from your membership in the Council for Inclusive Capitalism?
We hope to be able to share other member initiatives with our networks, and have them share ours with theirs. It takes a village – only by working together can we hope to accelerate the transition to a net-zero economy.