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Business success: despite the Board or with their support? PDF Print E-mail
Written by David Brunnen   
Thursday, 19 September 2013 10:10

In just over two weeks time the City of London will resonate more than usually to voices from India.  Gathered in London will be delegates for the thirteenth annual international conference on Corporate Governance and Sustainability organized by the Institute of Directors (India)

When analysts in the city loftily refer to emergent economies they betray a very western perspective.  Somehow I doubt if these polite visitors would refer to the UK as a receding economy although a simple comparison of the healthy membership growth of the IOD (India) with that of its UK equivalent organization in Pall Mall (down 27% over the past 5 years) could so easily justify the jibe.

More positively this influx of visitors will be matched by the enthusiasm of folks keen to meet and discuss trade links, political relations and hard business questions on issues of Sustainability, Boardroom Effectiveness and Corporate Governance.  The cast of speakers includes Baroness Verma, Greg Barker MP (DECC) a rich mix of UK leaders and even the former Prime Minister of Sweden.  The UK’s education sector is well represented – particularly the University of Greenwich with Jon Sibson (Dean of the Business School) and Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas both appearing on the platform.

Colin is a frequent speaker at IOD India events and has contributed a theme paper published in advance; useful prep for delegates during their long haul flights into London.  He really appreciates the ‘can do’ culture prevailing in the Indian business community and doesn’t hesitate to call on delegates to face the reality of governance issues.  ‘Has Corporate Governance gone off the rails?  Are Corporate Boards Barking up the Wrong Trees?   His headlines signal a series of challenging questions.

He asks, “How many contemporary and ambitious young entrepreneurs identify governance as a critical success factor for the growth and development of their businesses?  What have boards contributed to most of today’s star internet-based businesses and high growth companies?”

According to Coulson-Thomas, “The problem with governance is that the focus is upon board structures rather than board behaviours.  Successful business development usually depends upon the conduct of boards – how they behave and the decisions they take – rather than a particular board and committee structure.  While it may be beneficial to ask whether directors are independent it is vital that they are competent, add value and help a company to remain current and competitive.”

He believes “too many boards are looking inwards and are preoccupied with their own arrangements and structures. While challenge can be healthy, it is sometimes negative and inhibiting. Too many non-executive directors are checking up on executive director colleagues rather than supporting them. They need to be more alert to external and marketplace developments and more focused upon achieving profitable and sustainable growth.

Colin’s advance theme paper for this London Convention questions whether current approaches are fit for purpose and worth the attention they are getting, given cost-effective alternatives for changing behaviours, enabling compliance, and delivering other objectives in ways that benefit people, organisations and the environment.

Maybe a few brave souls will be venturing down from Pall Mall to the City to pick up a few tips?



The London Global Convention on Governance and Sustainability is being held from 1st  to 4th  October 2013 at Hotel The Tower.  Details of the event and further information as it becomes available can be obtained from 

Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas can be contacted via and his latest publications can be obtained from


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