Business leader explores corporate ethics, governance

This article was submitted to Y-File by Marika Kemeny, communications officer for Glendon College.

Guylaine Saucier, who chaired the industry-wide Joint Committee on Corporate Governance, spoke at a Glendon public lecture Monday on the topic, “The Link Between Corporate Ethics and Governance”. A highly respected business personality with an eclectic range of business involvements, Saucier brings many years of achievement to her profession, both in the private and public sectors.

Saucier prefaced her talk with the observation that many shareholders don’t trust management today, which, she explained, is the result of the widely publicized unethical behaviour of certain corporations and their leading personalities.


Right: Guylaine Saucier

Saucier outlined the role of the board of directors of any corporation as adding value to the shareholders and protecting their investment. She remarked that if the sole responsibility of a corporation is to make profits, the only way to do this in a sustainable way is for the organization to behave ethically. “In order to achieve this, organizations must consider issues of the environment, human resources management and honest, ethical, transparent business transactions,” she added.

She noted that a corporation’s board of directors is the ultimate decision-making body when it comes to corporate values, the choice and evaluation of the CEO and the company’s business strategies. It is this group that sets the tone of the organization and must ensure that the information disseminated by the corporation is reliable.

Saucier remarked that in spite of some recent, highly-publicized misdeeds by corporations, on the whole, boards are very concerned and aware of their responsibilities. Their published information is generally accurate and sufficiently available, even if it is sometimes difficult for the general reader to decipher.

Saucier included comments about recent “whistle-blower” protection clauses and the role of ombudsmen, as well as the challenges of sitting on the boards of multi-national corporations. “Ultimately, the board of directors must ensure that the corporation’s values are not just stated, but implemented on a day-to-day basis, and that every member of the corporation, from the CEO to the most junior employee, adheres to them. And if a board member cannot agree to the corporation’s practices, that person should resign ,” said Saucier.

Saucier is a graduate of Montreal’s École des hautes études commerciales, a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants and a leader within the chartered accountant profession. She is also a Member of the Order of Canada, has served as Chair of the board of directors of CBC/Radio-Canada and sits on the boards of several major Canadian corporations, including Petro-Canada, the Bank of Montreal and Nortel Networks. She was the first woman to be appointed president of the Québec Chamber of Commerce and has played a very active role in the community as a member of the board of various institutions, including the University of Montréal, the Montréal Symphony Orchestra and the 1994 Task Force on Social Security Reforms.