Political And Economic Uncertainty, Climate Change And AI, Pressing Concerns For Canadian Directors

The results of a national survey conducted by Environics Research for the Institute of Corporate Directors point to political and economic uncertainty as top-of-mind issues for the country’s board directors. The survey results also point to gaps in the issues corporate Canada feels are national concerns, such as climate change, the impact of automation and trade diversification, and those they feel are concerns for their businesses.

There is unease among Canada’s corporate directors about our current political and economic environment.

“There is unease among Canada’s corporate directors about our current political and economic environment,” said Rahul Bhardwaj, President and CEO, Institute of Corporate Directors. “But boards approve our country’s corporate strategies and major capital spending, so they have an important leadership opportunity to help shape Canada’s economic outcomes. To do so will require them to make the connection between national challenges and the potential impact these will have on their organizations.”

Other important findings from the survey show that, while directors feel they are spending sufficient time overseeing their organization’s culture, a strong majority report not having objective measures for culture oversight or tracking their measures regularly.

“Whether in the for-profit or the not-for-profit sectors, directors are right to be focused on what their organizations accomplish,” said Bhardwaj. “Much has changed though in the past two years and it is arguably more important that they now focus on how they accomplish their objectives. This means being more attuned to the culture that drives an organization’s success.”

The survey, conducted by Environics Research Group, revealed:

  • Forty-four percent of Canada’s directors feel the Canadian economy will worsen in the coming two to five years (up by 4 percentage points from last year); and 50 percent believe Canada is heading on the wrong track. There is also a noticeable disparity in how Canada’s regions feel about our ability to maintain our standard of living, with those in Alberta feeling significantly less optimistic about our prosperity in the coming years compared to those in Central and Eastern Canada.
  • Sixty percent of directors believe that political and economic uncertainty is Canada’s most pressing issue.
  • There are significant gaps between what directors believe to be pressing issues facing Canada versus pressing issues for their organizations. For example, whereas 54 percent believe that climate change is a pressing matter facing the country, only 22 percent believe the same regarding their company. Fifty percent identify AI and automation as a top issue for the country, but only 28 percent see this as a critical challenge for their organization.
  • Half of directors surveyed say their boards have not discussed a strategy for re-training their workforces in the face of technological disruption.
  • Whereas 62 percent of directors feel they spend the right amount of time on their oversight of corporate culture, 60 percent state they do not objectively measure their corporate culture or track their measures regularly.
About the survey

The Director Lens survey focuses on key political, social and economic issues that influence our organizations and our country. The survey informs government decision-makers and helps shape policy conversations in the media and elsewhere by providing the insights of directors on the pressing issues impacting Canada’s employers, workers, investors and managers.

The survey was conducted by Environics Research with 939 ICD members between March 4 and 31, 2019, yielding a responses rate of 7.4% overall. A sample of this size produces results that can be considered accurate to within +/3.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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