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Joint Committee Chair Explores Corporate Ethics and Governance

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Guylaine Saucier, who chaired the Joint Committee on Corporate Governance, spoke at a Glendon public lecture on October 18th on the topic of "The Link Between Corporate Ethics and Governance". A very highly respected business personality with an eclectic range of business involvements, Saucier brings many years of outstanding achievement to her profession, both in the private and public sectors.

Saucier commented on the difficult nature of this topic, “…because shareholders don’t trust management today…”, as a result of the widely publicized unethical behaviour of certain corporations and their leading personalities.

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 the board of a corporation is ultimately the decision-making body concerning corporate values, the choice and evaluation of the CEO, and the company’s business strategies. It is the body setting 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 readership 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”, declared Saucier.

Guylaine Saucier is a graduate of the École des Hautes études commerciales in Montreal, a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants and a leader within the chartered accountant profession. Saucier, who is 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. Mme Saucier is Chair of the industry-wide Joint Corporate Governance Committee, and has also served as Chair of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants. 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.

When Guylaine Saucier became a Member of the Order of Canada in 1989, her citation noted that "she has displayed exceptional civic-mindedness and has made a significant contribution to the business world".

By Marika Kemeny, Glendon Communications Officer


Published on October 22, 2004