THE CEASELESS VOICE OF CHANGE
The Centre was founded by J. Richard Finlay, whose first-hand boardroom
experience and prescient voice have made him one of the world’s longest-cited experts in modern boardroom practices, sanity in CEO pay and the ethical responsibilities of trusted leaders.
His early warnings about the consequences of directors who do not direct and the dangers of excessive executive compensation read like a chronicle of history foretold. An ground breaking pioneer on the evolving role of business in society, Richard’s visionary views on social responsibility and the rise of stakeholder capitalism — a term he coined — have been citied in dozens of books, scholarly papers and law review journals, in proceedings in the Canadian House of Commons, Senate and the U.S. Congress.
Over the course of his professional life his advise and innovative thinking were sought out at the highest circles of power in Canada. His work and ideas were influential in speeches and economic policy initiatives by Canada’s 15th Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Pierre E. Trudeau. He has written speeches for three Canadian Prime Ministers and provided gam changing counsel and crisis management to numerous political figures and public officer holders.
In the private sector Richard participated in the founding, re-vitalization and restructuring of major NYSE and TSX listed companies, and several ethical investment funds. He provided the strategic blueprint and vision that led to the creation of the top full service government relations and public relations powerhouse in the country. He was retained to single handedly win regulatory approval that allowed for the entry into Canada of what soon became one its most successful commercial real estate companies. He provided the restructuring and re-branding strategy for one of Canada’s oldest life insurance companies that added significant value to its market capital.
With a constant eye on the seeds of folly and complacency that have undone countless leaders and corporations, Richard was among the first to see red flags at Confederation Life, Crown Life, RT Capital, YBM Magnex, Eatons, Lac Minerals, Nortel, Dennison Mines, Bear Stearns, Livent, Hollinger and a string of second tier financial institutions like Fidelity Trust and Unity Bank. He also correctly predicted the demise of those empires long before they occurred. The same seeds of smugness, self-approbation and ethical disdain that marked the fall of these companies lie within many organizations today, as does the potential of a similar failing trajectory. In the fifth decade of his professional life, Richard remains a steadfast guardian of the principles that keep organizations responsible, respected and successful.
Richard has been an unrelenting voice in speeches, interviews and his op-ed columns for diversity, inclusion and the expanded role of women in top management and in the boardroom since the early 1970s. He was one of the few inside business at the time to advance those views. Today, equity in the workplace, and diversity in the boardroom remain an unfinished task that commands much of his time and philanthropic activities.
Known in the media for his insightful views and forthright comments, Richard’s interviews have appeared in The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Wall Street Journal, the CBC, BNN Bloomberg, New York Post, Newsday, Canadian Business Magazine, The Globe and Mail, The Financial Times, Bloomberg, Toronto Star, Associated Press and Reuters. Its work has also been profiled in major publications in Europe and South America.
An award-winning writer, for many years Richard was a regular contributor to The Globe and Mail and the Financial Post, where he frequently broke news on stories that had not been reported anywhere else. In a landmark op-ed in The Globe and Mail in the 1980s, he broke new ground by calling for changes in the appointment of judges to Canada’s supreme court. It was the first time the proposal for an open hearing process had been made publicly and it has been cited and reprinted in numerous law text books and legal journals over the years.
Richard delivered his first key note address in the 1970s. His passionate belief in the social responsibilities of business, his foundation vision for the concept of stakeholder capitalism and his enduring commitment to the promise of the well-governed organization have made Richard a sought after speaker and panelist fifty years on.
The Moral Compass of the Boardroom
There is no substitute for a culture of integrity. Compliance alone with the law is not enough. History shows that those who make a practice of skating close to the edge always wind up going over the line. A higher bar of ethics performance is necessary. That bar needs to be set and monitored in the boardroom.
J. Richard Finlay, writing in The Globe and Mail, 2000.
“The document that gave birth to Nunavut’s Integrity Act was entitled For a Culture of Integrity. The following quote from J. Richard Finlay appeared at the beginning of that document: “… there is no substitute for a culture of integrity .… compliance alone with the law is not enough. History shows that those who make a practice of skating close to the edge always end up going over the line.”’
From the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut Annual Report, March 31, 2011