There is no substitute for a culture of integrity in organizations. 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.

Sound governance is not some abstract ideal or utopian pipe dream. Nor does it occur by accident or through sudden outbreaks of altruism. It happens when leaders lead with integrity, when directors actually direct and when stakeholders demand the highest level of ethics and accountability.  ~ J. Richard Finlay in testimony before the Standing Committee on Banking, Commerce and the Economy, Senate of Canada.

The Finlay Centre for Corporate & Public Governance is the longest continuously cited voice on modern governance standards. Our work over the course of four decades helped to build the new paradigm of ethics and accountability by which many corporations and public institutions are judged today.

The Finlay Centre was founded by J. Richard Finlay, one of the world’s most prescient voices for sound boardroom practices, sanity in CEO pay and the ethical responsibilities of trusted leaders. He coined the term stakeholder capitalism in the 1980s.

We pioneered the attributes of environmental responsibility, social purposefulness and successful governance decades before the arrival of ESG. Today we are trying to rebuild the trust that many dubious ESG practices have shattered. 


We were the first to predict seismic boardroom flashpoints and downfalls and played key roles in regulatory milestones and reforms.

We’re working to advance the agenda of the new boardroom and public institution of today: diversity at the table; ethics that shine through a culture of integrity; the next chapter in stakeholder capitalism; and leadership that stands as an unrelenting champion for all stakeholders.

Our landmark work in creating what we called a culture of integrity and the ethical practices of trusted organizations has been praised, recognized and replicated around the world.


Our rich institutional memory, combined with a record of innovative thinking for tomorrow’s challenges, provide umatached resources to corporate and public sector players.

Trust is the asset that is unseen until it is shattered.  When crisis hits, we know a thing or two about how to rebuild trust— especially in turbulent times.

We’re still one of the world’s most recognized voices on CEO pay and the role of boards as compensation credibility gatekeepers. Somebody has to be.

Both Democrat-controlled houses of the new 110th Congress passed ethics legislation last week that includes major provisions designed to curb improper influence on the part of lobbyists. The reforms put a lid on gifts from lobbyists and greater transparency into the legislative process. These are positive steps. But we have seen this picture before. Each time a bunch of legislators wind up resigning or going to prison, as several have done in the past few months, things get shaken up in the ethics file. There was a major ethics push in the face of the House post office scandal in the 1980s. Before that, ethical transgressions reached up to claim then House Speaker Carl Albert. Newt Gingrich also resigned the Speaker’s chair under an ethics cloud in the 1990s that brought promises of reform.

Canada’s parliament has been nudging toward tougher ethical rules, too. Several years ago, I was invited to appear before a committee of the House of Commons in connection with a new bill to register lobbyists. I threw a bit of a curve when I suggested there needed to be a code of conduct for members of parliament and senators, not just lobbyists. It took a decade or so for them to actually get on with it.

Of course, you can never really legislate an end to undue influence. The fact remains that the ordinary citizen has zero chance of being able to call up and actually speak with their elected representatives; those who lobby for special interests and spend time in the same social surroundings as lawmakers tend to have their calls put through.

In the months and years to come, there will be new scandals that reveal weaknesses in the system –and in the character of elected officials. More heads will roll and still tougher reforms will be demanded. When changes occur, lawmakers will be applauded again, as they are now, for taking action to stem ethical lapses that never should have occurred in the first place. But it’s good to know that there are periods when the politicians at least make some effort to catch up to where the people have long since been in the standards of conduct they expect their elected officials to follow.