The Chairman of Syngenta, Michel Demaré, emphasized the importance today of compliance-informed leadership, at an event organized by Ethics and Compliance Switzerland.
The event, focused on the role of leadership for effective compliance, was hosted by Syngenta at its headquarters in Basel and moderated by Gabe Shawn Varges.
To the question as to whether he has seen the attitude to compliance change among Boards in the past years, Mr. Demaré recalled several experiences from his 35-year career. He indicated that he has observed significant cultural change at various levels, including among Boards of Directors and senior managers. Regardless of the company or the industry, he underscored the continuing need for all leaders, including members of the Board and of Compliance functions, to be well informed and not be afraid of difficult issues. Mr. Demaré suggested one simple test for making tough decisions: ‘If you have any hesitation – could you tell your family about the decision? ’.
Mr. Demaré, who serves as well on the Board of UBS and SwissHoldings, and is former CFO of ABB, also answered questions from the audience, bringing to bear both his Board and executive leader perspective. He touched on various topics, including the risk of “compliance fatigue” and the need for Board members to hear directly from the heads of the control functions and meet with employees at town-halls and similar events.
Following Mr. Demaré, the discussion continued with a panel consisting of Alexander Zinser (Reynolds American), Robert Lutz (Swissgrid) and Roman Mazzotta (Syngenta). They gave their views on the role and leadership obligations at the level of the compliance officer, including on promoting cultural change.
Answering several questions from the moderator and the audience, the panelists saw themselves as multipliers for the compliance message by empowering people to speak up as leaders, by holding them accountable, and by reminding them regularly of the personal and business value of Compliance.
The ECS event was organized by the ECS Working Group on Leadership. This group will continue its work on multi-level leadership and on the scope of topics which a Compliance Officer should seek to influence.
In the above connection, one last question was asked by the audience: ‘What place does Compliance have alongside other corporate social and cultural initiatives? Is it positive to look beyond compliance or should it be avoided for the risk of blurring the lines among Diversity & Inclusion, Corporate Responsibility and Compliance?’ Varges indicated that challenging questions such as this will be taken up at future events by the Working Group and invited audience members to join ECS and the Working Group on Leadership. He also informed that there other working groups at ECS, including on Life Science, Whistleblowing, Compliance Management Systems and SMO’s.