Political and Economic Uncertainty, Climate Change and AI, Pressing Concerns for Canadian Directors

May 30, 2019
The results of a national survey by the Institute of Corporate Directors point to political and economic uncertainty as top of mind issues for the country’s board directors, but also points 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,” 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 directors feel they are spending sufficient time overseeing their organization’s culture, but that a strong majority reports not having objective measures for culture oversight or not 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:
  • 44% of Canada’s directors feel the Canadian economy will worsen in the coming 2-5 years (up by 4% from last year) and 50% 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 Alberta feeling significantly less optimistic about our prosperity in the coming years than Central and Eastern Canada.
  • 60% 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% believe that climate change is a pressing matter facing the country, only 22% believe the same for their company. 50% identified AI and automation as a top issue for the country but only 28% saw 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% of directors feel they spend the right amount of time on their oversight of corporate culture, 60% state they do not objectively measure their corporate culture or do not track their measures regularly.
Read the full survey: icd.ca/DLsurvey

About the ICD
The Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD) is a not-for-profit, member-based association representing Canadian directors and boards across the for-profit, not-for-profit, and Crown sectors. The ICD has more than 14,000 members and 11 Chapters across Canada and fosters the sharing of knowledge and wisdom through education, professional development programs and services, and thought leadership. ICD members across all sectors of the economy oversee well in excess of $1 trillion in market capitalization and institutions that impact the lives of virtually every Canadian.
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 – 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.