The discussion centred around the relationship between business and society, and what needs to be in place for this social contract to operate appropriately. There was an overwhelming consensus that good corporate governance is not something that is determined solely by the business nor the Board of Directors, increasingly it is the stakeholders who are able to vote with their wallets when they feel the business is not delivering on their values. This relationship should be underlined by proper legislation which plays an important role when existing checks and balances fail.
There were mixed emotions towards how the pandemic has impacted this relationship. In some regards, it showed what is possible when business and societies’ goals are aligned. This sparked optimism, particularly with regard to reaching climate targets in the coming decades. The panel also issued caution, suggesting that the regulation that came into being as a result of the 2008 financial crisis has played an important role, however we may need more to steward business behaviour in the future. Auditors can and will be crucial in this, enabling greater transparency around debt levels and financial resilience, however it was felt that they should not be seen as a guarantor.