REVIEW: Helle Bank Jorgensen — Stewards of the Future: A Guide for Competent Boards (BOOK)
“I have had the good fortune to work with many fine companies during my thirty-year career, helping to embed integrated thinking and sustainability in their DNA. Yet all too often, I have come across a big stumbling block: the board of directors has shown little interest in the project,” writes Helle Bank Jorgensen. So begins her new book, titled Stewards of the Future: A Guide for Competent Boards.
COMPETENT BOARDS: https://competentboards.com/
ACCOUNTING FOR SUSTAINABILITY: https://www.accountingforsustainability.org/en/index.html
WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM: https://www.weforum.org/communities/expert-network
The opening sentiments and to-the-point christening are communicative enough of what Jorgensen is advocating for. It’s a take-no-prisoners kind of literary approach to her argumentations, designed less to convert and more to support preexistent advocates. Stewards of the Future details from A to Z what Jorgensen calls the ‘ESG’ (Environment, Social, Governance), a precept that as far as she’s concerned is a vital necessity for the post-modernist board of directors framework. Specifically, an approach which effectively shoehorns in values related to environmental, social, and neo-leadership causes. As far as Jorgensen is concerned, what she’s promoting is simply common sense.
It’s clear she feels that for anyone self-aware enough to have their finger on the pulse of the post-modern corporate jungle, the implementation of ESG values to board leadership techniques equates to survival. One without the other in an increasingly digitized and remote set of workplace scenarios and relationships is becoming improbable. “Besides the risk of missing out on vast opportunities, companies that fail to embrace (change agents) could find themselves struggling to defend their brands and their reputations. Young people in particular are demanding to know what an organization’s stance is on broader social and environmental issues,” Jorgensen writes in this vein. “…In the future, the onus will be on businesses to show that they are not just producing stuff and making money but also doing some good for society as a way of making money. This applies especially in parts of the world that were once viewed by many Western companies simply as emerging markets, ripe for the picking.”
By spelling it out in concise but deliberately simple word choice, there’s no room for skirting or ‘interpreting’ what Jorgensen writes about, other than how she intended. It’s an effective tactic that many other books covering similar topical themes in the nonfiction subcategories of leadership advice and self-help might want to embrace. A lot of books detailing the changes undergoing workplace environments veer dangerously towards the sentimental. Facts can easily take a backseat to flowery rhetoric, while beautiful for those committed and onboard — it won’t appeal or hold power to those who aren’t.
Again, Jorgensen herself isn’t out to convert the naysayers. She writes from a place of confidence that the vast majority of people picking up a copy of Stewards will statistically be biased in her favor. But there’s no denying if you aren’t onboard the book is still unusually powerful. Specifically because it never does go the route of emotionality or excess rhetoric, staying firmly in its ideological lane with facts and findings. “Among the crises that can blindside even the most competent boards, few match the far-reaching consequences of allegations that a company or its suppliers are guilty of abusing human rights,” Jorgensen writes. “Just ask Nike…”