Social and environmental issues will drive the future of governance, new report finds

London, 28 September 2018 – Broad social issues, such as demographic and technological change, as well as environmental sustainability will have a greater influence on the future course of governance according to a new report into millennial perspectives on the future of governance, launched last night by ICSA: The Governance Institute.

Trends in social attitudes, financial inequality and an ageing population are all expected to have a significant impact on governance, along with technological change in the form of higher risks and costs associated with data protection and cyber security, sector disruption, changes to existing job roles caused by automation and more flexible working conditions for employees. Concerns about extensive regulation and conflicting regulatory frameworks were also flagged as being of significance.  

ICSA Policy Officer Liz Bradley, author of the report said:

“Our research shows that changing public expectations will have an impact on the future development of governance. Millennials expect organisations of all types to play a part in dealing with economic, environmental and social challenges  ̶  not just the organisations that would typically address these issues. Given that millennials will make up roughly 75% of the global workforce by 2025, organisations ignore their views at their peril.”

Over 400 company secretaries and governance professionals contributed to the research, which compared the answers of millennial and generation Z respondents (aged 18-35) with respondents aged 56-65. The main findings show that:

  • 81% of all respondents believe legislation or other political action will be relevant to how concerns about environmental sustainability influence governance in the future
  • 87% believe that overlapping or conflicting regulatory frameworks are a feature of globalisation that will impact governance in the future
  • 84% of generation Y/Z think technological change is highly likely to cause significant governance challenges compared to 70% of established practitioners
  • 48% of generation Y/Z think environmental sustainability is highly likely to cause significant governance challenges compared to 27% of established practitioners
  • 71% of generation Y/Z think financial inequality is relevant to governance compared to 62% of established practitioners
  • 69% of generation Y/Z strongly agree that the level of scrutiny experienced by organisations will increase in the future compared to 61% of established practitioners
  • 42% of respondents think that insufficient time and resource to deal with the volume of applicable regulation will be the biggest obstacle to effective internal oversight in the next 10-15 years.

“It is clear that generation Y/Z governance professionals believe certain issues are more pressing than is currently appreciated by those in senior positions with greater levels of influence. If they are correct, this potentially leaves organisations at risk of being blindsided by social developments, left behind by their competitors or subject to more regulation in response to shifting public sentiment. If governance professionals feel that the increased willingness of governments and regulators to use mandatory reporting requirements and legislation to tackle issues such as diversity and remuneration is unhelpful, organisations must show politicians and the public that they can effectively address issues of concern without legislative intervention,” says Peter Swabey, Policy and Research Director, ICSA.

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Notes to Editors:

1      ICSA: The Governance Institute is the professional body for governance. We have members in all sectors and are required by our Royal Charter to lead ‘effective governance and efficient administration of commerce, industry and public affairs’. With over 125 years’ experience, we work with regulators and policy makers to champion high standards of governance and provide qualifications, training and guidance.

2      The full report can be viewed at  

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