Sir Adrian Cadbury – A Pillar and Stalwart of Governance

Sir Adrian Cadbury – A Pillar and Stalwart of Governance

In early September 2015 the ‘governance community’ lost one of its pillars and stalwarts – Sir Adrian Cadbury.

Cadbury was at the forefront of thinking about and defining this thing we today call ‘corporate governance’. Following a number of scandals in the UK, he led the initiative to address the impact of corporate behaviour and think through principles that could ensure that this impact, so often negative, was in some way controlled. One of the founding governance documents carries his name – the Cadbury Report. In this, he introduced thinking that remains in many of the principles of governance internationally.

The underlying guiding principles of these reforms – that companies (and those who lead companies) must be able to explain their actions if they veer from best practice – is still a significant foundation stone of governance thinking today. It is reflected not only in corporate governance codes around the world but has also influenced the drafting of legislation which more recently has moved away from simply regulating corporate process to endeavouring to control corporate behaviour. It does so by placing significant responsibility and accountability on the shoulders of those making decisions in business.

A quote that illustrates the importance Cadbury placed on the role of decision makers in business is, ‘shelving hard decisions is the least ethical course!’ In addition, he was an advocate of independent non-executive directors who play a significant role in ensuring the robustness of decision-making in companies.

The corporate world should unite in thanking Sir Adrian Cadbury, who passed away at the age of 86, for his contribution. This made him one of the ‘statesmen’ of governance internationally – and laid some of the most significant foundations for sustainable companies.

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