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Blog : BOARD TALK

Ladbrokes, Diversity And Social Responsibility In The Boardroom

Posted on July 4, 2014 at 9:45 AM

A headhunter once told me that it was easier to get women on boards of slightly 'risky' companies involved in activities such as betting or manufacturing and selling tobacco, as the women were keen, and the men would avoid them. No comment.


As Ladbrokes plc, the FTSE250 business, says itself on its website "The name Ladbrokes is synonymous with betting and gaming: the hallmark of a leading betting brand." It appointed Christine Hodgson to its board in 2012 as a non-executive director - her first such role. I interviewed Ms Hodgson for the FT in 2013, and at the time I expressed surprise, given her background, that she had never before been approached for a board role.


Her appointment came a year after Lord Davies launched his review of women in the boardroom. But she was the second woman to be appointed to the board of Ladbrokes, which was notable for a FTSE250 company. The following year she was appointed to the board of Standard Chartered Bank, in the FTSE100.


Talking to her then for another piece for the FT Non-Executive Director's Club (member's only) website, she said: " Non-executive directors are essential, but only in as much as they are there for their skills, their background and a genuine mix of experience. Since I joined the board of Ladbrokes plc last May, I have been struck by the diversity of the board – it is very enriching to be part of debates that involve very different perspectives.”


That diversity may well be the key to today's decision by Ladbrokes. It has just announced that it has established a new Social Responsibility Committee to help the business oversee "the delivery of a socially responsible approach to providing betting and gaming services."

 

This committee is be comprised of John Kelly, the Senior Independent Director as Chair and Christine Hodgson, non-executive director  - with Peter Erskine, Chairman and Richard Glynn, Chief Executive in attendance.

 

The Social Responsibility Committee will sit at least three times a year, says Ladbrokes. It will "monitor and report to the Board on the adherence to and development of Responsible Gambling policy across all areas of the business. It will also assess performance against other key social responsibility targets."


Even better, company experts "will be asked to attend the Committee on a regular basis and the Committee will work closely with the Remuneration Committee on developing key performance indicators which will be used to ensure that responsible gambling is reflected in executive remuneration."


Peter Erskine, Ladbrokes Chairman said: "It is clear that trust in bookmakers has been impacted by negative publicity and lobbying in the last year, and while we may believe that much of the concern is ill founded, we accept that it is only by our actions will be able to win it back." 


That sounds a lot like innovation to me - albeit possibly with a certain amount of grudging acquiescence.


Whether or not business believes that much public concern is "ill-founded" it needs to start demonstrating that it takes the erosion of trust very seriously indeed. And business needs to recognise that it's all about 'business in society' not 'business and society' as separate worlds, in separate bubbles. We also need more innovation in our boardrooms desperately - see today's post at Forbes for a different take on this subject.


Interestingly, the FTSE250 appears to be waking up on appointing more women to boards, as I posted here the other day. I hope someone tracks the path of diversity on plc boards with innovation....or I might have to do it.


Categories: Women, Diversity, Communication