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Sustainability requires change in the boardroom

How do you supervise long-term value creation and societal impact? Earlier blog posts shared tips to bring sustainability into the boardroom and the conclusion that sustainability belongs in the boardroom. In the context of a course I am teaching to supervisory board members, I interviewed Fennemiek Gommer, vice-chair of the supervisory board of care provider Triade Vitree about the topic of sustainability in their boardroom. 

“In the healthcare sector, long term value creation is mostly about sustainable relationships and continuity of care. The quality of care for clients is the core. This is very different from the discourse on the long term in companies, where the sustainability of the company itself is a factor as well. Guaranteeing good care and realizing the societal objectives are central to the 2017 Dutch governance code for the healthcare sector.

Short-term topics always seem more urgent

To me, responsible business and long-term value creation are all about a change in attitude. It’s challenging to give this sufficient priority on the board agenda; there are always short-term topics that seem more urgent. Yet it all starts with raising awareness and recognizing that no one has all the answers. Communications across clients, staff, the executive board and the supervisory board is essential. 

As care organization, we don’t just want to provide housing for our clients, but a home. The best way to create this is through co-creation with our clients and other stakeholders. This development of sustainable relationships and spaces is the responsibility of the executive board. The role of the supervisory board is to stimulate these developments. 

Continuous learning is key for future-proof decisions

To expand our knowledge and for inspiration, every year each of the members of the supervisory board spends time helping out in one of our care facilities. It’s a quite hands-on experience, for example joining the crew in the kitchen. These types of experiences, change the conversations we have within the supervisory board and with the executive board. They fuel an improved balance between the roles of partner and challenges of the management board. Our conversations are more open and offer the opportunity to recognize that we do – and especially what we don’t – know. This way, we continue to learn, also as the supervisory board. I am convinced that only through continuous learning can we take better decisions for the future.”

Fennemiek Gommer is supervisory board member and founder of Caracta Future DirectionsTriade Vitree provides care for youth and the disabled, as well as mental health care in several provinces in the Netherlands. 

Are you ready to integrate sustainability, societal impact and long-term value creation into your supervisory board role? Join one of the upcoming courses I will teach in the Netherlands or order the handbook I co-authored on the topic (both in Dutch). Not able to attend these workshops or read Dutch, get in touch.

Written by Marjolein Baghuis (@mbaghuis) for the Change in Context blog and the Erkende Toezichthouder website. To read about interesting people, book reviews and other posts about sustainability, change, and communications please subscribe to this blog in the right-hand column.