Governance is constantly evolving and more prominent than ever before, primarily due to the growing importance of environmental, social and governance (ESG) in the global business ecosystem. This evolution requires practitioners to be informed of the latest policy developments, to anticipate key challenges organisations may face and to deploy good practice as the tenet of any potential response.
The best way to meet this challenge is a blend of on-the-job experience and organised learning. Having gained significant experience guiding organisations through their most pressing governance issues and observing ESG rise up the governance agenda, I knew I had to make the investment to further my understanding. After an extensive search, it became clear that undertaking the Leading Sustainable Corporations Programme at Saïd Business School would accelerate my development and be the perfect complement to my existing expertise.
After discussions with my employer, it became clear that they were not willing to support me in undertaking the programme, which presented me with the choice to either abandon my plans or fund the programme myself. I chose to self-fund and I can truly say that it was one of the best investments I have ever made in my personal development. In ESG we talk a lot about impact and adding value, so what did undertaking this programme do for me? The combination of the subject matter as well as the global recognition of Saïd Business School opened up a number of opportunities, particularly with potential next steps in my career.
Moving on and moving up
Having recognised I had reached a ceiling of development and opportunities at the organisation I was working for at the time, I explored transitioning into senior opportunities within Corporate Governance and ESG consulting. Whilst my career experience was strong, the Leading Sustainable Corporations programme was a differentiating factor from my peers. During an interview for the firm I ended up working for, the Chief Executive (who is from the US) commented positively on the programme but even more so on Oxford Saïd, demonstrating the global reach and credibility of the institution.
Upon joining the firm, I now found myself working with a more diverse range of organisations in terms of sector, industry and geography. As the firm’s governance subject matter expert, I was invited to attend and speak at international panels, roundtables and events such as the International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants (IESBA). Without question, I would not have been prepared for or able to succeed in such opportunities without having completed the Oxford programme.
What did the programme involve?
It was all undertaken online across a six-week period, with almost 200 peers in attendance. Each week consisted of a new module followed by a module-specific assignment where you were expected to answer 3-4 questions. Lectures were pre-recorded which meant that you had the flexibility around work to watch them when it suited you. Each lecture had a guest speaker, which consisted of international sustainability leaders, standard-setters and policy makers, providing exposure to a real breadth of experts. Topics covered a range of areas and provided tangible recommendations and methodologies for improving an organisation’s sustainability journey from any point of the maturity scale. I enjoyed all of the modules, but I naturally gravitated towards the governance, risk and reporting module as well as the final module on how you can enact sustainable change in an organisation. While these areas align with my own background of corporate governance, they provided fresh insight on how to support organisations to implement effective change and how to guide them through each step.
The other part of the programme that was equally beneficial was to meet peers. The programme utilised seminar and working groups effectively and there are several connections I made during my time that are still strong, even now 18 months on from completing it. In my peer group alone, I had senior partners of ESG consulting practices at the Big Four, Directors of Governance, Heads of Sustainability and ESG - these are all now in my network and are positive contacts.
The final part is that you become an elumni of Saïd Business School. At the time of writing, I have just returned from a weekend in Oxford where I attended a conference with fellow elumni. We discussed the latest thinking in ESG and had a special presentation on the relevance of the evolving world of AI to ESG. This was yet another fantastic networking opportunity both at the conference and concluding with a special dinner at Balliol College in the evening. All of this would not have been possible without me having undertaken this executive education at Saïd Business School, which reinforces the decision that I made to undertake the Leading Sustainable Corporations programme.
Overall, I have nothing but positive things to say about my study. I feel it has accelerated my personal development, my knowledge in the areas of Corporate Governance and ESG and has provided opportunities in my career that I would not have had without the programme. I very much look forward to continuing to use what I learned to help further my own development, whilst also delivering value to those I work with.