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GSK ranked at bottom of ‘good governance’ report

Published on 10/10/17 at 10:10am

A new report emerging from the Institute of Directors placed UK pharma giant, GSK, in last place out of 103 companies in regards to its own specific criteria for good governance for UK companies.

The aim of the report is to push the companies involved to consider a wider range of factors when judging how competently the board and executive are functioning.

In total, there are 47 criteria by which companies on the list are judged, with a survey of stakeholders determining how well each individual business is performing in each area. Of the 47 factors involved, some include: board diversity, directors’ pay, whether they have a whistleblowing policy, and the ratio between CEO remuneration and market cap.

Ken Olisa, Deputy Chair of the Institute of Directors, said of the report: “I would argue that business is a form of sport. And as with any sport, championship requires a comprehensive understanding of the human, the equipment, the arena and of course the rules. An obsession with only one of those elements – for example, the rules – won’t win medals. And equally, conformity in which all of the participants are required to act in identical ways is antithetical to competition.”

This stance reflects why GSK achieved such a lowly position; it did not perform well across the board but struggled particularly in the ‘Audit Risk & External Accountability’ section, an area that was given greater weighting in the report this year.

GSK spokesperson said: “We take our responsibilities with regard to corporate governance very seriously particularly in areas such as executive pay, board governance, employee diversity, audit management and relations with external stakeholders. While there is always more we could do, we don’t recognise the conclusions of this work and will seek to understand the findings fully.”

For GSK, it will be a source of frustration to be plumb at the bottom of the list, especially given how the company was overhauled under Andrew Witty’s leadership after a series of ethical scandals, including being fined for bribery in China.

However, it will be able to point towards Emma Walmsley’s only recent appointment as CEO as a change not only in the diversity of its board but as an indicator that further change is likely as she makes her stamp on the company.

The list was topped by Diageo, the multinational alcoholic beverages company, which produces drinks such as Guinness, Smirnoff and Johnnie Walker.

Ben Hargreaves

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