Interview with Estelle Clark, Riversimple Governance. Written for Riversimple
Estelle Clark joined Riversimple to take a leading role shaping the business as it develops. She is Head of Profession at the Chartered Quality Institute, which is the chartered body for quality management professionals in Britain, and Chairman of the Technical & Advisory Board of Lloyds Register Quality Assurance. Her work has a particular focus on quality, safety, sustainability and innovation.
“This is about developing the fundamental principles for a new governance model and it could not be more timely. As Steward, ensuring the balance of interests of the 6 Riversimple custodians, a key step is to agree a code for:
How the six custodians work together for the success of the business
How we clearly identify our different ‘constituents’ – in particular for the environment which doesn’t have “a voice” per se
How we consult with these constituents and bring the results back to the head table where decisions are made.
This process must be based upon sound principles– just like the engine of a good car. I think all of the custodians are fully aware of how challenging this is, we all have our feet firmly on the ground.”
On Multi Stake Holder Governance
“We don’t know of any other business that is articulating the kind of broad reaching structure for stakeholder engagement that Riversimple is working towards.
There are highly successful modern businesses, such as the Fairtrade Movement and the John Lewis Partnership that are governed by a principles-based constitution with a number of other stakeholders. What we are advocating now is a business model that thinks in advance, with everyone that has skin in the game – including the environment – involved.”
On the Financial Lens
“The investors are normally the focus of a business and their needs are considered paramount. This has led to bad behavior at the top of some companies – JB Sports, BHS.
But even leaving aside these big news stories, if the customer, the community, the environment etc. is only seen through the lens of the investor, then a poor decision may only be recognized further along the line when things start to go seriously wrong. By the time customers are complaining about a product or people are protesting about the way a business operates on social media, the damage has been done.
So there is a real opportunity here to do something better for everyone, including the investors. I would rather know where the pressure points are before a decision is made than act on problems retrospectively when they manifest.”
On the Bigger Picture
“The Brexit vote really rocked the foundations of business, exposing widely held public doubt about the role that business plays in society today. This is stark. Key public figures are already debating how to rebuild public trust. It begins with the businesses themselves. A cohesive society relies upon businesses that are well-run.
Largely because of the impact of social media, there is nowhere to hide when a business makes poor decisions. People can make their own purchasing decisions based on the experience and reviews of others. A huge percentage of consumers read online reviews before buying a product or service – or applying for a job. For the social media generations, everyone has a viewpoint and everyone gets a say.
There is growing opinion that a well structured and well tested multi stakeholder model could be the solution for getting business back on the front foot. So the Riversimple model is developing at a prescient moment in history.”
A Code for Better Business
“Meanwhile at Riversimple an exciting new model is evolving. How can you argue that staff or customers or any one of the constituent groups represented by our custodians should not have a say in what a business does?
Business with impact, business that earns trust, sustainable business that will stand the test of time – that is what this is about.”
Riversimple is an engineering company that designs and builds super efficient hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Their first poduction prototype, Riversimple Rasa, was released in February 2016
The company is based in Wales, UK.