Directors’ voice in Brussels: ecoDa

Interview with Dr. Béatrice Richez-Baum

EcoDa has been representing Europe’s directors since early 2005, just slightly longer than ILA has been in operation. We spoke to Beatrice Richez-Baum, ecoDa’s director general, about their role at the European level of listening, communicating, and promoting best practice.

As environmental, social and governance concerns have become embedded across EU policy-making, so it is increasingly important for Europe’s corporate governance professionals to be heard in Brussels. “Our role is to promote greater expertise amongst the 55,000 directors represented by our 19 members, and ensure that this knowhow is listened to by European decision makers,” explained Beatrice.

Created in December 2004 and starting activity in 2005, ecoDa was founded by the French, Belgian and UK director’s associations, with ILA joining swiftly thereafter. In particular she remembers the contribution of ILA’s founding chair Patrick Zurstrassen, who went on to become ecoDa’s fifth chair in 2011. ILA’s Virginie Lagrange is currently one of ecoDa’s 15 board members.

Expanded role

Monitoring how corporate governance policy is discussed and developed at the EU level, and communicating this to members is a central task. Principally this concerns keeping a check on activity and thinking at the European Commission, at the European Parliament and with regulators. EcoDa is also in touch with global debates through their membership of the Global Network of Directors Institutes.

“Work used to be concentrated in a limited number of policy areas, particularly regarding the financial sector,” Beatrice noted. “However more recently it has expanded to cover a wider range of areas of activity and thus increasing scope of work by the European Commission, Parliament and other institutions.” 

For example, ecoDa is represented at the EU level in the European Corporate Reporting Lab and the European Lab Project Task Force on Climate-related Reporting. As well, an ecoDa endorsement helped secure an appointment for a member to the ESMA Corporate Reporting Standing Committee. They have just finalised  a pan-European cybersecurity handbook for corporate boards together with the Internet Security Alliance and AIG.

Advocacy, education, best practice

This is accompanied by the advocacy work, demonstrating to decision makers how corporate governance practice has developed in range and sophistication in recent years. This involves pointing out the value directors can add, not just in terms of ensuring financial and economic stability and growth, but also their efforts monitoring and driving action on sustainability and diversity. This work is organised through events, webinars, and position papers which are all designed to influence and develop thinking.

These messages are amplified when directors are seen to be adding value for businesses and organisations of all types and sizes. Hence ecoDa’s work to complement national institutes’ educational activity of developing skills and awareness. For example, they run regular programmes which attract directors from across Europe, with Luxembourg professionals particularly frequent attendees. EcoDa also seeks to promote mutual recognition of director qualifications, and the growth of a European community of training providers.

They also promote best practice, benchmarking the activities of different member associations. Beatrice welcomes in particular the example set and support received from ILA. “ILA contributes a substantial amount, particularly regarding director education, and developing policies and best practice.” She sees the value for associations and directors looking beyond national borders to build relationships with other individuals and organisations, with ILA being a particularly fine example of this approach.