Directors should push companies to look beyond profits: conference

Company directors are well placed to help push businesses into adopting wider social goals beyond just maximising profits for their shareholders, according to a conference on Wednesday.

Firms should also generate value for their employees, the community and society, such as by employing older workers or paying higher salaries to low-wage staff, added speakers at the Singapore Institute Of Directors' (SID's) Directors Conference, held at Marina Bay Sands.

"As members of the board, directors are influential leaders in your organisations. You can help by asking the right questions," said guest of honour Josephine Teo, who is Senior Minister of State for Finance and Transport.

She noted that many of the directors she knows are "persons of great knowledge, competence and integrity who care deeply about the company and the business".

"They take their roles very seriously, but even they are sometimes not aware of the business practices that discriminate against older workers.

"They are sometimes surprised to learn of the pay that their most junior employees earn, the long discontinuous hours these workers clock at work and are unaware of the dissonance caused by their changing employee profile."

As firms also rely on the "social ecosystem" to be functioning well, directors should "take an interest in the affairs of [their] companies beyond the financial statements and the management reports", added Mrs Teo, who was addressing about 500 corporate leaders and directors at the conference.