Human rights and good corporate citizenship: Deakin Law School Oration

Media release
20 February 2018

One of the world’s foremost authorities on corporate governance, Professor Mervyn King SC, will be at Deakin this week where he will caution businesses who think they can focus solely on profit.

Professor King, who is known internationally for leading the development of the ground-breaking ‘King Reports’ that revolutionised corporate governance and reporting in South Africa and around the world, will deliver the 2018 Deakin Law School Oration.

His Deakin address, titled Human Rights and Good Corporate Citizenry will spell out why the long-term future of companies is tied to the way they embrace being good corporate citizens.

Professor King has spent decades advocating for companies to be accountable for their impact on society and the environment.

“A company’s ability to create value for itself depends on its ability to create value for others”, is the message his address will focus on.

“In our resource-constrained world, being a good corporate citizen is critical and we need companies whose business model has as little adverse impact as possible on society and the environment,” he said.

“A ‘good corporate citizen’ develops a business model which takes account of the connectivity and interdependencies between a range of factors that affect a company’s ability to create value over time.

“Included is the impact which its business model has on the economy, society, the environment and the rights which are inherent to all human beings.

“International law recognises crimes against humanity but what of the wrongs lawfully committed by companies which impact adversely on individuals in society and society as a whole?

“Can a company which lawfully commits wrongs on society and/or the environment continue to be a good corporate citizen?

“What are the consequences of these wrongs for the company and those who direct and manage its business?”

A senior counsel and former judge of the Supreme Court of South Africa, Professor King is president of the International Integrated Reporting Council, chairman of the King Committee on Corporate Governance in South Africa, chairman emeritus of the Global Reporting Initiative in Amsterdam, and a member of the Private Sector Advisory Group to the World Bank on Corporate Governance.

During his time in Melbourne, the University will award Professor King with a Deakin Honorary Doctorate in Laws.

Executive Dean of Deakin’s Faculty of Business and Law Professor Mike Ewing said it was an honour for the University to recognise the outstanding contribution Professor King has made to corporate governance around the world.

“Professor King is the world’s foremost authority on corporate governance and integrated reporting,” Professor Ewing said.

Nelson Mandela called Professor King ‘his favourite Judge’ and indeed it was Mandela who urged Justice King to explore how organisations could better meet the needs, interests and expectations of all stakeholders, not just the minority and not just shareholders.

“The result was the ‘King Reports’ on corporate governance, which not only introduced corporate guidelines for an emerging democracy but set the bar for corporate governance internationally.

“I am delighted that Deakin is recognising his international achievements in corporate governance, corporate law and accounting and his significant contribution to corporate social responsibility and sustainable long‑term economic growth globally.

“The Oration also builds on the work we are doing in integrated reporting within the Deakin Business School.”

The 2018 Deakin Law Oration is at Deakin Edge, Federation Square, Melbourne, on Thursday 22 February from 5.30pm – 7.15pm.

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