New research on the chairs of public companies reveals Australian businesses are facing a multitude of challenges at home and abroad. 

    The research by international executive search and management consultancy Heidrick & Struggles — Who are the chairs of Australia’s top public companies? — showed that in addition to the impact of global crises like COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine, Australian businesses are contending with changes in political governance and a rising cost of living. The effects of these disruptions have been swift, with remote work gaining significant ground and sustainability, flexibility, inclusion and employee wellbeing becoming increasingly important factors in attracting talent. As societal expectations for business leaders continue to rise, boards and chairs must be prepared to guide their companies through a volatile future. However, the research finds that the profile of chairs of ASX 50 companies remains traditional, most chairs being men with CEO backgrounds and previous chair experience. While such chairs bring deep expertise to the table, boards may well benefit from broadening their horizons in their succession planning approach to better prepare for multiple scenarios and time horizons, the report suggests.

    Key findings

    • Most ASX 50 chairs had previous experience as chair on a public company board and significant tenure on their current boards.
    • The current chairs spent an average of 4.2 years on their current boards before being appointed as chairs, while their overall average tenure on their current boards is less than nine years.
    • 84 per cent of current ASX 50 chairs have had at least one committee chair role on their current boards; 41 per cent had two.
    • Chairing the nomination committee is by far the most common role. The majority of committee appointments (59 per cent) were made at the same time as the chair appointment.
    • Looking at their overall experience, there are more chairs with financial services and industrial experience at the helm of ASX 50 boards. It’s notable that 45 per cent of chairs have government experience.
    • 59 per cent of chairs held executive leadership roles in the same industry as the companies they are currently chairing.


    Food for thought

    Food insecurity, stimulated by the rising cost of living, is a reality for nearly a quarter of Australian households.

    In a pre-budget submission co-signed by Foodbank, OzHarvest and SecondBite, the food relief sector has called out growing food insecurity driven by the crunch of economic pressures in 2022.

    Food insecurity has become a growing concern in Australia over the past year, the submission reveals, with 23 per cent of Australian households struggling to access food more often than the previous year.

    Rising cost of living was identified as the primary cause for food insecurity in 2022, 64 per cent of households citing high living expenses (food and groceries, energy, housing costs) as the reason for their food insecurity.

    Reduced or low income and government benefits were also significant contributing factors, affecting 42 per cent of households.

    Households with dependent children, young adults (18–24) and those who are unemployed are particularly at risk. As are renters, with 45 per cent of renting households reporting difficulties accessing food. Surprisingly, 54 per cent of households with someone in paid work, and 30 per cent of households with mortgages also experienced food insecurity in 2022.

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