Aline Carrão 2015 Q&A: Conflict of Interest

How would you define the term “conflict of interest” and how might it apply to you while serving on the Board?

A conflict of interest is any situation where a person’s individual interests make them partial in a vote or decision. In the case of a board of directors, this makes it questionable that the person can make a decision aligned with the interests of the institution that they represent.

I can see this situation arising for me as a board member in two different ways: a conflict of interest related to an external element that would make me personally interested in the outcome of a decision (for example, a venue I want to visit for leisure being considered for the board’s annual retreat) or a conflict arising from a situation internal to the organization itself (any decision regarding a volunteer, committee, or proposal that I have a history with that might influence me too much, to the extent that my judgment would be clouded). In both cases, I believe that it is the duty of said director to disclose this position, situation, or interest, and to remove themselves from the decision if necessary.

Given that some of you intend to keep your other Org positions, how do you intend to deal with conflicts of interest when matters arise which impact your committee?

a. For example, if your committee wants to implement a change which requires Board approval, but is not necessarily in the OTW’s best interests, or would have an impact on another committee, how would you ensure that your contribution to the Board’s decision reflected your position as a Board member and not your personal opinion as a member of the committee?

b. Conversely, if another committee sought Board approval for something that would impact your own committee, how would you ensure that you were giving their arguments a fair hearing?

If a situation arises where my personal position as a member of a specific committee goes against the broader interests of the Organization and I believe I can’t distance myself enough to make a decision, I intend to recuse myself.

That said, our personal opinions, not only as members (and former members) of committees but also as individuals, will always be a factor in the way we approach issues and proposals. Being aware of that and consciously working to minimise this factor while hearing different views and approaches to the same issue with an open mind is the best way we can work to find a fair decision to all parties involved.

That is why I believe it is important to have representatives of diverse parts of the OTW in the board of directors and work in an environment where there’s open feedback and debate with the whole organization. This way we can ensure that opinions balance each other out, which increases the likelihood of an unbiased outcome.