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The Interview, with Rio Tinto’s Isabelle Deschamps

27 April 2023 • by David Bach in Governance

In conversation with David Bach, IMD's Professor of Strategy and Political Economy, Isabelle Deschamps talks about ethics, leadership, and getting ahead of the curve....

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Globally, firms are coming under increasing pressure to weigh profit-making against their social and environmental responsibilities. The trend, which breaks with a long tradition of shareholder primacy, requires business leaders to understand the needs, interests, and expectations of a diverse array of stakeholders. At Rio Tinto, no one has a greater awareness of this than Isabelle Deschamps.

As the mining group’s Chief Legal Officer, Deschamps is not short of responsibility. Her remit includes legal, ethical, and corporate governance functions, as well as communications and public affairs.

It’s rare that companies bring all of these functions together under one person. But Deschamps says that while at first glance they may seem to conflict with one another, the key to solving all of them is listening: “When you talk about communications you think about ‘transparency’, when you talk about legal you think ‘defense’. But that’s not the way we see it. We see that all these functions can create positive tension but also help us get to the right decision-making.”

Deschamps says that to improve decision-making, every stakeholder – both internal and external – needs to be given a voice. In conversation with David Bach, IMD’s Professor of Strategy and Political Economy, she talks about ethics, leadership, and getting ahead of the curve.


Isabelle Deschamps joined Rio Tinto in November 2021 and has extensive international experience. She is admitted to the England and Wales Law Society, and to the Quebec Bar in Canada. Deschamps has also worked as General Counsel of the AkzoNobel Group and a member of its Executive Committee, and prior to this at Unilever.

David Bach is IMD’s Professor of Strategy and Political Economy, Rio Tinto Chair in Stakeholder Engagement, and Dean of Innovation and Programs. He is a political economy expert with a proven track record of creating impactful learning journeys in a dual role as both Professor and Dean. His course The End of Globalization? – designed in the aftermath of the Brexit vote and the rise of populist leaders across Western democracies – received the 2018 Ideas Worth Teaching Award from the Aspen Institute.

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