Corporate governance is often defined as providing proper oversight, accountability and transparency – from the top down. But there’s a difference between meeting guidelines because you’re obligated to and doing the right thing because it’s part of your DNA.
That’s why, for the sixth year in a row, the Governance Professionals of Canada (GPC) will honour Canada’s trailblazers with the Excellence in Governance Awards.
“To some degree governance is about having a good conscience,” said Lynn Beauregard, President of the GPC. “The tone gets set at the top. There’s a lot of attention on board and organizational culture these days because that is what trickles down through the organization and sets the standards for how an organization is going to behave.”
The Excellence in Governance Awards were created to tell the stories of these trailblazers and, hopefully, inspire other organizations to go beyond the accepted definitions of good governance.
They also provide a forum for benchmarking best practices, which have traditionally been difficult to compare and measure.
Corporate governance starts with a strong board of directors and includes processes to establish strategy, manage risk, engage top talent, drive success, oversee performance and report to shareholders and stakeholders. “We’re not looking for good governance; we’re looking for great governance,” said Ms. Beauregard.
“We’re looking for trailblazers who are going the extra step to making governance great.”
This year’s shortlisted nominees made the list not because of what they’ve done, but because of what they’re doing on a consistent basis.
“They’re not just doing this one-off – it’s part of their DNA and part of creating a sustainable practice that defines them apart from other organizations.
“They don’t just rest on their laurels; they try to push the envelope,” said Ms. Beauregard.
Judges look for consistency, as well as innovation and creativity. “What is considered ‘good’ has evolved significantly over the years – particularly since Enron – and will continue to evolve,” said Elizabeth Watson, Founder and President of Watson Inc., who is one of this year’s judges.
“The GPC awards highlight many important aspects of good governance and provide an opportunity to highlight practices that are seen as effective to help organizations perform better,” she said.
In today’s business environment, a brand of “good corporate governance” is seen as an important element of high-performing organizations, she said, and highlighting elements of this within Canadian companies provides an opportunity for others to gain insight into the practical aspects of governance and the evolving standards of what “good” looks like.
“As a judge, each year I am looking for organizations who are focused on good governance as a way to enhance organizational performance, and who have intentionally designed their practices to suit their unique situation,” said Ms. Watson.
“In every category, I am interested in those organizations who exhibit an ethical core, a real understanding of what good governance practice looks like, and a commitment to continuous improvement for the benefit of the organization, shareholders and stakeholders.”
There are a number of corporate governance best practices that are widely known and articulated in regulatory or voluntary guidelines. And many organizations are satisfied if they meet those guidelines.
“We sometimes refer to this as a ‘tick the box’ approach to governance,” said Ms. Watson. “However, organizations that truly want to perform better are always looking for ways to carry out aspects of governance that will lead to better results.”
A critical element of good governance is leadership – someone who helps to drive best practices, providing guidance to the board and management in various aspects of governance. This work often takes place behind the scenes and is often underappreciated or unrecognized.
These leaders, however, are the “curators” of governance in an organization, said Ms. Beauregard, and are deserving of recognition.
That’s why this year’s awards will feature a new category: Governance Professional of the Year. This new award not only recognizes these professionals but serves to inspire other organizations to establish or elevate similar roles themselves.
“We want to highlight the important and crucial role that these professionals play in supporting their boards and organizations, and in taking their governance practices to the next level,” Ms. Beauregard said.
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.