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For these recipients of the 2016 EGAs, the awards underscore a commitment to set new benchmarks in governance. Winning organizations included: ATB; CN; The Co-Operators; Goldcorp; Gore Mutual; Manulife; MEG Energy; RBC; Transcanada; and Vancouver Airport Authority.

There are many ways to measure how organizations fare, like ROI and KPI. Add another to the mix: the EGAs. That stands for the Excellence in Governance Awards, which recognize trailblazers in critical practice areas such as stakeholder communications, disclosure, risk management, diversity, board practices, and more.

Effective corporate governance increases accountability, trust, transparency and, ultimately, performance. The EGA program, created by the Governance Professionals of Canada (GPC) in 2013, aims to promote good governance and recognize organizations that raise the bar.

"Through the awards, we provide the awareness of what organizations are doing to see what the best of the best are achieving and how," says Lynn Beauregard, GPC president and architect of the EGAs.

GPC's membership includes corporate secretaries, general counsels, heads of legal, risk, ethics and compliance, business executives and anyone else involved in corporate governance.

This is the fifth year for the EGAs, which are being presented at a Toronto gala on November 2. The awards have steadily grown since their inception in 2013, with more than 80 nominees this year. Past winners include RBC, TransCanada Corp., ATB Financial, CN, BMO, Shoppers Drug Mart, Canadian Blood Services, Hamilton Community Foundation, University of Calgary and the BC Cancer Foundation.

"If you look at the nominees, these are all significant organizations," says Beauregard. "And it's not just large, public companies. There is everything from local airport authorities and housing corporations, to co-ops, not-for-profits and crown corporations."

The big push for corporate governance in Canada started in 1994, when Peter Dey (currently the chair of Paradigm Capital) chaired a Toronto Stock Exchange committee on developing good governance among the country's publicly listed corporations.

The Dey Report, as it became known, outlined the steps these companies needed to take to improve their governance standards. That led to the creation of the Canadian Society of Corporate Secretaries (renamed GPC in 2016), which was to act as a central resource for companies implementing the new industry standards.

For years, the benchmark remained the practices in The Dey Report. Yet many corporations worked to exceed these standards. Beauregard says the annual EGAs are a natural evolution of the GPC, to honour these leaders and inspire others to follow in their governance footsteps.

The EGAs highlight best practice in nine categories, including:

  • Enterprise Risk Management;
  • Sustainability and ESG (environment, social and governance);
  • Effective Board and Committee Operations;
  • Enhancing Boardroom Diversity;
  • Strategic Planning, Oversight and Value Creation by the Board;
  • Engagement by a Governance Team;
  • Compensation, Disclosure and Communication;
  • Subsidiary Governance; and
  • Overall Corporate Governance.

"The areas we emphasize through these awards are all based on solid best practices that look at the qualifiable elements, rather than focusing solely on the quantifiable elements," says Beauregard. "It's not just about checking off the box on a list for what is the standard. It's about going above and beyond."

The EGA jury panel includes governance thought leaders from across Canada, including shareholder representatives, regulatory experts, academics and practitioners.

Beauregard hopes that the winners and nominees will be able to raise the profile of their roles and efforts within their organizations, and highlight their best practices to their members, stakeholders and community.

"It's not just the prestige that these organizations are after, it's the reinforcement. When they are out there trying to influence their community, members or investors, they can say, 'We are focused on governance and here's the proof'," she explains.

The EGAs recognize the practices of governance professionals and their organizations to build and sustain shareholder and stakeholder value in Canada. In doing so, good governance supports the competitiveness of Canada's economy and its capital markets.

As Canada's organizations strive to improve corporate governance, Beauregard expects the EGAs to continue expanding.

"Organizations believe this is an important program in Canada, and we have seen the momentum grow in the last four years," she says. "This has the potential to become the Academy Awards of governance in Canada."

This content was produced by The Globe and Mail's Globe Edge Content Studio. The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.