8 Essential Corporate Governance Best practices to implement now

Every corporation should follow corporate governance best practices, which apply equally to new and well-established corporations. Best corporate governance practices apply to large, small, public, and private companies. They even apply to non-profit organizations and other entities.

Following the principles of good corporate governance takes a bit of effort. However, while corporations can expect to invest some of their corporate revenue in governance, taking steps toward corporate governance best practices doesn’t have to be expensive.

To help you implement best practices in corporate governance, this blog will explain:

  • The benefits of corporate governance best practices
  • Critical best practices you can start following now for better corporate governance
  • Additional resources to support good governance

A board member, dressed in professional attire, shaking hands with a colleague.

Why is it essential to implement best practices in corporate governance?

The benefits of following corporate governance best practices are many, and the potential impact is boundless. Here are a few ways they may have a positive impact on your organization:

  • Improves overall performance and promotes trust among shareholders and other stakeholders.
  • Provides for sound strategic planning and better risk management.
  • Corporations embracing best corporate governance practices continually move toward long-term sustainability.
  • Good governance prevents litigiousness and provides far-reaching legal protections for corporations.

8 essential corporate governance best practices

Best practices incorporate many different aspects of board work. They entail taking a critical look at the qualities and characteristics of board directors, who they are as people and how they approach governing an organization. Governance can incorporate many different practices.

Specifically, some of the primary corporate governance best practices include:

  • Recruiting and building a competent board
  • Aligning strategies with goals
  • Exercising accountability
  • Having a high level of ethics and integrity
  • Defining roles and responsibilities
  • Managing risk effectively

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1. Recruit effective and diverse board directors

A prominent way for boards to do their collective best pertains to board composition. As the economic climate has changed, the composition of boards has needed to change with it. Best practices for boards require many to take a fresh look at their nominating and recruitment procedures. 

2. Establish board composition

Corporate governance today has a new focus on board diversity and independence. This is because boards deal with highly complex and often technical issues. Many perspectives around the board table make for sound decision-making. Most governance experts favour the notion of boards having a majority of independent directors.

Boards should have a composition incorporating all the necessary skills and abilities to make sound corporate decisions. Board directors must have implicit trust in each other to make board discussions productive, even when debates are long and wrought with many strong opinions.

Board directors, committees and the whole board should participate in annual self-evaluations to identify their strengths and weaknesses.

3. Onboard all directors

Board directors put their best foot forward when well-prepared for their first board meeting. Corporate governance best practices support corporations having a formalized process for board director orientation.

Orientations can be formal or informal. Information should include the organization’s history, key accomplishments and a review of the board’s organizational policies and procedures. New board directors should be aware of their legal and fiduciary responsibilities and receive a copy of their board director duties and responsibilities.

It’s helpful for new board directors to receive the most recent copies of financial statements, meeting minutes and the annual strategic plan.

4. Foster effective presentations

Boards oversee more than they did even a few years ago. From proposed ESG requirements to enhanced cybersecurity rules, boards have intense workloads and ballooning board agendas to go with them. 

As board agendas grow, functional leaders and directors must deliver effective presentations to ensure no reporting or oversight goes awry. Boards can help these leaders make the most of their time by implementing corporate governance best practices related to boardroom presentations.

Learn more about how to help your leaders become boardroom-ready.

5. Align strategies with goals

Another corporate governance best practice refers to boards that align their strategies and risk management activities with the company’s goals. Boards should use their human resources and other tools to identify and assess all forms of risk. The board must work together to develop the company’s risk tolerance and risk profile. Additionally, they need to ensure that the company has the proper framework and controls in place, so they can monitor risk and mitigate it when necessary.

Corporate governance best practices require board directors to look at risk and strategy on a short and long-term basis. It will engage in routine oversight of risk management/enterprise risk management (ERM), whether that takes the form of a risk register, heat map or other framework. The board will oversee recommended risk mitigations and ensure that the organization has appropriate controls and resources.

6. Hold directors accountable

The many scandals that have made headlines demonstrate why accountability has such a strong position in best practices for corporate governance. Boards need to develop strong internal controls and monitor them often.

Having reporting systems that are accurate and transparent and that have a system of adequate checks and balances is considered an important part of corporate governance best practices. Have the board and management agreed upon quantifiable performance metrics/key performance indicators (KPIs), and how are they reported? Look at your board’s disclosure practices and how transparent it is in its internal and stakeholder communications.

Best practices for accountability also include deciding the correlation between attracting the most talented board nominees and offering them enough compensation to make board work worthwhile without creating a conflict of interest. It’s generally preferred for board committees to manage and oversee board director remuneration.

7. Emphasize a high level of ethics and integrity

Board directors stand as the voice of the corporation. As such, they frequently receive requests to make public presentations. Board directors must consider their fiduciary duties whenever they speak for the corporation. The best nominees are people with high ethics, honesty and integrity in their speech, works and relationships with people.

Best practices in corporate governance require boards to create and cultivate a culture that holds honesty, integrity and ethical dealings in the highest regard. Boards should carefully write three critical policies to support integrity and honest dealings: a conflict of interest policy, a code of business conduct and a whistleblower policy.

Boards should have a clearly stated conflict of interest policy and ensure that board directors declare all conflicts of interest and refrain from voting on such matters. Boards should also institute policies for whistleblowing and reporting noncompliance.

8. Defining roles and responsibilities

Another hallmark of corporate governance best practices is to separate the roles of the board Chair and the CEO and have distinct roles for each.

All board directors should have job descriptions and an outline that describes their duties and responsibilities. Boards almost always need to delegate some of their obligations to committees, such as the nominating or governance committee, audit committee, compensation committee and other special committees, as required. This makes collaboration especially important.

Turn governance best practices into a resilient infrastructure.

Corporate governance best practices are evolving all the time. Where once the emphasis was on the bottom line, today’s stakeholder capitalism means boards must balance the bottom line with the organization’s long-term impact.

While this can be challenging, effective corporate governance best practices help boards keep up. Learn the four steps to building a more robust governance infrastructure that can evolve with the business landscape.

Discover why over 700,000 users in 25,00 organizations rely on Diligent for modern governance.

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