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Jul 28, 2020

Judges look ahead to Corporate Governance Awards entries

Corporate Secretary asked three of the judges for this year’s Corporate Governance Awards to share some thoughts as we prepare for the incoming nominations

Douglas Chia, president of Soundboard Governance and fellow at the Rutgers Center for Corporate Law and Governance

What governance developments do you expect to be most prominent among the 2020 entries?
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the landscape for the entire world, including corporate governance. This should have a huge impact on the 2020 entries in terms of how companies and their boards are facing the unprecedented challenges caused by this epic event.

The #BlackLivesMatter movement has also upped expectations for companies and boards in the US, and I hope corporate efforts to finally live up to commitments on diversity and inclusion will be a theme.

Why do you think the Corporate Governance Awards are important for the North American GRC community?
I view GRC as key to ensuring the board of directors makes the best possible decisions for the corporation and its stakeholders. Those decisions may not always work out, but strong GRC creates the structure and environment for all necessary information to make its way to the board to properly make those decisions.

Some characterize GRC as ‘good hygiene.’ To me, that doesn’t do it justice. It’s more than good hygiene – it’s essential for corporations to build strength and endurance.

What would you say is an important component of a successful entry?
A successful entry should not only describe the personnel, policies, processes and procedures currently in place, but also how they have been enhanced, and it should provide real-life examples of where GRC made a difference.

Eileen Kamerick, CEO of The Governance Partners

What governance developments do you expect to be most prominent among the 2020 entries?
I think governance developments dealing with ESG and also with diversity, inclusion and equity issues will be among the most prominent. Both issues are top of investors’ minds and both are areas where companies can highlight the strength of both their governance practices and their corporate culture.

As it is your first time taking part in the judging process, what are you most interested to see from entrants?
I am most interested to see how companies use governance to reinforce their corporate culture and core values.

Can you sum up what makes for a successful corporate secretary or general counsel?
One of the critical skills for corporate secretaries and general counsel is the ability to ‘see around corners’. By that I mean their ability to anticipate legal and governance issues and offer practical solutions, as well as their ability to communicate effectively with their board and management team on emerging topics.

A successful corporate secretary or general counsel brings the world of governance into the boardroom and brings it to life, so to speak, by making it relevant and compelling for directors and senior management.

Carol Strickland, director of Trireme Energy Holdings

What governance developments do you expect to be most prominent among the 2020 entries?
I think the governance community’s continuing response to the MeToo movement will be a focus along with responses to the newer developments: #BlackLivesMatter and the virus. How a corporation engages with these societal issues is key. 

The major asset of any corporation is its people. They used to leave the building every night but now with social distancing many are furloughed or working remotely. How are the workers who remain kept engaged and physically safe, and how are they made to feel valued and safe to express themselves? What extra resources are needed to deal with current conditions? I am thinking of technology but also counselling, mediation, training to better understand the issues faced by minorities and working parents dealing with schooling, childcare, and so on.

The other big issue is the new risks identified as a result of the virus: are we still a global economy and how are businesses reinventing themselves to deal with the new risks to their businesses?

Why do you think the Corporate Governance Awards are important for the North American GRC community?
North America, and more specifically the US, is more isolated from its neighbors than ever before in recent times. We have a government not universally respected in the world and the awards are both a pat on the back for the brave souls who do this work and a window for the world into the innovation and creativity of our corporations.

What would you say is an important component of a successful entry?
A successful entry should do one of two things: 1) address the issue faced by a corporation, how it was addressed and the outcome, or 2) explain whatever new innovation(s) was adopted and the impact of the changes.

An entry that relies on past accomplishments is not viable. People like to win awards but awards need to focus on major game changers; not every corporation is going to have something to submit annually. The entry must also include all pertinent information or links to that information.