Corporate governance is common sense. But, do boards need to fret about interpreting the minutia of protocols and standards governing their decisions?
Experts say a few issues have a bearing: yes, corporate governance is common sense, but that alone will not sustain a company. You have to create a culture synonymous with corporate governance and then you and your people need to know the detail.
Ethical practice unlocks value and facilitates business growth. It creates an environment that comforts investors.
Lyle Malander, the director of the chartered accounting and financial advisory firm, the UK-SA Malander Group, says that with all that goes into managing and growing a business, regulatory steps may be unintentionally overlooked, exposing a business to risk.
Good governance must be at the heart of things, he says. Business leaders need to ensure their organisation can be trusted to do the right thing, even when there is no regulatory body in place.
Good corporate governance practices ensure the entire organisation understands policies related to risk mitigation.
“It speaks to internal business regulation, transparency, good corporate culture, employee buy-in and being an overall good corporate citizen.”
Hixonia Nyasulu is a South African businesswoman who has served on the boards of Unilever, JP Morgan Chase, Anglo American Platinum and Sasol (and more). She was also was voted South Africa’s most influential woman on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange three years running (as measured by the combined market capitalisation of the companies whose boards she sat on).
She says corporate governance is about doing what is right and about taking a keen interest in the regulatory environment your company operates in.
“You are a custodian of the values and ethics of the company whose boards you sit on. Honesty and integrity should go without saying. But it goes beyond that. it's also about transparency, accountability and a strong sense of the board’s responsibility to exercise its oversight role diligently.”
Nyasulu, and others in similar positions, have long held that corporate leaders should make a point of making it their business to find out about the regulatory environment they work in and the specifics of their business in relation to that.
One of the noted African benchmarks for good corporate governance is the South African King IV report.
The report reinforces the idea that good corporate governance is holistic - an interrelated set of arrangements to be understood and implemented in an integrated manner, rather than simply an exercise in ticking boxes.
Africa Legal and the University of Cape Town’s Law@work programme offer African lawyers a high level on-line course on corporate governance. For details click here.