Six Essential Elements of Effective Corporate Governance (2023)

Throughout history, we have seen countless examples of weak governance practices leading to significant erosion in market valuation. We saw it in 2001 during the highly publicized accounting scandal that wiped out Enron. We witnessed it again in 2014 when GM’s failure to heed a whistle blower’s warnings about its faulty ignition switches resulted in over $2 billion in fines, penalties and settlements. More recently, the employees, customers, and shareholders of Wells Fargo were all affected by investigations into aggressive product cross selling tactics and misleading brokerage clients about trading high fee debt products.

So what constitutes an effective corporate governance program that will increase a company’s potential for success instead of failure? I’ve outlined six key elements below.

But before jumping in, let me offer a working definition of corporate governance to set the stage:

Corporate governance is basically a set of rules, practices, and procedures that guides company oversight and control by its Board of Director and independent committees. It involves balancing the interests of a company’s stakeholders—including management, employees, suppliers, customers, and the community—with the need to deliver value to its shareholders/owners. Having a strong, active, governance program is absolutely critical to the ongoing financial health, growth, and success of an enterprise over time.

Keeping that definition in mind, here are the essential elements for effective corporate governance:

1. Director independence and performance

The Board of Directors plays a key role in company oversight, including:

  • driving long-term strategic vision, and
  • appointing and overseeing the Chief Executive Officer.

The most effective boards have a majority of independent directors who are able to supervise company management and independent committees for the benefit of shareholders. These directors should attend the meetings and be prepared to discuss key issues. They also should be evaluated based on how long they have served on a particular board. Long-tenured directors can become too entrenched in a company to be considered truly independent.

The practice of “overboarding” by board members should also be a concern. This refers to situations where directors hold too many seats on the boards of other publicly-traded companies or nonprofit organizations to be effective. As a result, these directors may be unable to attend meetings, prepare questions, discuss key issues, or adequately serve the shareholders who elected them.

Typically, the roles of the Chairperson of the Board and the CEO for a company should be filled separately. But in some cases, it may be appropriate to have the roles combined if there is anindependent leadership position on the board such as a Lead Director to provide a counterbalance. Otherwise, the combined CEO/Chair may unduly influence the Board to make rules that create a conflict of interest. An example of this type of conflict would be allowing a CEO to structure a loan with inappropriate or self-serving terms.

In reviewing board candidates, shareholders should also evaluate the performance of directors who have held seats on boards of companies that experienced significant accounting or ethical scandals. Perhaps those directors should have identified the issues more proactively and taken a different course of action?


2. A focus on diversity

Studies have shown that companies with more diversified boards are more risk averse, have less volatile stock returns, and are more likely to pay dividends. So, it can be argued that diversity by gender, age, and minority representation should be a key goal for the composition of every company’s board and senior management ranks.

But, in fact, a 2016 report from the Alliance for Board Diversity and Deloitte consulting found that women and minorities held just 30.8% of Fortune 500 company board seats. The report also found that Caucasian men were much more likely to serve as board chairs, lead directors, or chairs of key board committees.

Many investors are now pushing for more board diversity, and companies are beginning to take heed. BlackRock recently declared diversity to be a corporate governance priority and both State Street Advisors and the State of Massachusetts Pension Fund now consider a board’s diversity when voting proxies.

3. Regular compensation review and management

Another essential element of corporate governance is the review and management of compensation at both the board and executive management levels.

Director compensation has been increasing in recent years as the hours devoted to board positions have been growing. According to a 2016 Pay Governance review, the median compensation received by directors at S&P 500 companies was $265,487. And while the role that board members play should not be diminished, it’s also true this is a part-time position and many directors are employed full time elsewhere. In addition, when compensation is too high, there may be concerns that directors will not adequately question the actions of senior management for fear of losing their board fees.

The scope and method of management compensation should be considered as well, with proxy statements a good source of information about executive compensation plans. Institutional ShareholderServices (ISS), a proxy voting recommendation service, has established these five compensation guidelines as part of their proxy voting principles:

  1. Pay should be aligned with performance, with an emphasis on the long term.
  2. Avoid “paying for failure,” by avoiding guaranteed compensation and excessive severance packages.
  3. Create an independent compensation committee for effective oversight.
  4. Ensure transparent and comprehensive compensation disclosures.
  5. Manage payments made to nonexecutive directors. Overpaid nonexecutive directors may not make independent judgments on managers’ compensation and performance.

4. Auditor independence and transparency

A review of audit practices and company accounting can also signal problems to come. Auditors should be independent (with no financial interest in a company) with the majority of their revenues derived from audit activities, not consultation services. Accounting issues should be handled in a transparent manner, with complete, detailed information and reports always available to the board and measures put in place to prevent recurrence of any questionable findings.

5. Shareholder rights and takeover provisions

Investors should consider shareholder rights as a key element of good governance as well.
For example:

  • Do all shareholders hold equal voting rights or is one share class advantaged over the other?

Multiple shares/classes do not necessarily indicate poor governance, but they are a factor to consider. In the information technology sector, for example, it is common for company founders and insiders to hold shares that have greater voting rights than outside investors.

  • Do shareholders have access to place proposals on proxy ballots or nominate directors?

A company’s record of dealing with shareholder proposals that receive a majority of votes may also be an indicator of how a company deals with its shareholders.

  • What actions can a board take without shareholder approval, such as amending company bylaws?
  • Are there plans in place, such as poison pills, that can make it difficult for a company to be acquired? How is management rewarded in the event of a takeover?

Takeover provisions should be reviewed and shareholders should have adequate rights to vote on these provisions.

6. Proxy voting and shareholder influence

Increasingly, investors are using proxy voting as a means to influence a board’s corporate oversight as well as its commitment to improving its governance on issues such as climate change, income inequality, and shareholder proxy access.

Shareholders must have the ability to use their votes to send a message to the board by withholding votes for the directors in cases where the company has delayed taking action on winning shareholder proposals, failed to deal with a director’s poor performance, or did not improve board accountability and oversight.

Letter writing campaigns also can be successful in lobbying for change in a company’s corporate governance and, in some cases, have taken the place of putting proposals on shareholder ballots. Pension funds and asset managers, for example, may join forces to successfully use letter writing to bring about new voting measures, including majority voting, repealing classified boards, and removing supermajority voting provisions.

[1]2016 Board Diversity Census of Women and Minorities on Fortune 500 Boards,

[2] The Evolution and Current State of Director Compensation Plans, PayGovernance.com

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as investment or legal advice.


What is effective corporate governance? ›

Effective corporate governance requires dedicated focus on the part of directors, the CEO and senior management to their own responsibilities and, together with the corporation's shareholders, to the shared goal of building long-term value.

What are the elements of governance? ›

In line with this reasoning, and building upon the approach of the World Bank, the Bank has identified four basic elements of good governance: (i) accountability, (ii) participation, (iii) predictability, and (iv) transparency.

What are the 7 principles of corporate governance? ›

The elements of corporate governance are:
  • Transparent disclosure.
  • Well-defined rights of shareholders.
  • Internal control environment.
  • Structured Board practices.
  • Board commitment.

What are the six elements of corporate governance? ›

Six Essential Elements of Effective Corporate Governance
  • Director independence and performance. ...
  • A focus on diversity. ...
  • Regular compensation review and management. ...
  • Auditor independence and transparency. ...
  • Shareholder rights and takeover provisions. ...
  • Proxy voting and shareholder influence.
Jul 24, 2018

What are the six elements of good governance? ›

It uses six dimensions of governance for their measurements, Voice & Accountability, Political Stability and Lack of Violence, Government Effectiveness, Regulatory Quality, Rule of Law, and Control of Corruption.

What are the most important elements of corporate governance? ›

The three pillars of corporate governance are: transparency, accountability, and security. All three are critical in successfully running a company and forming solid professional relationships among its stakeholders which include board directors, managers, employees, and most importantly, shareholders.

What are the 6 types of global governance? ›

Mansbach et al. (1997) identify six types of actors that create a conglomerate system: interstate governmental, interstate non-governmental, nation states, governmental non-central, interstate non-government, and individuals.

What is the most important element of good governance? ›

Accountability is a key requirement of good governance. Not only governmental institutions but also the private sector and civil society organizations must be accountable to the public and to their institutional stakeholders.

Why is corporate governance 6 points important? ›

Corporate governance is important because it creates a system of rules and practices that determines how a company operates and how it aligns the interest of all its stakeholders. Good corporate governance leads to ethical business practices, which leads to financial viability. In turn, that can attract investors.

What are the 8 principles of corporate governance? ›

The eight key effective corporate governance practices
  • Governance Frameworks. ...
  • Governance Documentation. ...
  • Policies in line with law and applicable regulations. ...
  • Documenting processes and procedures. ...
  • Effective board reporting. ...
  • Agenda and minutes. ...
  • Director training and board evaluations. ...
  • Subsidiary governance policies.
Jan 17, 2020

What are the 4 Ps of corporate governance? ›

People, process, performance, and purpose are the four Ps of good corporate governance.

What are the eight elements of good governance? ›

According to the United Nations, Good Governance is measured by the eight factors of Participation, Rule of Law, Transparency, Responsiveness, Consensus Oriented, Equity and Inclusiveness, Effectiveness and Efficiency, and Accountability.

What are the 6 OECD principles? ›

The Principles cover six key areas of corporate governance – ensuring the basis for an effective corporate governance framework; the rights of shareholders; the equitable treatment of shareholders; the role of stakeholders in corporate governance; disclosure and transparency; and the responsibilities of the board (see ...

Which are elements of corporate governance that are tied to ethics? ›

Key elements of good corporate governance principles include honesty, trust and integrity, openness, performance orientation, responsibility and accountability, mutual respect, and commitment to the organization. The primary objective of a corporation is to increase shareholder value.

What is corporate governance in simple words? ›

Corporate governance is the system by which companies are directed and controlled. Boards of directors are responsible for the governance of their companies. The shareholders' role in governance is to appoint the directors and the auditors and to satisfy themselves that an appropriate governance structure is in place.

What are the elements principles of good governance? ›

Citing from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), the concept of good governance has eight principles.
  • Participation. ...
  • Rule of law. ...
  • Transparency. ...
  • Responsiveness. ...
  • Consensus oriented. ...
  • Equity and inclusiveness. ...
  • Effectiveness and efficiency. ...
  • Accountability.
Nov 18, 2021

What makes an effective governance? ›

Having the right mix of people and skills on a governing body should help it to be more effective. An effective board will have members who bring multiple perspectives, who debate issues robustly, and who then speak with unity of voice and message about the decisions made.

What are the main objectives of corporate governance? ›

The objectives of corporate governance are the creation of social responsibility, protection and promotion of the interest of shareholders, to achieve social and economic goals. It is essential for making the corporation more transparent.

What are the 6 core claims of globalization? ›

According to Steger ( 2007), globalist ideology consists of six core truth claims: (1) globalization is about the liberalization and global integration of markets; (2) globalization is inevitable and irreversible; (3) nobody is in charge of globalization; (4) globalization benefits everyone; (5) globalization furthers ...

What are the 6 aspects of globalization? ›

In geography, globalization is defined as the set of processes (economic, social, cultural, technological, institutional) that contribute to the relationship between societies and individuals around the world. It is a progressive process by which exchanges and flows between different parts of the world are intensified.

What are the 6 dimensions of globalization? ›

These dimensions may be grouped under the following categories: economic, political, social, technology and cultural. Table 1 below shows the range of understanding and the array of approaches of these organizations.

How do you measure effectiveness of governance? ›

How To Measure Governance Effectiveness
  1. Focus on strategic measures. ...
  2. Develop performance measurement skills. ...
  3. Get board and CEO buy-in. ...
  4. Track progress over time. ...
  5. Measure often.
Nov 16, 2021

What are some examples of corporate governance? ›

10 good corporate governance examples
  • So what do corporate governance examples look like? ...
  • 1) Integrated business management system (IBMS) ...
  • 2) A documented policy management system. ...
  • 3) ISO certification. ...
  • 4) CAPA systems. ...
  • 5) Routine internal audits. ...
  • 6) Training management system. ...
  • 7) Risk management.
Jun 8, 2018

What makes good corporate governance effective? ›

What makes good corporate governance effective? Good corporate governance practices are effective because they are based on organisation, transparency, accountability and strategic planning. These elements breed confidence and trust in investors and other stakeholders, provide risk oversight and help prevent scandals.

What are the 4 principles of corporate governance? ›

Corporate governance refers to the framework of policies and guidelines that inform a company's conduct, decision-making and practice. This infrastructure is built upon four key principles: accountability, transparency, fairness and responsibility.

What are the three basic principles of effective corporate governance? ›

The three pillars of corporate governance are: transparency, accountability, and security. All three are critical in successfully running a company and forming solid professional relationships among its stakeholders which include board directors, managers, employees, and most importantly, shareholders.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Lilliana Bartoletti

Last Updated: 28/10/2023

Views: 5577

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (53 voted)

Reviews: 92% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Lilliana Bartoletti

Birthday: 1999-11-18

Address: 58866 Tricia Spurs, North Melvinberg, HI 91346-3774

Phone: +50616620367928

Job: Real-Estate Liaison

Hobby: Graffiti, Astronomy, Handball, Magic, Origami, Fashion, Foreign language learning

Introduction: My name is Lilliana Bartoletti, I am a adventurous, pleasant, shiny, beautiful, handsome, zealous, tasty person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.