Boards & Corporate Governance

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Why Companies Should Report Financial Risks From Climate Change

Meeting the recommendations for disclosure put forth by the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures might seem like a tough job. But if the oil & gas industry is any example, it’s not as difficult as some might imagine — and there are excellent reasons for corporate boards to consider it.

AI in the Boardroom: The Next Realm of Corporate Governance

Business has become too complex for boards and CEOs to make good decisions without intelligent systems. Just as artificial intelligence helps doctors use patient data to make better diagnoses and create individualized medical solutions, AI can help business leaders know more precisely which strategy and investments will provide exponential growth and value in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

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Using Scenario Planning to Reshape Strategy

Rather than trying to predict the future, organizations need to strengthen their abilities to cope with uncertainty. A new approach to scenario planning can help companies reframe their long-term strategies by developing several plausible scenarios.

The Board’s Role in Share Repurchases

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Many companies’ decisions about share repurchases are handled mainly by management rather than boards — with repercussions for capital allocation. Boards should carefully balance the capital needed for repurchases against its use in value creation via internal development or external acquisitions — and be skeptical of repurchase programs financed by debt rather than profits.

The Downside to Full Board Independence

High-profile accounting and corporate governance scandals have resulted in significant changes in the structure of corporate boards of directors, in particular the development of independent boards in which the CEO is the only employee director. The downside: Independent board members may not understand the business well enough to make optimal strategic decisions.

Are Nonfinancial Metrics Good Leading Indicators of Future Financial Performance?

Although using nonfinancial metrics like customer satisfaction has become increasingly popular in assessing executive performance and determining compensation, the practice has some significant drawbacks. Not all metrics apply equally to all industries. Companies considering such metrics for strategic performance management frameworks should be mindful of the importance of knowing their strength as lead indicators and applying them appropriately.

In Boardrooms, the Same Is a Shame

Corporate boards around the world present a uniformly white, male face — and this is a problem when it comes to how firms approach the global marketplace. When too many people at the top look at the business landscape through the same lens, they are likely to miss both impending problems and potential opportunities. Institutional biases that suppress diversity in the C-suite create a hidden risk factor — one that boards can address by taking a long, hard look in the mirror.

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Investing For a Sustainable Future

Investors see a strong link between corporate sustainability performance and financial performance — so they’re using sustainability-related data as a rationale for investment decisions like never before.

How Boards Botch CEO Succession

The strategic importance of CEO succession is indisputable, and the elements of effective succession planning have long been known. So why do many boards plan poorly for CEO succession when the cost of failure is so high? Research finds three key reasons: Hiring criteria are not aligned with strategic needs, boards are reluctant to antagonize the incumbent CEO, and many boards aren’t developing the executives below the CEO and top team.

Environmental and Human Rights Assume a New Urgency for Boards

The G7 summit in June of 2015 and the G20 meeting in November both upheld the idea that businesses have a responsibility to respect environmental and human rights principles. As such concerns take center stage, business leaders must recognize their role in navigating the new regulatory environment. As environmental and human rights risks rise in importance, board members are at risk of being seen as negligent if they fail to ensure that their companies comply with the G20/OECD Principles and the standards to which the Principles refer.

How Strategic Is Your Board?

Strategic thinking at the top of a company is more important than ever for business survival. But boards of directors have no clear model to follow when it comes to developing the strategic role for the companies they oversee. Should they supervise, cocreate or support strategy? A structured assessment of a board’s strategic responsibilities can bring clarity to its role in creating strategy, and boards should be prepared to change their role in strategy if the industry context changes.

The Trouble With Stock Compensation

Research suggests that paying outside board members with equity grants leads to companies with less socially responsible behavior. That’s the conclusion of Yuval Deutsch and Mike Valente (both of Schulich School of Business, York University), who looked at social performance ratings and director compensation data for more than 1,100 U.S. public companies between 1998 and 2006. “Our findings suggest that there is a need to investigate more creative compensation arrangements,” they write.

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The Trouble With Too Much Board Oversight

The high-profile scandals of the late 1990s have increased the oversight duties of independent directors. Has the increased focus on board oversight improved the quality of board monitoring? And can board oversight become detrimental to desirable objectives? This article focuses on three aspects of oversight: design and implementation of suitable executive compensation packages; removal of underperforming CEOs; and disclosure of earnings that reflect the company’s true financial conditions.

Bringing Opportunity Oversight Onto the Board’s Agenda

Boards have two broad responsibilities: overseeing the protection of existing value and creating new value. Even though most boards take growth seriously, in practice board oversight has become unbalanced. The imbalance between risk and opportunity is a potentially serious problem. Correcting the imbalance will require an active, constructive partnership between the board and senior leadership — and a board that understands how the company maintains a high level of value-creating performance.

The Role of the Chief Strategy Officer

The Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) is a comparatively new but increasingly important role in many organizations. This article proposes a typology of four CSO archetypes – Internal Consultant, Specialist, Coach and Change Agent – who carry out a variety of responsibilities in the CSO role. By understanding how the duties of the CSO can vary significantly from organization to organization, boards and CEOs can make better decisions about which type of CSO is necessary for their leadership teams.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Sam Beebe, Ecotrust.

Why Boards Need to Change

Many companies have initiated sustainability and corporate social responsibility programs that represent good first steps toward improving the impact of their organizations on the environment and society. However, unless boards change, many of the initial sustainability efforts launched in corporations are likely to be temporary. For organizations to achieve sustainable effectiveness, they need a corporate board that is designed to lead in a sustainably effective way.

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