When corporate governance isn’t enough


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The Royal Commission into the Banking Industry has highlighted an important paradox. While most large organisations have extensive policies and procedures, poor oversight and failure to create and sustain a climate which values good governance may produce unethical and even illegal activity.

Governance failures are not confined to the private sector either, as the recent WA Crime and Corruption Commission inquiry on the Western Australian health sector has demonstrated. In what was not an isolated case, senior officials were found to have corruptly obtained valuable gifts in exchange for awarding government contracts.

Corporate governance is still not well understood and is often viewed narrowly in terms of the fiduciary duties of directors and legal compliance. As Simon Longstaff, CEO of the Ethics Centre in Sydney has observed, developing an ethical culture requires more than codes of ethics and codes of conduct. It requires a systematic and holistic approach that integrates areas such as auditing, fraud minimisation, and corporate governance, legal and ethical policies and procedures. In turn it involves a range of academic disciplines including accounting and auditing, law, management and risk management.

The need for research

In the wake of corporate scandals and failures in both the developed and developing world, the field of corporate governance continues to attract the attention of academics, practitioners, regulators, and the public. Heightened awareness worldwide that effective corporate governance and the promotion of ethical practice as manifested by transparency, accountability as well as just and equitable treatment of shareholders and stakeholders is now considered a prerequisite towards sustainable development. 

For many individuals and organisations though, taking the systematic, holistic approach Longstaff cites is easier said than done. Practices vary across countries and industries, reflecting differing societal values, ownership structures, business and competitive conditions. Differences also exist in the strength and enforceability of contracts, the political standing of shareholders and debt holders as well as the development and enforcement capability of the legal system. 

This is where research plays a powerful, invaluable part for individuals – from employees to executives and even CEOs. By using an interdisciplinary approach to pull together topics such as corporate social responsibility, organisational ethics, bribery and corruption, ethical leadership and public sector ethics, researchers can investigate real issues to find solutions and develop the expertise to create systems and processes that sustain ethical cultures.

Whether you’re interested in exploring an issue or understanding corporate governance more deeply, you can with a Research Higher Degree (RHD) from CQUniversity. Discover more at cqu.edu.au/rhd

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