Emerging Themes

Corporate governance, and the link between governance and performance, remains a topical focus for public policy makers, academics and commentators.

The Governance Leadership Centre asked the University of Sydney Business School to review the latest trends and themes in this important area of governance research.

The report, Emerging Themes of Corporate Governance & Firm Performance, reviews 305 research papers across six academic journals, published over the past five years.

The results of this review are summarised in this report, along with the assessment of implications for policy makers and suggestions for future research directions.

The papers were analysed using both an deductive and inductive lens to identify nine key corporate governance research themes:

  1. ownership structure;
  2. the role of executives (including leadership and remuneration);
  3. the role of stakeholders (including shareholder activism);
  4. corporate governance performance and effectiveness;
  5. board operation;
  6. social and environmental responsibility;
  7. board composition (including capability and diversity);
  8. company sustainability, risk and reputation; and
  9. national systems of corporate governance.

The researchers identify common challenges in the literature , including a lack of focus on practical insights and application, and the need for more holistic studies of governance and its impact.

“Corporate governance research needs to look beyond a list of ideal characteristics or results to consider, amongst other explanations, corporate governance processes and practices”, note the authors.

“We also reiterate the need for very specific research questions and contexts. For example, in the executive theme, this would include identification and selection of CEO successors. In the social responsibility stream, the role of ethical investment standards (such as GRI) on strategy and corporate governance practice may be of interest.”

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About the authors:

Professor Guy Ford is the Director of the MBA Program at the University of Sydney Business School. Dr Jim Rooney is a Senior Lecturer in Corporate Governance and Management Accounting at the University of Sydney Business School. Research commissioned by the Governance Leadership Centre.