Tip #81 Are There International Standards for Board Governance?

June 1, 2022  |  tips for effective boards

In September of 2021, the ISO (the International Organization for Standardization) published ISO 37000:2021 Governance of Organizations – Guidance. It had been developed over several years by representatives from organizations in over 70 countries worldwide. Its purpose is to provide governance guidance for all types of organizations around the world to enable their governing bodies to provide effective, prudent, ethical, socially responsible, accountable governance.


The ISO 37000 makes a sharp distinction between governance and management and identifies key outcomes to be achieved by governance.   


Key themes of the ISO 37000 guidance document include the following:


1.       Organizational purpose is central. Defining organizational purpose is a key responsibility of governance.

2.       Organizational governance includes responsibility for and accountability for organizational performance.   

3.       Governing bodies are challenged to embrace high ethical standards and a commitment to social responsibility.


Why is the ISO 37000 guidance document important? This document is the first international consensus document providing universally applicable governance guidelines. As such, it can be an important driving force for promoting board governance that centers on organizational purpose and is prudent, ethical, socially responsible, and accountable. This guidance document may well come to serve as an important means for boards to be able to document to external authorities and to key stakeholders their commitment to and their achievement of governance excellence.


The ISO provides a brief overview of the ISO 37000 guidance document including a description of eleven governance principles and definitions of key terms. To check out this brief overview, which is available for public access, please click on the following link:        https://www.iso.org/obp/ui/#iso:std:iso:37000:ed-1:v1:en.   


What’s the relationship between the ISO 37000 and the Policy Governance® model? There is a strong alignment between the ISO 37000 governance guidance document and the Policy Governance® model which is due in large part to the participation of Policy Governance®-oriented professionals throughout the document development process. Special thanks to the following affiliates (members) of Govern for Impact (formerly The International Policy Governance Association) for their important contributions in the creation of the ISO 37000 guidance document: Dr. Richard Biery (United States), William Frater (South Africa), the late Caroline Oliver (England), and Dr. Hartger Wassink (Netherlands). The ISO guidance document identifies eleven general principles for achieving governance excellence but does not provide detailed guidance for operationalizing these general principles. On the other hand, Policy Governance® is a comprehensive integrated board governance system that can serve as an effective technical tool for operationalizing the ISO governance guidance principles.


To learn more about the Policy Governance® model, please click https://www.boardsoncourse.com/policy-governance.