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The Liability of Management and Good Governance in a Saudi Arabian Context

Across the globe, businesses are under increasing pressure to adopt sustainable and ethical practices. Known as ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance), this focus on responsible business practices is becoming more and more important for companies looking to protect their reputation and ensure long-term success.

In Saudi Arabia, where businesses are just starting to come to terms with the need for ESG compliance, there is still some work to be done to create a corporate culture that embraces these values. In this article, we will explore the importance of effective management and good governance in a Saudi Arabian context, looking at what this means in practice and the benefits that will be gained by businesses that fully embrace it.

What Is Governance?

At its most basic level, governance refers to the systems and processes that are put in place by an organization to ensure that operations run smoothly and effectively. Often used interchangeably with management, governance is a broader concept than simply managing day-to-day operations; it encompasses a range of different factors such as ethics, risk management, compliance requirements, and stakeholder relationships, among others.

In Saudi Arabia, the importance of governance has become particularly clear in recent years. Hence, the Capital Market Authority (“CMA”) issued the Corporate Governance Regulations by Resolution No. 8-16-2017 dated 12-02-2017 G (The “Regulations”) as it aims to enforce the global governance standards on the joint stock companies.

The Regulations broadly define Governance as a set of rules that aim to regulate the relationship between the management team and the shareholders of the company, by establishing rules and procedures in relation to the mechanisms of decision-making, add clarity and more transparency and credibility in order to protect the rights of shareholders, achieve greater clarity and more transparency on the Saudi Stock Exchange and the business environment in general.

As the local authorities have come to realize the importance of governance and the potential risks and liabilities associated with not following its best practices, the Ministry of Commerce issued the Corporate Governance Regulations for Non-Listed Joint Stock Companies (commonly known as Closed Joint Stock Companies) for guidance. Both regulations aim at establishing an effective legal framework to govern the company, and particularly aim at (i) enhancing the role of the company’s shareholders and facilitating the exercise of their rights; (ii) stating and clarifying the rules and responsibilities of the management team; (ii) enhancing the role of the management team and the internal committees in order to develop their capabilities to enhance the company’s decision-making mechanisms; (iv) achieving transparency and credibility to reach greater clarity and more transparency between the management team, shareholders, related parties, and any person is dealing with the company; (v) providing effective and balanced tools to deal with conflicts of interest; and (vi) enhancing accountability and control mechanisms for the Company’s employees.

Why is Good Governance Essential for Saudi Businesses?

There are many benefits for Saudi business owners who embrace good governance and effective management. For one, this approach helps companies maintain strong reputations, both within the local community and on a global scale. It also ensures compliance with regulatory requirements, which can reduce risk and help to prevent any potential legal liabilities for the management team that may have direct or indirect impacts on the company’s operations.

As the management’s liability differs according to the type of company, the recent Companies Law sets out general and strict governance rules that apply to the management team regardless the type of the company.

As shown hereunder, these rules aim to enhance transparency and credibility between the management team and shareholders:

  1. Declaring Interest: without obtaining shareholders’ approval, none of the management team shall have direct or indirect personal interest in the business activities and contracts executed on behalf of the company.
  2. Declaring Competition: without obtaining shareholders’ approval, none of the management team may participate in any business that would compete with the company or may compete with any business area that the company is practicing.
  3. Exploitation: none of the management team shall exploit the company assets, information or investment opportunities presented to him in his capacity as manager or presented to the company to achieve a direct or an indirect interest for himself.

In addition to the above, robust management practices have been shown to improve employee productivity and foster creativity and innovation in the workplace, while good governance helps companies attract investors and achieve long-term success.

What Does Effective Management Look Like?

While there is no single definition of effective management, we may consider several key factors. These include clear and consistent communication, an emphasis on accountability and transparency, and overall, the ability of an organization and its leaders to effectively plan, organize, and implement strategies that enable it to achieve its objectives. This often involves a focus on metrics such as profitability, productivity, efficiency, and customer satisfaction, as well as values such as integrity, responsibility, and trust.

The following are some key strategies that Saudi businesses can implement to improve their management and governance practices:

  1. Establish a culture of accountability and transparency. This requires creating clear processes for employee evaluation and promotion, as well as allowing employees to provide input on important decisions and policies affecting the organization.
  2. Build systems for measuring performance and monitoring progress. This can involve the use of tools such as dashboards, KPIs, and performance scorecards.
  3. Invest in leadership development programs. This can help managers to grow and develop their skill sets. It may include the provision of training on topics such as project management, HR best practices, and change management.
  4. Commit to ongoing learning and education. Businesses can achieve this by forming partnerships with local educational institutions and professional organizations. This can help to foster a spirit of innovation and continuous improvement in the workplace.

Ultimately, good governance and effective management are essential for building strong businesses in Saudi Arabia. By embracing these principles, companies can ensure that they are meeting the highest standards of ESG compliance and maintaining their reputations as responsible corporate citizens.