Governance, Risk Management, and Compliance or GRC is the umbrella term covering an organization's approach across these three areas. Being closely related concerns, governance, risk and compliance activities are increasingly being integrated and aligned to some extent in order to avoid conflicts, wasteful overlaps and gaps. While interpreted differently in various organizations, GRC typically encompasses activities such as corporate governance, enterprise risk management (ERM) and corporate compliance with applicable laws and regulations.
Governance describes the overall management approach through which senior executives direct and control the entire organization, using a combination of management information and hierarchical management control structures. Governance activities ensure that critical management information reaching the executive team is sufficiently complete, accurate and timely to enable appropriate management decision making, and provide the control mechanisms to ensure that strategies, directions and instructions from management are carried out systematically and effectively.
Risk management is the set of processes through which management identifies, analyses, and where necessary responds appropriately to risks that might adversely affect realization of the organization's business objectives. The response to risks typically depends on their perceived gravity, and involves controlling, avoiding, accepting or transferring them to a third party. Whereas organizations routinely manage a wide range of risks (e.g. technological risks, commercial/financial risks, information security risks etc.), external legal and regulatory compliance risks are arguably the key issue in GRC.
Compliance means conforming to stated requirements. At an organizational level, it is achieved through management processes which identify the applicable requirements (defined for example in laws, regulations, contracts, strategies and policies), assess the state of compliance, assess the risks and potential costs of non-compliance against the projected expenses to achieve compliance, and hence prioritize, fund and initiate any corrective actions deemed necessary.
Widespread interest in GRC was sparked by the US Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the need for US listed companies to design and implement suitable governance controls for SOX compliance, but the focus of GRC has since shifted towards adding business value through improving operational decision making and strategic planning. It therefore has relevance beyond the SOX world.
SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley Act)