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COVID-19, recession and an undercurrent of social injustice all paint a picture of a daunting and opaque business and risk environment for the year ahead. Global volatility – driven by trade and geopolitical tensions, resurging debt, technology and business model disruption, elevated cyber risk and regulatory scrutiny – will add to the challenge. The pressure on employees, management, boards, and governance will be significant.

Along with the business, boards will continue to operate against a backdrop of tremendous uncertainty, an uneven economic recovery, and heightened expectations of all stakeholders – investors, employees, customers, suppliers, and communities. Indeed, many boards will see 2020/21 as an inflection point for corporate governance, with demands for greater attention to corporate purpose and stakeholder views, corporate culture and incentives, diversity and inclusion, the richness of boardroom dialogue and debate, and the company’s (and board’s) readiness for the risks and opportunities ahead – some of which may be backed up by investor votes against directors.

Drawing on insights and interactions with directors and business leaders, we highlight ten issues for boards to keep in mind as they consider and carry out their 2021 agendas.

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