In the last few years, the world has changed rapidly in unforeseen ways: a global pandemic interrupting life and work, stakeholders becoming increasingly socially conscious, geopolitical upheaval, technological advances disrupting careers and industries, and more. In a world that seems less governable from a societal perspective, ensuring the future of good corporate governance is more important than ever. The multi-year NACD initiative on The Future of the American Board developed a principle-based framework for good governance that can help directors guide their organizations toward long-term and more sustainable growth in a turbulent landscape. That initiative inspired this special digital edition of Directorship magazine intended to illuminate the new and sometimes provocative guidance for corporate boards.
In this special digital edition, which we are sharing beyond our members because we believe that educating directors and the greater business community about board readiness for a more demanding future and how to harness this guidance in practice is part of our mission, we gather the expertise of several commissioners who participated in the Commission on the Future of the American Board.
Cochairs Sue Cole and Bill McNabb set the tone for this issue with “What’s Needed for the Future of the American Board.”
“Future Proofing the Board” by Holly Gregory provides an overview of how incorporating principles of effective corporate governance can help prepare boards to tackle challenges facing corporations and boardrooms. As Gregory writes: “Governing a company to succeed in this fast-moving, highly complex, and disruptive world of competing demands requires that the board be focused, agile, and highly attuned to the environment in which the company operates, the risks to which it is exposed, the varied and often competing expectations of key stakeholders, and the likely impact of corporate actions.”
In “Sustainability Takes on New Meaning,” Judy Samuelson discusses the ESG aspect of the future of corporate governance and tell us: “It’s the ‘G’ of ESG that matters most.” Furthermore, Samuelson reminds us that corporate purpose is indeed more than a mission statement: “Boards with clarity about why the company exists are better able to focus on what is material to the enterprise and to align operations with their goals and intentions.”
Lynn Clarke offers a five-step approach on how to use of the principles to strengthen board performance in her article, “How to Create an Even Higher-Performing Board.”
Additionally, the article “Leading the Way: Good Governance and the Future of the American Board” by Mandy Wright, senior editor of Directorship magazine, reminds us that “defining corporate purpose means nothing if the board cannot learn to work as a team to put that purpose into action.” Truly, directors need to work in cohesion to create a high-performing board that will serve the corporation they govern for years to come.
We hope that the advice and insights shared in this special digital issue offer a clear roadmap for boards to lead into the future and can spur meaningful conversations in your boardrooms about sometimes difficult changes. ■