Boards Honored with NACD NXT Awards

By Jesse Rhodes


DE&I Online Article

Winners of the NACD NXT award were announced and paid tribute to during the second day of programming at the Virtual NACD Summit 2020. Now in its third year, this awards program is part of the NACD NXT initiative—created by NACD in collaboration with Deloitte, and supported by CACI International and USAA—specifically to recognize boards that use diversity and innovation to build long-term value.

The 2020 NACD NXT award winners: the Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church USA, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, and Sempra Energy

And as NACD CEO Peter R. Gleason commented, the awards have taken on a heightened meaning given the calls to end systemic racism that have shaped much of the last year. “The movement for racial justice in this country makes clear the need for progress in how we perceive and engage with each other—including in the boardroom,” Gleason said in a video tribute to the winners.

Due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the nomination and selection process was modified from previous years. Instead of evaluating nominated companies in large-cap, mid-cap, and small-cap categories, NACD evaluated and narrowed the pool of nomination packages to 10 finalists, which were then presented to an independent selection committee of directors that judged the companies using the following criteria:

  • Strength of the organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I), and/or belonging objectives
  • The organization’s ability to define and measure the success of its DE&I objectives
  • Board composition, culture, and practices that align with the organization’s DE&I objectives
  • How the company’s DE&I initiatives permeate not only the organization internally, but also its external stakeholders (e.g., the company’s relationship with its supply chain, business partners, customers, communities, etc.)
  • How innovation was spurred at the company based on DE&I efforts

After reviewing the slate of 10 finalists, judges Roy Dunbar, director of Johnson Controls and SiteOne Landscape Supply; Sonya Sepahban, director of Cooper-Standard Holdings; and Mary Beth Vitale, director of Pareteum Corp. and Luna Innovations, named the following companies as this year’s winners.

The Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church USA. This corporate entity provides benefits to some 60,000 people in the United States and manages $10 billion in plan assets. In addition to the board retroactively providing pensions to same-sex partners, it is an exemplar of gender diversity in the workplace: more than 60 percent of employees are women and 40 percent are people of color. That diversity is reflected at the board level as well: 30 percent of board members are people of color. “Diversity, equity, and inclusion serve a key place in our work,” said Philip Amoa, independent director and chair of the governance committee, in an acceptance speech that was part of a video tribute that aired during the 2020 NACD Summit. “Yes, we still have work to do, but I am grateful for what we have done and hope to accomplish.”

Philip Amoa
Philip Amoa, independent director and chair of the governance committee for the Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church USA, gives the organization’s virtual acceptance speech.

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. This company has more than 434.4 billion CAD in assets under management and stood out for positioning the head of diversity and inclusion so that they report to both the chief talent officer and CEO and counsel portfolio companies who are themselves focusing on DE&I issues. In addition, seven out of 12 directors are women. “Diversity and inclusion have long been priorities of our board of directors and committees, with a focus on ensuring a comprehensive approach to creating an inclusive environment and continuing progress in the representation of diverse employees across the organization,” remarked board chair Heather Munroe-Blum in accepting the award from NACD.

Heather Munroe Blum
Heather Monroe-Blum, chair of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, accepts the NACD NXT award for the company.

Sempra Energy. This San Diego-based energy company established an office for corporate diversity 20 years ago and has worked to ensure that DE&I is well engrained in its corporate culture—including taking steps to promote the inclusion of hearing-impaired customers and employees. In addition, more than half of Sempra’s board are either women or people of color. “These ideals have formed a part of Sempra’s DNA for over two decades and is a large credit, in our board’s view, that diversity and inclusion are essential to building stronger and more successful companies,” said Sempra chair and CEO Jeff Martin in a videotaped interview. “Our vision is to deliver energy with purpose, and that vision is informed by our values: doing the right thing, championing people, and shaping the future.”

Jeff Martin
Jeff Martin, chair and CEO of Sempra Energy, speaks in a videotaped interview.

See the NXT landing page for the 2020 list of NACD NXT award nominees, additional information about the NACD NXT initiative, and tools and resources pertaining to diversity and inclusion oversight. A call for nominations for the 2021 NACD NXT Recognition Awards is slated to open early next year—so please watch this space and your email inboxes for more information.

Jesse Rhodes
Jesse Rhodes was the managing editor of NACD Directorship magazine.