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How company directors are preparing for unexpected challenges

From cybersecurity concerns to attracting talent to supply chain delays, the Diligent Institute found that the issues that plagued companies throughout 2021 will be top-of-mind for directors in 2022

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Much like they did in 2020, issues such as sustainability, social justice, and cybersecurity continued to be important global imperatives in 2021. These topics haven’t always been prominent in the boardroom, but directors are becoming increasingly responsible for managing a broader range of issues. With this new business reality in mind, boards are reshaping their agendas and expanding their members’ skill sets to address these challenges in 2022.

“Before the pandemic, many directors were not asked to have strategies around issues like cybersecurity threats; diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI); and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) matters,” says Kira Ciccarelli, lead research specialist at the Diligent Institute, the global governance research arm and think tank of Diligent. “Now, pressure for corporate action around these issues is coming from all sides: customers, employees, shareholders, and regulators.”

As Ciccarelli notes, in 2019 the Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers from America’s leading companies, redefined the purpose of a corporation to include the needs of all stakeholder groups—not just shareholders. “This expanded stakeholder view, particularly in the United States, has resulted in many corporations, and thus boards, being tasked with greater responsibilities around issues that stakeholders, and now shareholders too, find important,” she says. 

This added pressure for corporate accountability has forced directors to revisit their agendas. According to the Diligent Institute’s “What Directors Think 2022” study—which surveys U.S. public company board members to take their pulse on the issues they think will be most important in the year to come—cybersecurity, talent, and board composition were the most prominent agenda items in 2022. 

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