Drawing on insights from our conversations with board directors around the world, we highlight the following priority issues for boards to consider as they approach and execute their 2020 agendas.

— The environmental emergency can no longer be ignored in the context of environment, social and governance (‘ESG’) and long-term strategic thinking.

— Balancing the interests of society at large and shareholder return has become inevitable in strategy discussions.

— Emerging and disruptive technology will continue to ramp-up and put risk management systems and the workforce to the test.

— Geopolitical turmoil requires the related disruption, strategy and risk to be hardwired together.

— Cyber security and data governance requires a rigorous, risk-based and holistic approach.

— Corporate culture needs to be embedded in strategic discussions, risk management and compliance, performance, and the incentives driving these activities.

— Diversity and inclusion should record fare against the company’s own goals, its strategy and its risk profile. 

— Succession planning is a dynamic and ongoing process. Be ready and prepared to deal with planned or unplanned change.

— Talent pipelines should align with strategy, technology advances and forecast needs for the short – and long-term.

— Shareholder engagement continues to increase – with boards being held increasingly accountable for performance and greater transparency. 

— Crisis readiness and response plans allow companies to weather crises faster and better.

Prioritizing board agendas will be particularly challenging in 2020 as stakeholder voices continue to drive a sharper focus on how the company is being positioned for the future. Combined with concerns about the economy and geopolitical turmoil, the year ahead will require a careful balance of near-term focus, mid-term agility, and long-term thinking.