NACD CEO Peter R. Gleason commenced Virtual NACD Summit 2020 on Monday with an address that posed a question: “What do our decisions and actions as directors in the boardroom actually mean to the everyday worker—to the employee on the assembly line, at their desk, or at the service counter?” The gravity of the events of the past ten months makes this an especially urgent question for directors to answer. The next two days of mainstage programming examined what the purpose of board leadership will be—needs to be—as the world emerges and rebuilds from the trauma of 2020.
In a debate on shareholder vs. stakeholder capitalism moderated by the Financial Times’ Gillian Tett, author Anand Giridharadas and economist R. Glenn Hubbard shared their views that revealed a generational rift in perspectives on the role of the corporation in society. This was followed by Peter R. Gleason interviewing former Ambassador Susan E. Rice about the intersection of foreign policy and leadership in uncertain times. Ambassador Rice conveyed into her own experiences as a leader and her thoughts on how current geopolitical conditions are threatening American security and its standing as an economic power. The conversations on leadership continued with Maryland Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan and NACD board member Daniel M. Gallagher. They delved into what leadership looks like during times of crisis and the challenges the governor has faced while leading his state through the pandemic. Finally, a panel made up of Lauren Araiza, Tony Coles, Sarah Kate Ellis, and Tina Tchen came together to discuss where social justice movements fit into the realm of corporate governance. The conversation drove home the need for directors to consider the diversity within the boardroom and whether the corporate culture promotes equity and inclusivity.
On Tuesday, Beth E. Ford, president and CEO of Land O’Lakes, led a discussion with Chip Bergh, CEO of Levi Strauss, on sustainability and profit. Both CEOs focused on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) concerns and described current projects their respective companies have undertaken to decrease their carbon footprints and develop more sustainable business practices. From there, Alexis Glick interviewed neurosurgeon and CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta on how COVID-19 will continue to reshape society in the months ahead and what directors need to keep top of mind as businesses approach reopening. Rounding out the day, Ariel Investments co-CEO Mellody Hobson talked to General Colin L. Powell (Ret.) about the challenges facing corporations in light of the coming election.
While the mainstage programming has wrapped for this year, Summit is just ramping up. Read through the agenda—there is still time to register for the leadership symposiums, board committee forums, and expert insights sessions, all of which will explore key governance issues directors should keep front of mind going to 2021, such as strategy and risk, CEO succession planning, and private company governance.
Read NACD’s ongoing coverage of Summit on the NACD BoardTalk blog. For recaps of this week’s sessions, be sure to read Virtual NACD Summit Packs Purpose into High-Impact Sessions and Moving Forward with Courage and Purpose. Finally, celebrate the work of those boards that are champions of diversity and inclusion in Boards Honored with NACD NXT Awards.