Issues for Boards 2021

Accelerate and Amplify

Our annual publication discusses topical issues for the year ahead.

We have summarised some of the key points below. Alternatively, please download the full publication for wider insight.

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2021: accelerate and amplify

Significant changes in attitudes and approaches to environmental, social and governance issues (ESG) were already on the horizon a year ago, but events in the last 12 months have accelerated the pace of change. Although the global pandemic’s impact on the economy is a major concern, it and other events of 2020 have illuminated and amplified the need to tackle issues such as social injustice, inequality, racial bias, climate change and the ever-growing role of technology and digitisation.

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Strategy, data and disclosure: the direction of travel in ESG

If 2020 was the year ESG became mainstream, this year will be about setting a strategy and getting to grips with data and disclosure. Companies are seeing the need to integrate ESG into the heart of their strategy, as they face demands for clear plans on transitioning to a zero emission economy and cleaner energy usage.

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Hotting up –“say on climate” resolutions

Following an intense campaign from activist fund manager Sir Chris Hohn, in 2020 the Spanish airport group Aena became the first major company in the world to agree to regular climate votes. Companies that may be the target of climate, or other ESG activism, are faced with a choice: whether to take a proactive approach to addressing concerns or to wait to react to proposals put forward by investors.

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New workplaces, new ways of working

Covid-19 has been the ultimate workplace disrupter. Businesses should view this as an opportunity not an obstacle. Rather than expecting a return to normal, companies should begin actively preparing for the future workplace.

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Reflecting the Covid landscape in executive pay

In the wake of the Covid pandemic, executive pay has come under a sharper spotlight, as employees have been furloughed or made redundant. Boards must be ready to explain and justify their decisions on executive pay to shareholders, investors, regulators, employees and the wider community.

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M&A strategies in a landscape of heightened regulatory scrutiny 

Geopolitical tensions and the fear of ceding advantage in the fourth industrial revolution mean that more governments are seeking to intervene in corporate transactions to protect national interests. Businesses undertaking M&A will need to understand and navigate a climate of much increased regulatory scrutiny in the form of both strengthened foreign investment rules and a post Brexit change in the merger control landscape.

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Parental guidance - and accountability?

Multinational groups continue to be a target for litigation at parent level in relation to circumstances that have arisen at subsidiary level, typically overseas. The UK Supreme Court has recently opened the way for a hearing on environmental damage allegedly caused by an overseas subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell.

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Extraordinary meetings and how to control them (without Jackie Weaver)

In an unexpected lockdown twist, millions of people became fixated on the inner workings of formal meetings. The recent viral video of the unintentionally hilarious power tussle at a Zoom meeting of Handforth Parish Council highlights many practical points for running a successful meeting or stakeholder event – and things to avoid at all costs.

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