On Thursday, December 14, at 7 pm. ET, Page will be joined by Judy Samuelson, Executive Director at the Aspen Institute Business + Society Program, for a second Page Conversation on the Aspen Institute’s new release: “Planning for a New Reality: Agenda for the Prepared Board.” Below are some of the key insights from their research.

How is the job of corporate board directors changing?

At a time of profound social and industrial transformation, it is not surprising that the role of corporate board directors is evolving and expanding, and fast. Boards are confronting a climate crisis that introduces significant risks across industries, a deep shift in workforce expectations, and evolving – often conflicting – expectations of firms and their leaders, from Wall Street to the State House to the employee cafeteria. As such:

  • Directors' jobs are getting bigger. In a recent survey by BCG, INSEAD, and Heidrick & Struggles, 69% of directors report spending more time on their board work, driven by an expanded remit. To anticipate the needs of the executive team, directors need to confront changes in the workplace and dig into social and environmental concerns once considered exogenous to the firm – and well outside of the scope of the BOD. Today, these considerations are central to long-term value creation.

  • … Way bigger. To steward any enterprise requires paying attention to the systems on which the enterprise depends. Today’s directors are bound to commitments that will outlast the tenure of any CEO. Both vision and hard data are needed to “manage for tomorrow,” as the Page Principles encourage – and zero in on communities and resources that underpin long-term value creation. 
    • The vision part includes understanding how the company fits within systems that we take for granted – to embrace planetary limits, while considering the vital inputs to the long-term health of the economy as well as the health of our democracies.

  • Directors need to ask new questions. All these changes call for new leadership in boardrooms, but knowledge gaps exist among directors regarding the vast array of risks and opportunities facing firms. Aspen BSP’s “Agenda for the Prepared Board” offers seven perspectives – together with questions to prompt boardroom discussion – that invite directors to consider how decisions that affect employees, customers and suppliers, host communities, and environmental sustainability can deliver enduring value for the companies they serve.

What does this mean for strategic communications leaders?

As Boards step into the future, CCOs can be a crucial resource – contributing their traditional expertise in strategic communications, crisis preparedness, and scenario planning in a world of uncertainties. But today’s Boards also need to understand more deeply the employee experience, collaborate in new ways with partners and strengthen alliances both within and beyond the firm. CCOs, with their deep knowledge of and engagement with key constituents, are again uniquely positioned to help. 

On December 14, we’ll explore these ideas – and other ways the expanding role of directors might represent an opportunity for CCOs.