News Analysis

How did boards around the world handle the pandemic?

by Alex Crimmins


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The pandemic was a multifaceted, prolonged crisis for most boards around the world. The Global Network of Director Institutes’ latest report examines how boards handled the pandemic and the most significant issues faced by directors. 

The Global Network of Director Institutes (GNDI) consists of leading director institutes from around the world.

Through global reciprocity programs, directors can gain access to directors around the world.

GNDI comprises 22 institutes representing more than 150,000 directors and other governance professionals around the globe.

The Global Network of Director Institutes 2020–2021 Survey Report: Board Governance During the COVID-19 Crisis examines the economic and social impacts of the COVID-19 global health crisis and its unprecedented impact on business and society.

The key findings of the report include:

  • During the crisis, 72% of directors were satisfied with their crisis response plans and their ability to provide oversight.
  • The crisis will likely significantly impact the way boards evaluate employee risk and engage in corporate strategy.
  • Virtual board meetings work, but they are second best. The lack of nonverbal communication is the highest-ranked challenge of virtual meetings.
  • Nearly 70% of directors report spending more time on board work this year than last year; most report increasing their time commitment by 50 per cent.
  • In the early stages of the crisis, many boards met weekly, next moving to every other week as the crisis continued, and then moving to monthly meetings.
  • Recalibrating strategies to the new markets or environment (short or long term) was the top challenge facing most boards at the start of the crisis.
  • ESG, sustainability, and stakeholder value are also cited as the areas most likely to bear the brunt of the crisis.
  • Boards must work with their management teams to ensure that their companies don’t “sleepwalk” into the next major, global, systemic risk and look at future proof risk-management programs.
  • Digital readiness, or its lack, was exposed by the rapid shift to remote business operations. Many companies scrambled to ensure business continuity and workforce productivity during the initial lockdown.

In summary

The pandemic became a multifaceted, prolonged crisis for nearly every company and their board, from the health and safety of employees, broken supply chains, liquidity concerns, financial strains, [and] demand shocks to moving to remote working.

You can download the full report here.


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