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Introducing ‘The Modern Board 25’. These corporate boards rank highest in expertise, independence and diversity

April 19, 2022, 10:03 AM UTC

Good morning.

A board seat at a Fortune 500 company used to be the cushiest of jobs. Quarterly meetings, a quarter million in comp, and your biggest challenge was picking a new CEO every five years or so.

But recently, it’s all gotten much more complicated. I say that on the authority of a man who has the data to know: Brian Stafford, CEO of Diligent, which makes collaboration software used by tens of thousands of corporate boards.

“The role of the board has changed pretty materially over the last 10 years,” Stafford told Ellen McGirt and me in this week’s episode of our podcast Leadership Next. “And over the next 10 years, there’s going to be even more complexity… Stakeholder capitalism has really [required] boards to extend their reach far beyond what they used to be responsible for.” 

Today’s boards have to guide companies through three simultaneous revolutions—a technology revolution, a stakeholder revolution, and a workplace revolution—and help manage multiple crises—a pandemic, a social justice upheaval, and the threat of a third world war—all in an environment of heightened employee activism, political polarization and social-media-fueled hyper-transparency. Instead of just paying attention to financial results, they are now called on by the SEC to monitor climate effects, and soon they probably will have to oversee reporting on diversity and other employee data as well. Oh, and did I mention cyber risk? Not an easy job.

So who’s doing it well? Working with our partners at Diligent, Fortune has crunched the data and come up with our first-ever ranking of 25 companies that have met the challenge: the Modern Board 25. Criteria included expertise, independence, diversity and tenure of board membership. Our premise is that companies with strong boards will be best suited to deal with the turbulence ahead. The list goes public this morning. I won’t spoil all the drama, but the top five are:

— Microsoft 

— Hewlett Packard Enterprise

— Walgreens Boots Alliance

— Intel 

— 3M

You can view the entire list here, read more about our methodology here, and listen to the full podcast interview with Stafford on Apple or on Spotify.  If you are a board member yourself, you should probably sign up for our weekly newsletter, The Modern Board, here. And you can read other Fortune coverage of this rapidly evolving topic here. By the way, I would still recommend board service as an engaging, rewarding, and important way to spend your time. Just don’t count on sleeping through the meetings.

More news below.

Alan Murray
@alansmurray

alan.murray@fortune.com

TOP NEWS

Markets preview: Stocks sink

After a long Easter-weekend break, European bourses are open for business again—and have fallen into the red. European tech stocks lead the slide. It's not much better across the Atlantic. At 5 a.m. ET, U.S. futures were flat after a lackluster start to the trading week. Investors are a bit spooked by comments from Fed president James Bullard—the most hawkish hawk on the FOMC—not to rule out a 75 basis-point hike. Bloomberg

World Bank downgrade

The World Bank came out of the Easter break yesterday with some bad news: a global growth downgrade. It slashed its GDP growth rate to 3.2% (from 4.1%). In an investor note this morning, UBS chief economist Paul Donovan called this a doozy of a downgrade. "The world has reached a point where growth risks are probably greater than inflation risks, as the demand normalization process post-pandemic runs into reduced real incomes," he wrote. World Bank

Shanghai's COVID crisis

With China's finance and business hub now on the eve of week four of its lockdown, the announced death toll is beginning creeping up. It was at 10 this morning—a number that's being questioned inside and outside the country. Bonus read: Telsa's Shanghai staff will sleep in the factory in order to re-start production. Fortune

One pill makes you larger

It's been a great month to be a Twitter shareholder. The stock rallied a further 7.5% on Monday after the company revealed details this weekend of its poison pill strategy to fend off an Elon Musk will-he-or-won't-he takeover bid. Bloomberg columnist Matt Levine, who worked at the Wall Street law firm that invented the poison pill, has the best explanation I've ever read about the so-called poison pill strategy to insulate shareholders from "coercive takeover tactics" and, more recently, the not-so-coercive kind. Bloomberg

AROUND THE WATERCOOLER

In a word, "disappointing"

Earnings season has only just begun, and yet Morgan Stanley equity strategists thinks it will be "more disappointing that we thought." The culprits: war in Russia, lockdowns in Shanghai and the I-word: inflation. Fortune

Do masks even work?

The CDC mask mandate for plane and train journeys expired yesterday—with an assist from a federal judge in Florida. Fortune's Nicholas Gordon analyzes whether the move is a health risk, or no big deal. Fortune

Rice crops at risk

Economists are sounding the alarm about a possible huge hit to Asia's crop yields that could impact by "a very conservative estimate" 500 million people. The culprit is rising fertilizer costs triggered by the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine. Bonus read: How the war in Ukraine is pushing the world to find a new, greener recipe for fertilizer. Bloomberg

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by Bernhard Warner.

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