Hello and welcome to our weekly intelligence briefing for boards, where we help directors keep up to speed on the macro trends affecting businesses across the world, and corporate governance news.

We hope you enjoy it and, as always, you can find the latest stories and resources on


Each day FT Leader writers on the Editorial Board meet to discuss the topics to be considered for Leader columns. Here are the issues that dominated this week:

The Editorial Board was unequivocal on Tuesday evening: Russia's invasion of eastern Ukraine had thrust Europe into its most dangerous security situation since the second world war - certainly far more serious than the Crimean incursion of 2014. And it should have been met with far tougher sanctions measures than proposed.

In an unusual double-length leader, we wrote: "In confronting a Putin whose goals appear even more reckless and threatening than eight years ago, the west will have to go much further to convince him of its collective resolve."

By Thursday morning it was clear that even the threat of tougher sanctions was no deterrent to Putin. Another double-length leader is being drafted, deploring Putin's actions as well as the lies he has spouted to justify invasion, and arguing that this is the beginning of a disturbing new chapter for Europe – and the world – after three decades of relatively benign relations. A further leader will follow at the weekend.


Russia’s ull-scale military invasion of Ukraine this morning began what could be the largest European conflict since the second world war.

Western leaders condemned the action, and threatened further reprisals. A virtual summit of G7 leaders was set for this morning,while there is an emergency Nato meeting ahead of an emergency summit of EU leaders this evening to decide on retaliatory moves.

The invasion prominent western resignations from Russian boards – though more remain in place. Former prime minister of Italy, Matteo Renzi, resigned from Delimobil, a car sharing service, while Esko Aho, the former prime minister of Finland, quit Russia’s largest bank Sberbank.

It also sent oil prices soaring, with Brent crude rising to more than $100 per barrel  – the highest level since 2014. Gas prices have also risen. A lack of investment has limited producers’ ability to boost output, meaning there aren’t many ways to ease energy prices. 

This puts the post-pandemic economic recovery, particularly in Europe, under threat. Inflation was already a problem, but increasing energy prices will raise inflationary pressures and add to the complexity over when to tighten monetary policy. 

Still, the ECB must move slowly, argues Megan Greene, a senior fellow at Harvard Kennedy School. “Raising the policy rate won’t alleviate oil or gas supplies and premature withdrawal of accommodation could kill the recovery and reintroduce fragmentation concerns.”

But earlier this week there was a positive outlook for the UK as a survey showed business activity expanded at its fastest rate for eight months in February. Inflation still loomed large, though, as the results added to expectations that the BoE will continue to raise rates.

That said, the UK’s “Living with Covid” strategy, announced this week, has left employers facing a “legal vacuum”. There is no guidance on workplace safety, with ministers refusing to fund free office testing or keep refunding small businesses for statutory sick pay.

Into corporate governance and the FTSE Women Leaders Review published voluntary recommendations setting a target for women to occupy at least 40 per cent of board and leadership positions in the FTSE 350 by the end of 2025. Importantly, these targets will apply to the largest 50 private companies in the UK by sales.

Executive pay has also been making headlines. US companies are adding ESG targets to bonus packages, with Starbucks chief Kevin Johnson earning a slice of his 2021 reward by cutting use of plastic straws. 

Meanwhile, German fund manager Allianz Global Investors warned that from next year it will vote against any large UK and European companies that do not link executive pay to ESG metrics. And in a letter to the boards of Britain’s privatised water companies, the regulator Ofwat urged directors to link executive pay and performance.

ESG also loomed large for McDonald’s as activist investor Carl Icahn launched an unusual battle. He nominated two board directors as part of a campaign to require that the fast food giant’s US pork suppliers end the practice of keeping pregnant pigs confined in small crates.

“Companies had better start getting used to this kind of activism,” writes chief business commentator Brooke Masters, as single-issue charities and activist hedge funds are now gaining support from a much wider range of investors.

But on the other side of ESG, profits are booming for Big Oil. Seven supermajors are on course to return $38bn to investors through buyback programmes this year. It’s also estimated that shareholders can expect about $50bn in dividends.

It’s a similar story at mining company Rio Tinto. Investors are set to receive a total of $16.8bn (£12.3bn) for the last financial year –
the second-biggest payout in the FTSE 100’s history (Vodafone holds the record).


The first review of the Wates principles, a corporate governance framework for private companies, was published by the Financial Reporting Council this week.

There are two ways to look at this writes business columnist Helen Thomas. “The first is that at least a third of the relevant companies are failing in what is a legal obligation under the 2018 Act… The other way is, broadly, to think it’s a decent start….

“Either way, it should provide impetus to push ahead with plugging other gaps in the oversight of economically significant private companies.”

For further reading, the full report is available here.
Three keys to a resilient post-pandemic recovery (Insights from McKinsey)
2022 global and regional trends in corporate governance (Insights from Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance)
Tech trends 2022 (Podcast from Deloitte)

Boards may be relieved to hear that the International Sustainability Standards Board aims to unify sustainability disclosure standards – simplifying the alphabet soup of ESG reporting.

Agenda takes a closer look at the challenges ahead, and how directors should respond.

This article is brought to you by FT Specialist’s Agenda, a publication that focuses on US corporate boards.

At our event yesterday, The Rise of Cyber Attacks, Sir Alex Younger, former chief of MI6, discussed how organisations can protect themselves against cyber attacks and how governments and the private sector can work together to build resilient cyber strategies.

The rapid digital transformation of businesses driven by Covid-19 has created new opportunities for hackers to exploit. Never before has it been more important for business leaders to recognise and respond to vulnerabilities in their cyber systems.

Missed the event? You can watch the replay here.
How do you like the Board Director newsletter?
Let us know by emailing [email protected]

And please forward this newsletter to other board members too.
They can join FT Board Director via