Past Program


In today’s tumultuous world, corporations face conflicting and unsettling forces. Geopolitics collide with economics, new competitors disrupt industries, and the changing nature of shareholders challenges traditional concepts of corporate stewardship. Looking forward, directors need the right skills and tools to improve risk literacy and resilience of their companies. 

Bringing together an international and intergenerational cohort of company directors, lawyers, policymakers, academics, and representatives of key civil society interest groups, the Salzburg Global Corporate Governance Forum will explore how directors can identify both the challenges and opportunities of disruptive risk, achieve resilience, and navigate an increasingly complicated landscape.

By invitation only

Foresight and anticipatory leadership have never been more important for the running of complex multinational corporations. Directors must be able to support and advise management to help them recognize, prepare for, and react to risks. Some risks companies face may be truly unpredictable, whereas others are underestimated, under-appreciated, or simply ignored. Achieving maximum resilience – through proactive measures or nimble responses to circumstances that arise – will determine success.

Risk creates opportunities as well as challenges for companies that are well prepared. Corporations that can adapt to rapidly-changing competitive and political environments can emerge stronger. Conversely, those which lack proper strategies will likely get overtaken by events, competitors, or popular opinion.

In a time of political and economic turmoil, companies will need to better address exogenous risks. Sanctions, trade wars, and oil production swings highlight geopolitical volatility; conflicting or unfavorable regulatory reforms impact functionality and the bottom line; cyberattacks have become routine; new technologies disrupt industries; and concerns mount over the erosion of environmental and social systems.

Internally, disruptive trends in governance models call into question the fundamentals of how corporations are run and for whom. Board directors may face new challenges to the exercise of their legal and fiduciary duties because of changes in the very nature of shareholders – and their expectations. Decision-making in companies is now impacted by large-scale shifts in ownership, with different categories of shareholders having very different objectives. For example, institutional pension and sovereign wealth funds have increased their asset holdings, passive investments may soon overtake active market share, and capital continues to flow to activist investors who do not hesitate to exert their influence in the boardroom. 

This year’s program explored what corporate governance mechanisms directors can use and how directors can step up as arbiters to meet the challenge balancing short-term results, long-term perspectives, and the moral authority of good corporate citizenship. 


  1. Why are corporations not more effective at taking preventive action to address risk? What corporate governance mechanisms can help focus corporate attention on the next hot spot issues?
  2. What practices do successful companies use in the relationship between the board and management? What skills, expertise, and potentially diverse composition do boards require to keep abreast of global trends?
  3. How can corporations react quickly enough to fundamental changes in their ecosystem, whether trade or security dynamics, shifting regulatory regimes, disruptive technology or business models, or environmental degradation? 
  4. When governments fail to lead in meeting society’s needs, should companies or their directors weigh in on critical social and political issues? Does it serve the corporate mission or bottom line?
  5. Could a wider lens on risk management lead to stronger corporate leadership on social and political issues? Should boards be required to consider an extended group of constituents beyond traditional shareholders?
  6. Who are the new shareholders and who is driving decision-making? Do they have the right incentives and resources to provide proper stewardship?
  7. What are current trends around the world for director liability? How might directors’ duties change if certain risks become foreseeable? 


The highly interactive discussion took place in plenary and breakout sessions without any pre-assigned speakers, panels, or formal presentations. Reading materials, accompanied by key questions, are distributed in advance. Small group conversations allowed for intense exploration of specific aspects of the general themes, returning to the plenary to refine conclusions. Adherence to the Chatham House Rule ensured an open and free exchange among peers. 


Participation in the Forum’s annual meeting in Salzburg is capped at 40 people, to ensure an intimate setting and facilitate networking and conversation in conditions of trust and openness.

The intergenerational group of participants comes together as equals, representing a range of expertise and geographic specialization. The Forum engages directors of corporations organized and operating in various jurisdictions; senior managers; judges, regulators, and policymakers; lawyers; academics; fund managers; and representatives of key civil society interest groups. Of the 40 participants, 8-12 will come from the next generation of leaders (45 and under).

Since its inauguration in 2015, the Forum has welcomed participants from 23 countries: Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Greece, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, The Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, and the USA.