If it’s 2020, then climate change, board diversity, worker protections and data privacy are supposed to be driving corporate discussions. Obviously, priorities shift during a crisis.

“We’re not spending any time talking about ESG in the boardrooms right now,” said Hillary Holmes, partner in the Houston office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, whose job entails advising oil and gas company boards of directors on a range of strategies including—particularly at this moment—survival.

But don’t push those issues aside for too long.

“It’s really important to note that COVID-19 is an ESG crisis,” stressed Sarah Fortt, counsel in M&A and capital markets at Vinson & Elkins LLP, during a recent webinar. “It’s not the scenario that everyone was necessarily looking at. A global pandemic, without a doubt, is an ESG scenario. It’s a nonfinancial risk. I think one of the things that’s going to be interesting going forward is to see how investors respond to other areas of nonfinancial risks.”

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