Reimagining the outcomes that matter
As environmental, financial and societal pressures converge, today’s leaders must solve a new equation.
As we near the two-year mark of the pandemic, the global economy has rebounded from the depths of mid-2020. The IMF projects global GDP to grow 4.9% in 2022, a downtick from the 5.9% growth expected in 2021, but still formidable. The 4,446 CEOs from 89 countries and territories who responded to our 25th Annual Global CEO Survey display optimism about continued economic resilience.
Yet threats, uncertainties and tensions abound. The survey was in the field during the COP26 conference in Scotland, which convened world leaders to try to prevent the worst effects of climate change. PwC experts who attended were both impressed by executives’ commitment to rapid progress and aware that the captains of industry in Glasgow were a self-selected group that came prepared to take action. The question of how to bring others along looms large. Then, just two weeks after our survey closed, news of the Omicron variant reverberated around the world, raising fresh questions about the course of the pandemic and about society’s ability to continue the slow climb to normalcy.
Our survey findings reflect these and other tensions. For example, just 22% of survey respondents have made net-zero commitments (though the largest companies in our sample are further along). CEOs are most worried about the potential for a cyberattack or macroeconomic shock to undermine the achievement of their company’s financial goals—the same goals that most executive compensation packages are still tied to. And they are less concerned about challenges, like climate change and social inequality, that appear to pose smaller immediate threats to revenue.
But our survey also provides a glimpse of what is possible when we reimagine the status quo. A case in point: the power of trust. We found that highly trusted companies are more likely to have made net-zero commitments and to have tied their CEO’s compensation to nonfinancial outcomes, such as employee engagement scores and gender diversity in the workforce. Correlation is not causation, and we’ll continue to explore these results. But at first blush, they suggest a relationship between trust and the ability to drive change—a means of moving beyond short-term, “it’s the next leader’s problem” thinking.