Companies are facing rapidly unfolding fundamental shifts in society and the ones who “get it right” will be rewarded, according to the 17th Annual Global CEO Survey by PwC.
The survey asked CEOs to rank what they believe is the single trend that will transform their business the most in the next five years, and found that the top ranked trend is “technological advances” followed by “demographic shifts”, “shift in global economic power”, “resource scarcity and climate change”, and “urbanization”.
While these forces are responsible for increasing incomes in emerging economies, issues in unemployment and resource shortage could amplify, the survey cautions, and companies will be expected to engage with these problems. Those who come up with innovative solutions to serious social issues will be paid off in the form of revenues and more trust, it continues.
“CEOs are actually saying trust is at an all-time low,” said Dennis Nally, the chairman of PwC International, at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting regarding the survey. “I think business has got a real problem. Business has a challenge to really focus on which is how do you begin to really regain that level of trust, and I think we have a really important role to play in that debate.”
An example of good big business the survey refers to is Dow Chemical’s development of a new line of seeds for making cooking oil, which have become a bestseller for the company. The result of this innovation is a higher yield for farmers and oil with longer shelf life and less saturated fat then competing products.
Armed with new technologies, CEOs have the leadership opportunity to drive social change by addressing complex needs. And this doesn’t have to be a philanthropic exercise; as some firms have proved, it’s quite possible to solve pressing social problems profitably.
The survey interviewed over 1,300 CEOs from 68 countries.
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