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CEOs say these 4 factors will shape business in 2020

Lawrence

Feb. 18, 2020

More than half of CEOs believe the rate of global economic growth will decline, according to PwC’s Annual Global CEO Survey. Uncertainty is fueling this record level of pessimism. Climate change could provide a positive opportunity for companies.
Across the globe, business bosses are showing record levels of pessimism about economic growth, a new report has found.
And there’s one thing behind this lack of confidence – uncertainty. PwC’s Annual Global CEO Survey represents the views of almost 1,600 chief executives in more than 80 territories, and it found the number that are “very confident” their revenue will grow in 2020 to be at its lowest level since 2009.
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The results make interesting reading as CEOs’ revenue confidence, PwC says, can be a reliable indicator of trends in global GDP growth.
Here are four key things that are on top bosses’ minds for 2020.
1. A rocky road for growth
Two years ago, the same PwC survey found record levels of optimism. Today, it’s a very different story – in fact, the percentage of CEOs that think the rate of global GDP growth will decline has increased tenfold in that time, from 5% to 53%.
Uncertainty is fueling this fear, the report says. Over-regulation is seen as a top challenge, followed by concerns about uncertain economic growth, trade conflicts, climate change and cyber threats.
2. Technology regulation
Many CEOs think the internet will become more fractured as a lack of global regulation leads to governments increasingly introducing their own legislation.
Globally, 50% think local laws around content, commerce and privacy will create a more splintered internet, while 40% say it will become less fractured. And nearly 7 in 10 CEOs foresee an increase in legislation around content regulation and to break up dominant tech companies.
The report says CEOs will increasingly need to collaborate with governments on solutions around how technology and data are used that both protect consumers and foster innovation. This will become more important as the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) advances and the use of technologies like artificial intelligence increases.
As the 4IR introduces new ways of working, new technical, digital and soft skills will be required. But these are in short supply, according to the report, leading to a consensus among CEOs that retraining and upskilling are the most important routes to closing potential skills gaps in their organizations.
Just 18% of global CEOs report significant progress in establishing programs to help employees do this. But firms that have made the most progress in upskilling say they are seeing better business outcomes as a result, including a stronger corporate culture, higher productivity and greater innovation.
4. Changing climate
CEOs today are more likely to see the benefits of investing in climate change initiatives than they were 10 years ago, although, as PwC acknowledges, this appreciation of the upside of taking action is “still subdued.”
Since 2010, the number who “strongly agree” green practices can boost a company’s reputation with key stakeholders, including employees, has almost doubled to 30%. And the number that think such initiatives will lead to significant product and service opportunities has seen a similar rise – from 13% to 25%.
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