17th Annual Global CEO Survey: CEO Purpose: PwC

The bottom line is trust

CEOs share their insights on the changing role of business

A noticeable percentage of CEOs think that the level of trust across a number of stakeholder groups has improved over the past five years. 
However, the fundamental forces that CEOs think will impact their business the most over the next five years – technological advances, demographic changes and global economic shifts – are reshaping society and its expectations of business. There will certainly be positive changes, but issues such as unemployment and resource shortages could be significantly heightened. Business is increasingly expected to engage with such issues, and those that come up with innovative solutions to serious social issues will earn more trust – and more revenues.

Most CEOs we surveyed agree that business has social as well as financial responsibilities.
80% say it’s important for their business to measure and reduce its environment footprint. Over three-quarters think that satisfying wider societal needs and protecting the interests of future generations is important to their business. 74% agree that measuring and reporting non-financial impacts contributes to their business’ long-term success. And 69% say that the purpose of business is to balance the interests of all stakeholders.

Measuring the total impact of an organisation’s activities across social, environmental, fiscal and economic dimensions allows management to understand the trade-offs between different strategies and make the best decisions for stakeholders.
Indeed, such considerations play a key role in in CEOs’ recognition that planning horizons need to account for the short-, mid- and long-term. But leaders also recognise only too well the challenges involved in adopting multiple planning horizons and measuring the total impact of their business. It’s no surprise that most companies focus on measuring and reporting on their shorter-term financial performance.

Indeed, what makes the global trends we’re facing particularly hard to handle is the fact that they require a hybrid set of leadership skills.
CEOs today must be able to run the business of today while creating the business of tomorrow. They must pursue opportunities for revenue growth while bearing the interests of society in mind, and without compromising on values like integrity and quality.


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CEO interview quotes

"The thing that we can do that drives trust most of all is to be clear about our long-term objectives, to be consistent in the way we describe those and to behave in ways that show that we are genuine about the interests of the industry overall…"

Alison Watkins
CEO of GrainCorp

"We have created something called the Abraaj Sustainability Index where we track across 70 different parameters, both quantitative and qualitative, the performance of the businesses that we have invested in."

Arif Naqvi
Founder and Group Chief Executive of The Abraaj Group

"Why is generating trust important? Because people who trust you work with you more, they buy your products, they lend you money and, as a result, you do better as a business."

Badr Jafar
Managing Director of Crescent Group

"Our annual reporting is no longer limited to just a financial reporting, but also extends to the triple bottom line for our impact on the environment, our impact on society and our impact on the economy."

Brian Molefe
Group Chief Executive of Transnet SOC Ltd.

"While any organisation today should set a direction for where [it wants] to go… in an environment which is as volatile as today’s, you have to keep calibrating your next steps and your next action plan, depending on how the environment is moving."

Chanda Kochhar
MD & CEO of ICICI Bank

"The purpose of Pemex, like any company, should be to create value. Value for shareholders and for all the stakeholders around the company."

Emilio Lozoya
CEO of Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex)

"Scientists agree that in 30 years' time the increasing scarcity of resources and the growing and ageing population worldwide could no longer be issues, but serious problems… For us, the subject of the environment is both a real issue and an opportunity."

Jean- Dominique Senard
Chief Executive Officer of Michelin Group

"Obviously if we're in a market we do want returns, but we need to provide something major to that society and that economy. For example… the UK needs infrastructure investment and what better organisations to fund infrastructure than long-term savings and pensions companies like ours?"

Mark Wilson
Group CEO of Aviva