The Leadership Agenda

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CEOs need to build better ecosystems

The results of PwC’s Global CEO Survey show that many leaders aren’t maximising the potential of outside collaboration.

The complexity of today’s business challenges is placing a premium on the ability to collaborate across the boundaries of the corporation. To get a window on these dynamics, PwC’s 2023 Global CEO Survey asked participants how they forge partnerships—with whom and to what objective. The results show that although companies do work with a wide network of collaborators, the chief executives of those companies need to be asking themselves more emphatically what kind of ecosystem they want to build. Are those relationships geared solely toward creating new sources of business value? Or are they simultaneously addressing societal issues such as climate change? As the chart above shows, value-creation outstrips societal issues across every type of collaboration except those involving NGOs. And while larger companies are more likely than smaller ones to address societal challenges through collaboration with institutions of all types, the overall imbalance points to the fact that leaders are struggling to align business value with societal value.

PwC’s work in ESG strategy development suggests that organisations are best able to create both types of value in tandem when they tackle ecosystem building with rigour and sophistication. CEOs need to commit their organisations to an ESG identity and focus area, and make the commitment real. This often involves mapping the interests of critical ecosystem partners; identifying the combinations of talent, technology, processes and insight that those partners can provide; building trust through reciprocity; and nurturing a corporate culture that embraces collaboration across traditional institutional lines. We’ve seen numerous examples of these principles delivering value. Neste, an oil refiner and marketer based in Finland, has built an ecosystem around a partnership with McDonald’s in which one company collects McDonald’s cooking oil and another transports it to Neste, which processes the material into diesel fuel that it sells to a trucking company partner. Mytilineos, a 114-year-old family-owned Greek conglomerate that produces metals and power, is collaborating with the Greek government and the European Commission on an initiative in which electricity-intensive industries will finance up to 4 gigawatts of new renewable energy sources. ‘We believe innovation should be pursued collaboratively because in that way it is undoubtedly more productive,’ said Evangelos Mytilineos, the company’s chairman and CEO. ‘I believe we truly embody the cliché that if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.’

Explore the findings of PwC's 27th Annual Global CEO Survey.

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