'Profit first' comes last in new CEO survey

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(iStock)
(iStock)

As many as 93% of CEOs globally believe that businesses have a responsibility to bring a positive social impact beyond earning a profit, according to a survey conducted by global business leadership organisation YPO.

According to YPO, the 2019 Global Leadership Survey marks a shift from a previously more profit-driven attitude.

The survey - the second of its kind - included responses from 2 200 CEOs based in 130 countries, as well as 1 800 youth or "future leaders". The first survey, also by YPO, included 4 154 respondents, with 1 871 youth and 2 283 CEOs. That survey was conducted in 110 countries.

The bottom line

While youth and CEOs agree that business’ role extends beyond profit making in the 2019 survey, they differ on what is preventing business from making the necessary social impact.

Chief executives lay the blame at government’s feet over regulations and tax, youth blame corruption and complicit executives.

Regarding a positive impact on climate change (both groups at 37%), access to quality education (youth at 37% and executives at 27%), creating work opportunities (youth at 28% and executives at 24%), the two groups are largely in agreement on the role of business beyond profit.

Additionally, 74% of CEOs surveyed in 2019 said they had changed their perspective on their leadership roles in the past five years.

Mary Woods of YPO commented: "93% of those surveyed say that business should have a positive impact on society beyond pursuing profits and wealth. [This is] a departure for most of these CEOs from previously held views." 

Woods wrote that the leading reason for the change in CEOs’ perspectives was interaction with employees, colleagues and children, as opposed to media, seminars or educational programmes.

However, the CEOs said the greatest obstacles they faced were strict government regulation and taxation. In the African region, 32% of respondents considered political unrest as an obstacle.

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