CEOs see investment in sustainability and people as way to emerge stronger from downturn

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EY’s January 2023 CEO Outlook Pulse Survey recorded the views of 1,200 CEOs across the globe on their prospects, challenges and opportunities. It found that 48% foresee a moderate slowdown in the global economy, while more than half (55%) of those preparing for a persistent downturn fear a recession worse than the global financial crisis of 2007-08 in terms of its length and severity.

Sobering news to start the year. However, despite (or maybe because of) the negative outlook, CEOs are on the lookout for opportunities to gain competitive advantage.

Investment in sustainability and people seen as routes to growth

To shift the dial and emerge stronger and more competitive from the downturn, 39% of respondents are planning to increase investment in sustainability as a core aspect of their strategy and offering, including net-zero and other environmental and societal priorities.

In addition, more than a third (36%) plan to increase their investment in talent, including workforce wellbeing and skills development. The majority of CEO respondents (70%) agree that flexible working will be critical to reducing employee churn and attracting new talent.

Andrea Guerzoni, EY Global Vice Chair – Strategy and Transactions, says:

“Proactive CEOs are on the lookout for strategies to transform their businesses and position them for future growth. CEOs see critical advantage in embedding sustainability into their strategic planning to strengthen their brand and build trust with key stakeholders, including employees, customers and communities.

To further recession-proof their business, CEOs are putting their recent experience of losing skilled talent and having to hire in a hot labor market to good use by focusing on key ways to retain talent, expand their talent pool and adopt new working practices that emerged in the post-pandemic world.”

This bodes well for those lobbying for sustained investment in workplace wellbeing and provides useful insights for those trying to tune in to language that will engage the C-suite.

You can read the full report at: ey.com/CEOOutlook.

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