In a revealing snapshot of executive perspectives, PwC’s latest survey of over 4,700 CEOs worldwide provides a nuanced outlook on the global economy.
Reinvent or disappear
As leaders gathered at the World Economic Forum in Davo4,700s, Switzerland, the survey showcased an increasing optimism about economic strength, with 38% expressing confidence that growth will improve in the year ahead — a significant surge from last year’s 18%.
Despite current wars, geopolitical tensions, and disruptions in global trade, the CEOs also exhibited a decreased expectation of economic decline compared to last year, with 45% expecting growth to decline in 2024 as opposed to 73% in 2023.
This positive shift, however, does not diminish the looming challenges on the horizon. The World Bank’s recent forecast indicating a third consecutive year of global economic slowdown in 2024 adds a layer of complexity to the unfolding narrative.
Interestingly, the CEOs’ confidence in their companies’ ability to weather significant changes tells a different story. A notable 45%” believe their company will not be viable in ten years if it stays on its current path,” according to the survey. Last year, 39% of CEOs expressed these concerns.
“Whether accelerating the rollout of generative AI or building their business to address the challenges of the climate transition, this is a year of transformation,” Global Chairman of PwC Bob Moritz emphasized the urgency of adaptation.
Regulatory hurdles, skills shortages among workers, and other obstacles are cited by CEOs as impediments to the transformative initiatives these leaders aim to undertake.
Artificial Intelligence: A double-edged sword
As to Artificial intelligence (AI), “about half of CEOs expect generative AI to enhance their ability to build trust with stakeholders, and about 60% expect it to improve product or service quality,” PwC writes.
While AI is seen as bringing both challenges and opportunities, CEOs expect “many positive near-term business impacts from generative AI,” like increased revenues and improved efficiency.
At the same time, almost 70% expect generative AI to “increase competition, drive changes to their business models and require new skills from their workforce” within the next three years.
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The CEOs’ greatest concern regarding AI, according to the survey, is the risk of cybersecurity, with over 50% agreeing that it’s “likely to increase the spread of misinformation in their company.”
A third of CEOs also “expects generative AI to increase bias towards specific groups of employees or customers in the next 12 months.”
“While there are potential risks with [AI and large language models], we believe more in its potential and creating boundaries to mitigate any risk,” CEO of Boston Dynamics Robert Playter told PwC. “This integration, like all applications of our robots, must adhere to…ethical principles, which strictly prohibit weaponizing the robots or using them for purposes of harm or intimidation.”
Indeed, in another PwC’s Global Risk Survey 2023, 60% of respondents said they see generative AI as “mostly or fully an opportunity rather than a risk.”
Climate transition: Also an opportunity and risk
Nearly a third of CEOs anticipate that climate change will influence their business strategies over the next three years.
While about two-thirds of CEOs say they are already working on improving energy efficiency; only about 10% have reported completing initiatives.
Further, about half of CEOs said they have work in progress to innovate climate-friendly products or services.
Worringly, almost a third said they do not plan to “incorporate climate risk into financial planning” while 36% of CEOs don’t plan to invest in nature-based climate solutions.
As the corporate landscape grapples with these intricacies, the CEOs’ responses highlight a pivotal juncture where resilience and adaptability become paramount.
The intersection of economic shifts, technological evolution, and climate imperatives requires leaders to navigate a delicate balance between optimism and proactive reinvention. PwC’s survey offers a compelling glimpse into the mindset of CEOs steering their organizations through this transformative decade.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: The Financial District in Toronto, Canada, Dec. 3, 2015. Featured Photo Credit: Matthew Henry.