Jan. 15, 2024
Twelve months ago, we reported that nearly 40% of global chief executive officers believed their companies would no longer be viable in ten years’ time if they continued on their current path. The reinvention imperative this implied caught the attention of our clients, prompting thousands of conversations between PwC partners and Chief executives around the world. ‘Are we in the 40% or the 60%?’ was a question many chief executive officers posed to themselves and their top teams during or following these discussions. Almost invariably, as they anticipated the magnitude of changes barrelling towards them, those leaders concluded that they needed to be more transformative in their approach if their organization was to thrive in the decades ahead.
This year’s Global Chief Executive Officer Survey, the 27th we’ve conducted, suggests that the vast majority of companies are already taking some steps towards reinvention. Yet even as chief executive officers attempt meaningful changes to their companies’ business models, they are even more concerned about their long-term viability. Although the 4,702 chief executive officers responding to this year’s survey were more optimistic about global economic growth than last year, 45% of them are still not confident that their companies would survive more than a decade on their current path. Among the other key findings:
- The impetus to reinvent is intensifying. Chief executive officers expect more pressure over the next three years than they experienced over the previous five from technology, climate change, and nearly every other megatrend affecting global business.
- Survival-conscious chief executive officers among the 45% who are less confident of their company’s viability are slightly more likely than other chief executive officers to have taken action aimed at reinventing their business models. Small company chief executives are more likely than their larger company counterparts to feel their company’s viability threatened.
- Chief executive officers perceive enormous inefficiencies across a range of their companies’ routine activities—everything from decision-making meetings to emails—viewing roughly 40% of the time spent on these tasks as inefficient. A conservative estimate of the cost of that inefficiency would be tantamount to a self-imposed US$10 trillion tax on productivity. Generative AI, which about 60% of chief executive officers expect to create efficiency benefits, could help relieve some routine burdens.
- Four in ten chief executive officers report that they have accepted lower hurdle rates for climate-friendly investments than for other investments—in the majority of cases, between one and four percentage points lower. This is clear evidence that some chief executive officers are willing to make complex trade-offs as they strive to boost the sustainability of their businesses.
- Meanwhile, two-thirds of chief executive officers report reallocation of resources (financial and human) of 20% or less year to year. The connections among reallocation, reinvention, and financial performance suggest that more aggressive reallocation—up to a point—is required to succeed.
The stakes are high, but so is chief executive officer awareness of both the urgency to change and the need to deliver sustained outcomes for stakeholders and society. To clarify the nature of the challenge and the opportunities associated with meaningful business reimagination, we’ve organized this year’s report in nine sections under three themes.