CEOs place sustainability, workforce issues and inflation in priority list in 2022



Sixty-three percent of CEOs see the metaverse as either not applicable to or very unlikely to be a key technology for their business

A recent survey of CEOs and senior executives by Gartner has revealed significant shifts in their thinking regarding people, purpose, prices and productivity in 2022, specifically on matters of sustainability, workforce issues and inflation.

“2022 is the year that CEO perspectives truly changed,” said Mark Raskino, distinguished research vice president at Gartner. “The pandemic gradually brought a number of deep societal trends to the surface, such as a desire to change the way we work and the fragility of long-distance global supply chains. More recently, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is amplifying macroeconomic factors that CEOs must now deal with, such as inflation.

“Simultaneously, however, CEOs’ digital business ambition continues to rise, unabated by the pandemic and related crises.”

The annual Gartner 2022 CEO and Senior Business Executive Survey was conducted between July 2021 through December 2021 among 400+ CEOs and other senior business executives in North America, EMEA and APAC across different industries, revenue and company sizes.

Metaverse Doesn’t Matter to Most CEOs

Artificial intelligence (AI) is now reported as the most impactful new technology among CEOs for the third year in a row. Conversely, 63% of CEOs see the metaverse as either not applicable or very unlikely to be a key technology for their business.

“In the past, some CEOs have embraced new technology ideas perhaps a little too enthusiastically,” said Raskino. “In the case of the metaverse, however, it’s doubtful the respondents who think it very likely to be a key technology for their business are as confident as they appear to be. 

“The remaining list of impactful technologies reminds us that ‘new’ is in the eye of the beholder. Neither digitalization nor e-commerce, in second and fourth place respectively, is very new on a relative basis. Yet these are technologies that many business leaders still perceive as novel and disruptive in their situations.”

Environmental Issues Enter the Top 10 Business Priorities for CEOs

For the first time in the history of this survey, CEOs placed environmental sustainability in their top 10 strategic business priorities, coming in at 8th place – a significant jump from 14th place in 2019 and 20th in 2015.

“As business leaders feel the pressure from key stakeholders to do more on environmental sustainability, they are now treating the needed changes as opportunities to drive business efficiency and revenue growth,” said Raskino.

Seventy-four percent of CEOs agreed that increasing environmental, social and governance (ESG) efforts attracts investors toward their companies. Of the 80% of CEOs who intend to invest in new or improved products this year and next, environmental sustainability was cited as the third largest driver, just behind functional performance and general quality. Sustainability also appears as a competitive differentiator for CEOs in 2022 and 2023 – in fact, it is on the same level as brand trust among respondents.

CEOs View Inflation as a Persistent Issue

Sixty-two percent of CEOs see general price inflation as a persistent or long-term issue. Their top response to inflation is to raise prices (51% of respondents), rather than responding with productivity and efficiency (22% of respondents). In fact, productivity and efficiency are not even in the top 10 business priorities for CEOs this year.

“Clearly, there is some complacency around inflation impact,” said Raskino. “When asked about the top two sources of competitive differentiation, only 3% of CEOs mentioned price. Gartner expects that may change quite quickly as inflation continues to bite.” 

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