With the new year unfolding and many uncertainties still ahead, the needs of businesses continue to evolve. Six months following the release of our 2020 CEO Outlook Report (COVID-19 edition) , we have conducted a pulse survey to explore if and how the 3-year outlook for Canadian CEOs and their global counterparts has changed. Key focus areas include: reprioritized risks, even greater emphasis on ESG and purpose, improved remote work flexibly and an ongoing focus on investing in emerging technology.

What has changed?

  • All Canadian CEOs surveyed now agree that leading with purpose has and will continue to drive decision making for their organization, and their actions to address needs of stakeholders. All have also agreed that the pandemic has shifted their focus to the social component of ESGs, up from 64% since 2020.
  • CEOs are embracing the change, with nearly half saying their businesses and operations have been changed forever as a result of the pandemic.
  • Flexible work likely the new norm as Canadian leaders say they plan to provide opportunities for employees to work remotely two to three days per week. And the importance of the physical workplace seems to be reaffirmed – the number of CEOs considering downsizing their organizations’ physical footprint has decreased by nearly three times in the past six months.
  • As organizations move from response and recovery mode to new reality, top risks to growth have evolved. Most notably, findings indicate that supply chain risk, once perceived to be a low-risk pre-pandemic, has climbed from 5th to 3rd place over the course of 6 months; while talent risk and return to territorialism concerns dropped off CEOs’ radars.
Canada - top risks to growth
Global - top risks to growth

What has remained the same?

  • Although uncertainties around the growth of the global economy grew four times compared to pre-pandemic, findings indicate Canadian CEOs are as confident in the growth of their company and country over the next 3-years as they were pre-pandemic.
  • Since 2018, environmental and climate change has remained one of the greatest threats to organizational growth over the next three years for Canadian CEOs. While cyber security risks moved up one notch to fourth, global peers listed it as the number one threat to growth prospects.
  • From the start of the pandemic, emerging and disruptive technologies continues to be another notable threat as businesses move into the new reality.
  • CEOs continue to plan to invest in emerging and innovative technology – with 52% of leaders planning to increase investment in artificial intelligence and digital communications platforms such as video conferencing and messaging platforms, and 48% in consumer-centric technologies such as chat bots. 62% say this will remain a long-term priority focus.

In summary

KPMG International surveyed five hundred CEOs of the most-influential companies across 11 countries, including Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Spain, the U.K., and the U.S. to understand what has and has not changed since September 2020. While the pandemic has brought about enormous transformation, one theme persists – organizations and their leaders are embracing change and continue to be optimistic.
Looking for support in driving business growth in a pandemic and beyond? We are here to help. Contact a KPMG professional today.
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