Can’t trust business leaders? 8 reasons why you should

Author: Suzanne Snowden, Director, Global Thought Leadership

The end of one year and the start of the next is always a good time to take stock of one’s activities (that includes me!). I’ve been asking myself: How have I spent my time this past year? What are the things I’ve done that have really mattered? Were these the things that got measured? Did anyone notice or care?

Often some of our most meaningful achievements get lost in the flurries of emails and progress against plan that make up much of working life.

This year, in our 19th Annual Global CEO Survey, which we’ll launch later this month in Davos, we asked CEOs what their organisations bring to society which isn’t currently measured. Some CEOs were clear in their responses – that everything they do is acknowledged and valued by their wider stakeholders. However, many more felt there are a multitude of things businesses offer that don’t get measured and reported – in addition, of course, to the goods and services they’re best known for.

Here are the top eight they told us about: 

• Employment – businesses create jobs in the local communities in which they operate
• Prosperity for nations – private enterprise drives growth and provides funding, through taxes, to support communities and countries
• Innovation – businesses create and share all sorts of innovative ideas, from cutting edge technologies to research in healthcare, transport and environmental sciences
• Education and training – many CEOs mentioned the benefits wider communities get from the training they provide
• Environmental protection – business leaders mentioned programmes they’re driving, centred around lowering environmental impacts, protecting ecosystems and reducing CO2 emissions
• Safety, security and wellbeing – many CEOs mentioned the safe environment they are  providing either indirectly through their products or directly in the security and support for wellbeing for their employees and communities  (including physical security in areas of relative danger)
• Contributions to critical infrastructure -  Some of the organisations surveyed are physically building things which will transform people’s lives (from roads and bridges, to digital network infrastructure for nations)
• Philanthropic and charitable support – Finally, CEOs are also giving back to some of the great causes they see around them.

As Manuel Manrique, President and CEO of Sacyr, says:

Perhaps society is not fully aware of how our activities help to develop the communities we operate in. Our presence and activity in certain communities lead to significant developments, including better infrastructures, greater services and a more prosperous population. The resulting situation contrasts with the standard of living experienced before we arrived – and this can be seen clearly in certain places, such as Panama.

CEOs have a demanding job already and it’s getting more complicated. The challenge for many, in a more connected and transparent world, is to refine the value their businesses bring in a broader and more holistic way – one that goes beyond financial metrics and takes into account social, environmental and other dimensions.

The other challenge is to then communicate better the pivotal role businesses play in society. That’s critical to building trust with the stakeholders that businesses serve. For Nigel Wilson, CEO of Legal & General, there’s no more important question than the one about trust, as he told us: 


People’s attitudes to and expectations of business have undergone a fundamental shift in recent years. Customers and citizens are demanding more of the businesses they buy from and have higher expectations of the business community. To rebuild trust, businesses need to work with and gain the support of the stakeholders they serve. A good place to start is to better communicate the value you bring.

What do you think? What value does your business deliver to society, above and beyond the products or services you provide? Do your customers and stakeholders know? We’d love to hear from you!

Contact Suzanne Snowden
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Suzanne is Programme Director for PwC's Annual Global CEO Survey and Global Director, Thought Leadership at PwC. She has a passion for scanning the horizon for the latest trends and issues that impact global business. She pilots PwC's network of thought leaders engaging in the creation, development and presentation of PwC's research and insights.

Our 19th Annual Global CEO Survey, which launches on 19 January 2016, will reveal more about how CEOs are recognising the need to measure success differently. Sign up here to join the webcast of the live launch of the survey from the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos.



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