By Alan Murray and David Meyer
October 17, 2018

Good morning from Canada, which today becomes the first country to legalize recreational marijuana.

The evolving role of the CEO was a big topic at Day Two of the Fortune Global Forum. Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser gave some of the most thoughtful comments on the subject. In a world of rising populism and nationalism, the German-based global conglomerate finds itself at the center of multiple conflicts—most recently the controversy over the apparent murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Kaeser is scheduled to go next week to the Saudi investment forum, which many prominent U.S. CEOs and media organizations have now bailed on. He told me it’s “50-50” whether he would attend, and that he would make his decision in the next day or two.

“This is a very serious topic where you actually cannot win,” Kaeser said. “There is a person missing. There is a massive concern. On the other hand, if we skip communicating with countries where people are missing, I just can stay home because I cannot talk to anybody anymore.”

Kaeser also called growing inequality driven by technology “the single biggest challenge we face today…Connectivity opens transparency, and that could actually lead us to a further divide in society. By nature, [the Internet] is binary, by nature it divides the world into winners and losers. We need to be very mindful of how to reduce the societal divide.”

The Siemens chief urged fellow CEOs to take the lead in addressing the problem, and not wait for government. “Do politics help us? Absolutely not,” he said. “The whole geopolitical environment goes into…what’s in it for me? And don’t care about the others.”

Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf also spoke on the role of transparency in changing the CEO’s role. “I think the mechanisms by which people can comment on what you’re doing [as CEO] is a really fundamental change…Being a CEO today is more like running for office.”

“The world is asking us, our employees are asking us, and governments require that we have a point of view,” agreed ex-Xerox CEO Ursula Burns. “And, we have good points of view, we are smart people. We have been all over the world.”

Also on the Forum stage yesterday was Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, who caused a stir earlier this year by speaking out against Saudi treatment of women’s rights activists—at a time when other leaders were stilling wooing the crown prince.

“Canada believes it is important to speak about human rights in the world,” Freeland said. “It’s important to do so politely and with humility. We make no apologies.”

And here’s the amazing business fact for the day: Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson told the group his company is opening a new store in China every 15 hours.

More news below. If you regret missing this year’s Global Forum, some good news: we announced yesterday that next year’s Forum will be in Paris, at the invitation of President Macron. Dates and details to come.

More news from the forum here, and other news below.

Alan Murray


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