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Wisdom from Day One of the Fortune Global Forum

October 27, 2020, 10:26 AM UTC

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Good morning.

Day one of our virtual Fortune Global Forum got underway yesterday, focusing on how COVID has changed the nature of business. Some takeaways:

Why business must respond: “The coming together of the pandemic and social justice really put a bullseye on us. All of us in business now can’t just step aside and think these problems are going to solve themselves. All of us who are employers have to step up.”

—Margaret Keane, CEO, Synchrony

On putting employees first: “I’ve been reminded of some important timeless principles, but first and foremost is that it’s about the team.”

—Larry Culp, CEO, GE

On increasing the pay of frontline workers: “We saw these ordinary people, factory workers, frontline workers, truck drivers, that we didn’t pay attention to all this time, that they were the ones moving us forward.”

—Hamdi Ulukaya, CEO, Chobani

On the wisdom of labor markets: “I (used to) believe that if you rely on the market, your employees will be okay…Then I put out a survey, and found that 2/3rds of our employees struggled to make ends meet at the end of the month.”

—Dan Schulman, CEO, PayPal

On the crisis’ effect on inequality: “This has been a very unequal crisis for many. The most vulnerable informal workers and small businesses have been hit the hardest. What we do today to help or not will have multigenerational effects.”

—Anthony Tan, CEO, Grab

On managing in tough times: “Never waste a crisis. If you don’t see a silver lining, you better go and create one.”

—Karen Chan, CEO,

On keeping an eye on the long term: “Our business functionally disappeared in March. It takes your breath away how profound that impact was to the business…What we do know is the virus will get behind us. We know that with virtual certainty.”

—Arne Sorenson, CEO, Marriott

Why leaders must take responsibility: “The first thing you can’t do is you can’t feel sorry for yourself.”

—Darius Adamczyk, CEO, Honeywell

Why CVS is hiring 15,000 people:  “We have now had more than 5 million people come to a CVS clinic for a COVID test…We were selected by the government to become an important part of solution by making sure the vaccine is administered to long term care facilities, nursing homes, assisted living facilities…”

—Larry Merlo, CEO, CVS

On moving to permanent, distributed work:  We do it “not for cost savings, but because, if we believe in (our) tools, can’t we be a little more accommodating of people?”

—Stewart Butterfield, CEO, Slack

On reduction of global trade: “The first thing that you need to remember is that food is distributed with humidity…There is an inherent movement of product, regardless.”

—Juan Luciano, CEO, ADM

Why a farmer’s co-op is pushing for universal broadband: “I remind myself every time I speak about this: These are families.  95% of farms are still family owned.”

—Beth Ford, CEO, Land O’Lakes

And why others agree: “Those who don’t have access to the internet and digital content will be left behind. It’s a big issue we all have the obligation of trying to mitigate as leaders of large companies.”

—Enrique Lores, CEO, HP

On moving to virtual commerce: “For a couple of months, we were essentially an ecommerce business. That created a lot of clarity for us.”

—Sonia Syngal, CEO, Gap

Why brick and mortar isn’t dead: “As we sit here today, even during the pandemic, our store comps grew 11 percent. I think the investments we’ve made and the trust we’ve built creating an easy, safe environment has certainly paid off. Stores still represent over 80% of where the dollars are being spent.”

—Brian Cornell, CEO, Target

On China: “Since China is recovering relatively quickly, sectors like consumption and manufacturing are also recovering quickly…China is currently one of the safest places in the world.”

—Guo Guangchang, Chairman, Fosun International

On A.I. in China: “I think in the last two and a half years we’ve seen my hypothesis play out…China has largely caught up with the U.S. on A.I.”

—Kai-Fu Lee, CEO Sinovation Ventures

The need for new infrastructure: “Clearly, the infrastructure we have in the world needs to be rethought to be more digital and green…This is a great time to rethink all of this in a different matter.”

—Jean-Pascal Tricoire, CEO, Schneider Electric

Why climate change is rising on the business agenda: “There is clearly, because of this pandemic, there is more awareness, more sense of urgency, that something needs to be done.”

—Roberto Marques, CEO, Natura

More news below. And catch this week’s episode of our podcast Leadership Next, on Apple or Spotify, featuring Paul Hudson, CEO of Sanofi, on the purpose-driven race to develop a vaccine.

Alan Murray


Stocks slip

Yesterday's bad times on Wall Street appear to be continuing in Europe today, with the Stoxx 600 down 0.5% at the time of writing mid-morning. Miners and automakers led the drop. U.S. futures today look mildly positive. CNBC

Carbon neutrality

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has committed the country to going carbon-neutral by 2050. "Responding to climate change is no longer a constraint on economic growth," Suga said in his first policy speech since assuming the premiership last month. "We need to change our thinking to the view that taking assertive measures against climate change will lead to changes in industrial structure and the economy that will bring about great growth." Washington Post

Vaccine hope

Fosun Group chair Guo Guangchang reckons the Chinese firm's COVID-19 vaccine collaboration with Pfizer and BioNTech will bear fruit as early as December. "Once the vaccine is proved to be safe and effective [after trial results are posted in November], the vaccine will be made available in the market by December [2020] or January next year," Guo said at the Fortune Global Forum. Fortune

Italian approval

Italy has green-lit trials of a generic osteoporosis drug for the potential treatment of COVID-19. Researchers hope raloxifene could reduce COVID-19 symptoms and infectiousness, based on simulations they have conducted on a European Commission-backed supercomputer platform. Reuters


Debut record

Jack Ma's Ant Group will sell shares worth around $34.4 billion on the Shanghai and Jong Kong stock markets, making for the world's largest stock market debut. The online payments firm will sell around 11% of its shares, valuing the whole business at around $313 billion. BBC

Enough stimulus

Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess does not think the auto industry will need more stimulus (in the form of purchasing incentives) if there's a second lockdown or further economic slump. Diess said the EV-and-hybrid-focused incentives provided earlier this year worked—VW expects to turn a profit this year—but a second round will not be necessary. Daimler CEO Ola Kallenius shares that opinion, largely due to booming sales in China. Financial Times

Lyft progress

Lyft co-founder John Zimmer sees the halving of the company's business as a "strong position"—such are the realities of this pandemic. "The storms that we have weathered previously were much more difficult," he claimed in this week's episode of Fortune's Reinvent podcast. "I do genuinely think we will be stronger on the other side of this." Fortune

Bitcoin boost

J.P. Morgan analysts reckon Bitcoin's value will double or triple at its current rate of growth (the cryptocurrency is trading at $13,000-ish this morning) due to its popularity among millennials as an alternative to gold. This is particularly notable because of J.P. Morgan's historical antipathy towards Bitcoin. Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.