The 2020 changes that will stick with us

November 18, 2020, 10:48 AM UTC

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Good morning.

When the history of 2020 is written, it is likely to mark a turning point for business in many different ways. So much has changed—and while it is probably too soon to know which changes will last, a consensus is starting to emerge—as was evident yesterday at a series of CEO Leadership Roundtables Fortune held, in partnership with Genpact, Salesforce and Zuora.

Digital transformation has greatly accelerated. I’ve written this before, but I can’t write it enough. The most-heard line among CEOs across industries is some version of this comment yesterday from Genpact CEO Tiger Tyagarajan: “Our clients have done things in the last five or six months that they thought would take five or six years.”

Increased focus on employees, their health and well-being, and their racial diversity and inclusion, have become the new normal. “I’ve had more virtual fireside chats than I ever could have had in person,” says Mass Mutual CEO Roger Crandall.  “Transparency is a huge lesson from the pandemic. Empathy is another.” “We talk about empathy a lot,” agrees Mark Hoplamazian, CEO of Hyatt. “Empathy has never been more important because everyone’s experience of COVID is so different.”

Climate change has risen on the priority list. The business interest in sustainability was on the rise before the pandemic hit, but it has only grown since. “We’ve seen an acceleration of concern around sustainability,” said Annette Clayton, CEO of Schneider Electric North America. “It’s driven by COVID, but not only COVID. We have had nine named hurricanes this year. We expect six more… We’ve seen customers who have to change their mindset when it comes to energy.”

The future of work is still under debate. Many people want to continue working from home, at least part time. But leaders like EY CEO Carmine Di Sibio say, “we need to get our people back together. It creates innovation…for younger people in particular. Younger people want to network. People in their fifties already have their networks.”

The challenge of reskilling is front of mind. “One of the great things coming out of the pandemic,” says Tyagarajan, “is a much stronger desire to do reskilling with technology that is readily available.” “We are all taking a look at our job requirements and asking what is really needed,” rather than just requiring a college degree. “That is opening up so many opportunities for so many different people.”

And finally, all the above point to the conclusion that stakeholder capitalism is on the rise. The increased attention to employees, to climate, and to creating better opportunities for workers who’ve been left behind by the technology revolution, are all signs that companies continue to move towards a broader view of their responsibilities to society.

Separately, go here for the inside skinny on Airbnb’s IPO, now likely next month. And if you are having heart problems—which still kills more people than COVID—check out Fortune and IBM Watson Health’s new list of the Top 50 Cardiovascular Hospitals. Other news below.

Alan Murray


Delisting push

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission will by year-end propose a regulation that would force companies to delist from U.S. stock exchanges if they don't comply with the country's auditing rules. This is to do with China blocking U.S. regulators from reviewing audits of companies such as Alibaba and Baidu. Given the timing, it's likely that the new rule would need to be finalized under President-elect Joe Biden's new SEC leadership. Fortune

Roger Ferguson

TIAA CEO Roger Ferguson will retire in March, and the money manager's board has hired an executive search firm to find his replacement. The Wall Street Journal reports that Ferguson may end up leading the U.S. Treasury Department under the Biden administration. WSJ

Green U.K.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set out his long-awaited green recovery plans in a Financial Times piece. "Imagine Britain when a Green Industrial Revolution has helped to level up the country," he enthused. "You cook breakfast using hydrogen power before getting in your electric car, having charged it overnight from batteries made in the Midlands." Crucially, the plans bring forward the cut-off date for sales of fossil-fuel vehicles from a French-style 2040 to 2030, in line with Germany and many other countries. Financial Times

Unilever plants

Unilever has set a target of €1 billion ($1.2 billion) per year for sales of its plant-based foods. So expect to see more dairy-free mayonnaise from Hellmann's and ice cream from Ben & jerry's, new Vegetarian Butcher products, and so on. The Anglo-Dutch giant also says it will halve food waste across its operations within the next five years. Guardian


Shelton vote

President Trump nominated Judy Shelton to the Federal Reserve, but it's looking increasingly unlikely she will get the seat. Yesterday, the Senate voted 50-47 against advancing her nomination by limiting debate. With Arizona Democrat Mark Kelly taking Republican Martha McSally's place after Thanksgiving, a renewed Shelton vote would probably need to take place next week. CNBC

Panasonic batteries

Panasonic is going to work with Norwegian energy company Equinor, and Norwegian industrial giant Norsk Hydro, on developing a lithium-ion battery business in the country. Panasonic is one of the world's biggest suppliers of electric-car batteries, with customers including Tesla and Toyota, but this seems to be about more than that. "We believe that battery storage will play an increasingly important role in bringing energy systems to net zero emissions," said Equinor business development chief Al Cook in a statement revealing the partnership. TechCrunch

Bitcoin march

Bitcoin broke through the $18,000 mark today, and is nearing the record level it achieved during the 2017 bubble. Here's eToro's Simon Peters: "It is not out of the question for the crypto to hit its all-time high of $20,000 this side of Christmas… The crypto industry has consolidated, matured and is seeing real traction with institutional investors. Investors are using bitcoin as an inflationary hedge to combat the prospect of continued government stimulus." Reuters

Health equity

Three core areas need addressing in order to reduce health disparities, write IBM's Kyu Rhee and Irene Dankwa-Mullan, and the American Heart Association's Eduardo Sanchez, in a piece for Fortune: teams, trust and technology. Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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