CEOs discuss working with government in 2021

January 29, 2021, 11:39 AM UTC

This is the web version of CEO Daily. To get it delivered to your inbox, sign up here.

Good morning.

About 100 CEOs participated in the Fortune CEO Initiative’s virtual meeting yesterday, focusing on priorities for business collaboration with government in the year ahead. Most of the discussion was off the record. But the session began with a few on the record briefings on key topics. Some excerpts:

On fighting the coronavirus:

“Right now, for most of these new variants, the results are terrific…We do not believe the performance of the vaccine will be affected.  (Eventually) a variant that will escape the vaccine protection is likely to occur.  So we are investing big time right now into the surveillance network that will very rapidly identify when and if we have a problem, and then very rapidly will create a booster that will allow us to cover this new variant as well.”
—Albert Bourla, CEO, Pfizer

“We have built the capacity to administer up to 25 million vaccines a month in our retail pharmacies…Hopefully, as we get to that June-July time frame …we will have a large enough number of Americans vaccinated where we can begin to talk about herd immunity.”
—Larry Merlo, CEO, CVS

On fighting climate change:

“I think we will look back and see ’21-‘22 as an inflection point that allowed us to start driving mass adoption of electric vehicles… Just today we announced that our plans are to be carbon neutral by 2040, and that we are aspiring to eliminate tailpipe emissions from new light duty vehicles by 2035.”
—Mary Barra, CEO, GM

“2021 looks like an historic year in many respects.  On the climate issue…we have definitely shifted the dialogue from the ‘why’ and are now focused fully on the ‘how’.”
—Jesper Brodin, CEO, IKEA

“After all these years of trying to encourage corporate social and environmental responsibility, and having a certain amount of difficulty trying to raise awareness despite endless different initiatives, suddenly it seems the dams are beginning to burst and people are now taking a real interest in this, particularly, if I may say so, a lot more of the investors, a lot more of the shareholders. And of course, as many of you know all too well, you have a lot of younger employees who take these issues very seriously indeed.”
—His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales

On tech regulation:

“You may have heard, Twitter and Facebook, we banned a president. And there is a lot of concern that we shouldn’t have the power to do that. And we share that concern. We’ve been calling for content regulation, legislation, guidelines, anything, at a national or international level for a long time. And I think this experience makes very clear how much that legislation is needed.”
—Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook

More news below.  And check out former Walmart executive Leslie Dach’s Fortune commentary arguing that the ban on corporate PAC contributions to “Republican members who tried to undermine our democracy” should continue “through the next time those members are up for reelection….In a nation swirling with misinformation and moral equivalence, the business community can be a voice for facts and truth.”

Alan Murray


Robinhood crisis

Hot stock-trading app Robinhood was sued by some investors for its stop-the-madness blocking of Gamestop and AMC trades, but other investors threw in $1 billion to shore up its finances. Meanwhile, Gamestop's crazy climb is back on, and a trading surge has also been experienced by a completely different GME, which is a small mining company in Western Australia. (Speaking of bubbles, Elon Musk put #bitcoin in his Twitter bio and Bitcoin rose more than 15% immediately.) Fortune

Facebook moderation

Facebook's independent Oversight Board has issued its first decisions regarding calls made by the social network's moderation team. In four of the five cases they talked about, they said Facebook had made the wrong call. Still to come: the board's decision on the banning of former President Donald Trump. Fortune

Coinbase listing

Crypto darling Coinbase will go public through a direct listing. Here's CFO Alesia Haas in an internal memo seen by Fortune: "We believe a direct listing more closely follows the ethos of crypto and Coinbase because it democratizes access and opportunities for all investors." Fortune

Vaccine warning

The International Chamber of Commerce has warned the EU about instituting vaccine exports controls, as it is about to do in the context of the spat over AstraZeneca doses going to the U.K. rather than the EU. From its letter: "Risking retaliatory measures from other regions at this crucial moment in the fight against COVID-19 is not in anyone's best interest." Financial Times


Women's careers

"The pandemic has set working women back by more than three decades—to levels of labor force participation last seen in 1988," write Fortune's Maria Aspan and Emma Hinchliffe. They spoke to Melinda Gates, who said: "Whether women regain their footing in the post-pandemic economy depends on whether employers recognize the reason for those gaps or penalize women for a reality they had no control over." Fortune

Lowering expectations

Most executives still expect economic conditions in their countries to improve over the next six months, but their positivity has slid since December. According to McKinsey, which has been surveying such things: "In Asia–Pacific and in Europe, the shares of executives expecting their home economies to improve decreased by 15 and 11 percentage points, respectively, since December. The decline in optimism is most acute in Latin America, where 30% of respondents now expect improvements in their home economies." McKinsey

Novavax results

Novavax's candidate vaccine is nearly 90% effective, the company said as it issued preliminary results from a large-scale trial. A big however: the vaccine spears to be far less effective against the fast-spreading South African variant of the coronavirus. Fortune

After SolarWinds

Fortune's Robert Hackett and David Z. Morris have been diving into the implications of the SolarWinds hack. Start with this explainer of the situation and its fallout, and wash it down with these recommendations for the Biden administration's response: Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

Read More

CEO DailyCFO DailyBroadsheetData SheetTerm Sheet