What the CEOs of Walgreens, Hilton and Progressive think about the Great Resignation

Good morning.

Lots of people are talking about the “Great Resignation” these days. But Walgreens CEO Rosalind Brewer sees it as something much bigger: “The Great Rephrasing of corporate America.” Brewer was one of a dozen CEOs who gathered virtually yesterday to discuss how companies are thinking about environmental and social goals as part of their corporate strategies. Some excerpts:

“It’s not about the products we make.  It’s not about our brand.  It’s about how are we going to re-motivate people to feel good about themselves and to be able to contribute in a great way.”
—Rosalind Brewer, CEO, Walgreens

“In the modern history of business, the best businesses always attended to these issues…[but] the intensity is far greater today than it’s ever been”
—Chris Nassetta, CEO, Hilton

“I interview a lot of young people coming into the company…and I typically don’t have an interview where the last question from them isn’t: what is your strategy and what are you doing on ESG?”
—Vivek Sankaran, CEO, Albertsons

“I think there’s this generational aspect to it, which is very, very real. The millennials in particularand I think the Gen Z will be even more sothey are voting with their feet. If you don’t have a commitment to social responsibility, if you’re not passionate about innovation and really making things happen, if you don’t have an authentic commitment to diversity, and oh, by the way, if you can’t inspire them, then they aren’t interested.”
—Jim Loree, CEO, Stanley, Black & Decker

“Sustainability, inclusivity, growththese tend to be somewhat separate topics, and I think the time might be right for us to actually bring those three together and to say how do you make it sustainable, and inclusive and have growth. Because you need growth to be able to drive the investments and to drive sustainability, and without an inclusive institution or inclusive world, we won’t be able to get at a lot of the opportunities.”
—Asutosh Padhi, managing partner for McKinsey in North America

“Historically, you could keep stuff within your own four walls. In this environment you just have to be comfortable disclosing things much more openly and hold yourself to an external accountability.”
—Tricia Griffith, CEO, Progressive

“At Marriott International, we have a board level committee equal to the audit committee, the corporate governance committee, etc., that monitors these ESG goals that are set on a three-year basis and holds us accountable. Every quarter, we come in and report on those goal. This is very unusual for a Fortune 500 company…but it’s a really good idea worth exploring.”
—Stephanie Linnartz, President, Marriott

“As a leader in the HR consulting space, we’ve never seen the people agenda as high.”
—Martine Ferland, CEO, Mercer

“I think pledges and quotas and all of that is fantastic. I also think that one of the more subtle but also very effective ways that we can achieve some of these ESG goals is technology….There’s a whole industry around helping companies achieve diversity and inclusion.”
—Frida Polli, CEO, Pymetrics

“Climate change is having an effect on mental health. The political environment, the race environment, these things are actually all causing health problems, because when you’ve got mental health concerns that leads to other health concerns.”
—Russell Glass, CEO, Headspace Health

“We learned long ago that we cannot succeed unless the stakeholders, employees, the local people, the governments we operate with, all succeed, and that means everything from workers’ rights to managing the environment and dealing with income inequalities. It’s just part of our everyday life.”
—Richard Adkerson, CEO, Freeport-McMoRan

“If we at Delta are going to ensure that our product is our peopleit’s not our planes, it’s not our seats, it’s not our starter destinations, the service we providethe better job we do in taking care of the whole person, the better we’re going to succeed as a business. It’s a source of competitive advantage.”
—Ed Bastian, CEO, Delta

Separately, new CEO appointments were up dramatically in 2021, to their highest levels since Heidrick & Struggles started tracking in 2018. And those new CEOs were more likely to be women, to be from outside of the company’s home base, to have advanced degrees, and to have come from a previous job other than CEO, COO or CFO.  A Heidrick & Struggles report on the trends concluded this “broadening of the scope also reflects the fact that the CEO role itself is expanding far beyond the day-to-day running of the business.” 

More news below.

Alan Murray



Wear a mask

Masks cut COVID-19 incidence rates by 53%, making them the single most effective public health measure for combating the disease. That's according to the first global study on the subject, which also concluded that social distancing and handwashing should be continued, alongside vaccination campaigns. Guardian

Bobby Kotick

Even Sony is now criticizing Activision Blizzard's failure to deal with sexual misconduct and harassment allegations, after a report that CEO Bobby Kotick had been aware of the allegations for years and had himself allegedly mistreated women. Employees and shareholders want Kotick's head, but getting rid of him could prove very expensive. Fortune

Right to repair

In what could prove an industry gamechanger, Apple has finally relented over the issue of letting iPhone owners fix the things themselves (if they have the skills). The company has unveiled a Self Service Repair program that allows iPhone 12 and 13 owners to replace the display, battery and camera. That's just a starter—more repairs will become available late next year, and owners of Mac computers with Apple's own M1 chips will also get options soon. (P.S.: Apple engineer Cher Scarlett, who organized an internal #AppleToo protest, is leaving the company.) Fortune

Gasoline probe

President Joe Biden thinks there may be illegal anti-competitive conduct going on in the gasoline industry, and wants the Federal Trade Commission to take a look. Biden told FTC Chair Lina Khan there was "mounting evidence of anti-consumer behavior by oil and gas companies." However, such probes usually don't translate into price-lowering action. Fortune


COVID prediction

Bill Gates thinks COVID-19 will become less of a concern than seasonal flu, in terms of infection and deaths, by the middle of next year. That is, unless a dangerous new variant doesn't pop up in the meantime. In related news, the U.S. is giving drugmakers billions of dollars to produce an extra billion shots per year, for the benefit of poorer countries. Fortune

Disney vaccines

Disney Cruise Line has become the first cruise company to mandate vaccinations for child passengers aged 5 and up. Rival Carnival says it is leaving the decision up to executives at its nine individual cruise lines. Fortune

Russian oil

Belarus, which is engaged in a tense geopolitical standoff with the EU, has temporarily restricted the flow of Russian oil to Poland and Germany. Belarus says it's unscheduled maintenance. The Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko had threatened to block natural-gas flows from Russia to Poland if the EU stepped up sanctions on his regime, which it is currently doing. Moscow Times


Europe's Gaia-X "cloud sovereignty" project is becoming ever less sovereign. After American cloud giants Amazon and Microsoft joined the party some time ago, now China's Huawei and Alibaba are sponsoring this year's annual Gaia-X gathering. The Chinese companies are also members of the initiative these days, but Gaia-X board members are deeply uneasy about the way things are going. Politico

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

This is the web version of CEO Daily, a daily newsletter of must-read insights from Fortune CEO Alan Murray. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox.

Read More

CEO DailyCFO DailyBroadsheetData SheetTerm Sheet