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CEO Daily readers on the potential risks—and rewards—of 2022, from inflation to Net Zero

December 17, 2021, 11:48 AM UTC

Good morning.

This is the last CEO Daily for 2021, so time to take a stab at predicting what’s in store for 2022.  

I’ll start with the good news: The economy has a full head of steam, unemployment is low, wages are rising, and all seem likely to continue next year. In addition, business has a once-in-a-generation, or maybe once-in-a-century, opportunity to transform itself for the better, thanks to: 1) a technology revolution that can power a complete retooling of large organizations, 2) a post-pandemic moment to redesign office work and how it is managed, and 3) a new imperative—fueled by the demands of employees, customers and investors—to rethink the purpose of a corporation, with an increased focus on the needs of people and the planet.

But there are also some big storm clouds on the horizon including: 1) inflation and the supply chain problems and labor shortages that feed it; 2) the global pandemic and its annoying persistence as it moves toward its third year; 3) continued political dysfunction and its implications for the economy; and 4) geopolitical uncertainty, particularly around China, as well as the rising threat of geopolitically-inspired cyberattacks.

That makes for a tough year for making predictions. It could go really well, but it could also go really badly.  

Here’s a sampling of what CEO Daily readers had to say:

Employees will become the #1 stakeholder for business. Great Resignation -> Great Retention.”

                   —LM

“Human capital will absolutely remain a risk across numerous industries, with automation and artificial intelligence being an opportunity to remove the reliance on human capital and transform faster.”

                   —AP

“In 2022, all companies will be on a path to Net Zero, whether they realize it or not.”

                   —KM

“The storm clouds on the international horizon are very troubling and could have a huge effect on world peace, world trade and the economy.”

                  —HDL

“Upcoming mandates whether it’s from the White House (that will never take effect), or companies (those that have already taken effect or will) actually backfire in a major way.”

                   —EL

“2022 will be the best of times and worst of times for crypto. There will be regulatory scrutiny and major enforcement actions, but the asset class will continue to flourish through the ups and downs.”

                   —JC

A number of CEO Daily readers continue to believe the U.S. political divide tops the list of concerns, with serious implications for business. MB said “gerrymandering” is a top risk; SMB cited “voting rights” controversies. Political analyst Bruce Mehlman predicts the inability of the public to find common ground on COVID, vaccines, voting rules, and more, will continue to pose problems for businesses striving to play a productive role in addressing society’s challenges but also eager to stay out of the political crosshairs. And as for empowered employees demanding action from corporate leaders on tricky political and geopolitical issues, he cites the following upcoming events:

  • Beijing Olympics (Feb.)
  • Mask/Vaccine mandates (Now)
  • Supreme Court abortion decision (June/July)
  • Qatar World Cup (Nov.)
  • Election disputes (primaries, Nov.)

    All in all, the makings of a very interesting year. So enjoy the holidays, and get some rest! CEO Daily will be back Jan. 3.

News below.

Alan Murray
@alansmurray

alan.murray@fortune.com

TOP NEWS

Fifth wave 

The G7 health ministers have declared the Omicron variant the "biggest current threat to global health"—this as the WHO says it has been found in 77 countries. The variant's ultra-fast spread and reported ability to sidestep vaccines has pushed governments to rush out booster programs and start building up stockpiles of new treatments for COVID-19. Meanwhile, the CDC has come out in favor of Moderna and Pfizer jabs over the Johnson & Johnson shot, which has been linked to rare blood clots. Washington Post

Oracle and Cerner

Oracle is reportedly in talks to buy medical records company Cerner—the biggest ever deal for Oracle, and likely valued around $30 billion. Oracle already has a stake in healthcare, but the Cerner deal would push it further into both the health industry and into cloud computing. Wall Street Journal

BOE rate hike

On Thursday, the Bank of England became the first major central bank to raise rates since the start of the pandemic, while warning that inflation had skyrocketed beyond its target. The move was a surprise, and members of the committee said that the rise of Omicron—cases in the U.K. are currently at their highest since the start of the pandemic—made that decision more urgent. Reuters

'Patriot's election'

KPMG is reportedly urging local employees to vote in Hong Kong's upcoming elections—dubbed the 'patriot's election'—including offering staff an extra day off to go and vote. The election is the first since 2019's national security law which crushed pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, and most pro-democracy opposition candidates have either fled the country or were arrested after the protests. Financial Times

AROUND THE WATER COOLER

Afghanistan's famine 

Just months after the abrupt departure of western militaries from Afghanistan, the country's financial system remains frozen, the economy has collapsed, and millions are already malnourished. The scale of the crisis—which the UN has called the globe's worst humanitarian catastrophe—is pushing donors to consider the costs: deal with the Taliban, or watch Afghans starve. “It’s mind-boggling to say that we’ll sacrifice 15m women in order to defend women’s rights,” said one official. Financial Times

How Blackstone wooed Spanx

Stuffy-seeming BlackStone didn't necessarily seem like the obvious fit for Spanx, the apparel company founded by Sara Blakely (Fortune's latest cover star). But Emma Hinchliffe goes behind the financing deal to show how an all-female team—and some pointed product placement—helped solidify a growing reputation for backing female founders. Fortune

Insider trading 

The SEC is cracking down on how politicians and executives file 10b5-1 plans—notices to the Commission that they plan to buy or sell stock. That includes setting up a 120-day waiting period (whereas executives can now trade on the same day), and attest they don't have access to insider information, Fortune's Declan Harty writes. The SEC has been under pressure to tighten the rules for years, but pressure has increased as of late due to high-profile stock sales by executives including Elon Musk. Fortune

TikTok careers 

You can learn to dance on TikTok, or cook—and now you can learn how to land that dream job. Careers counseling and resume tips have taken off on the platform, produced by a combination of professional counselors and ordinary, ambitious people. The videos target Gen Z job seekers, who are facing an unpredictable job market—and a huge shortage of university career counsellors, writes Fortune's Felicia Hou. Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by Katherine Dunn.

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