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CEOs are under enormous pressure to act now on sustainability

May 10, 2022, 9:30 AM UTC
Updated May 10, 2022, 5:25 PM UTC

Good morning.

A new study out this morning from IBM provides further evidence that CEOs—some 3,000 were included in the study—are taking sustainability seriously. CEO Daily got an early peek. Some highlights:

  • Almost half of the CEOs (48%) cited sustainability as one of the highest priorities for their organization in the next two or three years, up from just a third of CEOs last year.
  • More than half (51%) cited sustainability as their greatest challenge in the next two or three years, up from just 32% last year, putting it ahead of regulation (50%), cyber (45%) and supply chain disruptions (38%).
  • The CEOs said the greatest pressure for sustainability is from board members (72%), followed by investors (57%), ecosystem partners (49%), regulators (49%), and government (46%). 

IBM vice chair Gary Cohn told me yesterday that the numbers provide further evidence corporate commitments to combating climate change are real, and that CEOs feel they must act now. “It’s easy to make a [net-zero] 2050 commitment. No one will remember,” Cohn said. “But the reality of what’s going on at the SEC, what’s going on in the boardroom, what’s going on in the recruiting world, means CEOs don’t have the luxury of waiting until 2050. The SEC, the board, your clients, your recruits, current employees are all putting enormous pressure on management to act now.”

Cohn added a cautionary note: “Realistically, in this part of a cycle when everyone is concerned about profitability, it’s not as easy to spend the money [on ESG] as it was six months ago.” You can read the full study here.

Also this morning, my new book hits the streets and e-streets. It’s titled Tomorrow’s Capitalist: My Search for the Soul of Business, and it’s an attempt to explore how and why the fundamental rules of business and leadership are changing…as evident in the survey above. You can order the book here. And you can read an excerpt on this morning here, in which I answer the various critics who say these changes aren’t real. They are. And anyone actually running a business in today’s world knows it.

One more thing: Our guest on the Leadership Next podcast this week is Yara CEO Svein Tore Holsether, who is a leading example of the change I write about in the book. You can hear why he thinks we are headed for a global famine, and what he’s doing about it, on Apple or Spotify.

More news below.

Alan Murray


Bear market

The Nasdaq lost 4.3% yesterday, while the S&P 500 fell 3.2%, and the Dow dropped 2%. So, how much longer will this bear market run? Bank of America analysts think there’s still another 25% to lose before the market bottoms out. Fortune

Bitcoin dip

Bitcoin continues its slide, in lockstep with tech stocks, and El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele says now’s the time to buy the dip. But Bukele’s enormous enthusiasm for Bitcoin does not extend to most of his populace, who have stopped using the cryptocurrency despite it becoming legal tender. A mere fifth of the country is still using the government’s Chivo e-wallet. Fortune

Palantir thoughts

Palantir CEO Alex Karp sent out a letter to shareholders yesterday, as the surveillance company reported mounting losses and got hammered with a 22% share price drop. Karp warned the world “significantly underestimates the threat of nuclear conflict in Eastern Europe,” said the U.S. is now suffering from “withered” discourse, and slammed Silicon Valley for its metaverse obsession, saying: “Such escapism is of no interest to us.” Fortune

Smart TV hack

Russian smart TV users were on Monday admonished: “The blood of thousands of Ukrainians and hundreds of murdered children is on your hands. TV and the authorities are lying. No to war.” The message also appeared on the platform of Russia’s Google, Yandex. Washington Post


Passing 1.5°C

There’s a 48% chance the world will, in one of the coming five years, be 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than preindustrial times. Those odds have increased drastically, having been nearly zero just seven years ago. So get ready for increasingly harsh impacts. Financial Times  

Climate pledges

There’s a new UN panel devoted to simplifying net-zero emissions standards for businesses, partly to fight greenwashing. As Rachel Layne writes for Fortune: “Stakeholders—from ESG analysts and investment bankers to academic researchers and investor advocates—say a solid set of recommendations from the panel could mean more disciplined net-zero forecasts and trackable metrics.” Fortune

Marcos redux

The Philippines is about to be ruled by Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., son of the brutal dictator, and his vice president is likely to be Sara Duterte, daughter of outgoing (and also brutal) President Rodrigo Duterte. Bloomberg

Europe idea

France’s President Emmanuel Macron has floated a detail-light proposal for the creation of a new “European political community” that would include not only EU member states, but also aspiring members such as Ukraine and Moldova—which won’t be able to join the EU anytime soon, owing to the process’s length—and perhaps even the Brexited U.K. Politico

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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