CEOs the world over are taking decisive actions to address the challenges of the global economy, become more transparent in the information shared with investors, and capitalise on the promise of the Internet — all the while maintaining focus on their companies’ corporate social responsibility. These are a few of the key findings from PricewaterhouseCoopers’ fifth annual Global CEO Survey, conducted in conjunction with the World Economic Forum. Results of the survey, which enjoyed record participation this year with 1,161 CEOs from 33 countries, were announced by Global CEO Sam DiPiazza at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in New York.
Key findings about CSR topics in the survey are:
Globalisation creates risk as well as opportunity, and business leaders have a great deal of responsibility to help make it a constructive, rather than destructive, force. The good news is that CEOs seem to appreciate the importance of their roles. They profess a strong commitment to corporate social responsibility and say that responsible behaviour toward employees, shareholders, and communities is not a luxury for good economic times, but a core concern even in today’s economy.
Sixty percent of respondents do not believe that corporate social responsibility would assume a lower priority in the current economic climate. And almost 70 percent of respondents agree that corporate social responsibility is vital to the profitability of any company.
There is also a strong trend in favour of disclosing more information about corporate social responsibility: a quarter of the CEOs say that they currently issue a public report dedicated to corporate social responsibility issues, but an additional 14 percent of respondents say that they plan to do so in the future.
Corporate reporting generally-of financial and non-financial information-is a source of frustration, opportunity… and lately of tragedy. We completed our survey before the Enron bankruptcy, but the insights we gained are fundamental to the soundness of capital markets in the future. Remember that we were surveying CEOs, and we found them to be a somewhat frustrated group. The survey revealed a significant perception of a "value gap" between the factors CEOs believe are important in assessing their companies’ value and those they believe investors consider. For example, 83 percent of CEOs emphasize the significance of workforce quality and retention, but only 51 percent of respondents believe investors emphasize this measure. The perceived "value gap" was also apparent with respect to innovation and R & D, with nearly three-quarters of CEOs saying it is important, but only 57 percent saying that investors consider it significantly.
This means that companies have a tremendous opportunity-from a valuation standpoint, a mandate-to educate the investor about why such intangibles as R&D, and workforce quality and retention are important. There has been great progress in the development of methods for measuring and reporting on the value of these and other intangible assets. The opportunity for companies lies in communicating the importance of intangible assets to the investing public and, more broadly, re-examining the sufficiency and transparency of current corporate reporting models.