CEO Survey Suggests Corporate Social Impact Poised to Transform in 2020


January 22, 2020

By Richard Socarides, Chief Communications Officer at GLG

Photo: Bridges to Prosperity, a 2019 GLG Social Impact Fellow Organization

GLG just released the results of our 2020 CEO Survey, with a range of important findings on how business leaders see global growth, geopolitical uncertainty, and other topics. Among the most interesting: about 90% of respondents said that they agree with the Business Roundtable’s policy statement that corporations should be responsible not only to shareholders but also to employees, customers, suppliers, and communities.

This is encouraging – and somewhat surprising. Reactions to the Business Roundtable’s statement have been mixed. Many have praised its expanded view of social responsibility, but others have taken a more skeptical view. New York Times columnist David Gelles put it this way: “Before C.E.O.s can change the world, they need to satisfy investors.”

That’s true, of course – but it doesn’t have to be either/or. BlackRock Chairman and CEO Larry Fink made that clear this month in his annual letter, outlining his firm’s commitment to combating climate change, and urging other businesses to consider the social implications of their work: “Companies must be deliberate and committed to embracing purpose and serving all stakeholders – your shareholders, customers, employees, and the communities where you operate.” Fink’s stance offers a clear example of how the private sector can adapt to serve both investors and other stakeholders. A similar takeaway emerged from last year’s Changing the Rules for Changing the World conference at GLG New York – purposeful, diligent action from the private sector will be crucial to advancing social progress.

And that’s why I find GLG’s 2020 CEO Survey so encouraging – not just because of overwhelming agreement with this view, but because a majority of CEOs said they plan to actively help drive positive social change this year. For example, the survey found that:

  • 85% of companies plan to contribute money and/or in-kind services to combat climate change;
  • 62% plan to change hiring practices to advance gender parity; and
  • 57% plan to change hiring practices to advance racial justice.

It’s a promising start to 2020, as businesses continue to explore how they can serve diverse stakeholders and help make the world a better place. The private sector – and the world – is at a crossroads, and many business leaders are prepared to do their part to create a more just and sustainable future. They’re ready to leverage their unique insights and resources, and even to change how they run their companies.

For more information on the survey and its findings, you can read the press release as well as the accompanying report online.