For the past two decades, professional services giant PricewaterhouseCoopers has been surveying more than 1,000 CEOs around the world each year.
Over the past few surveys, it's become clear that a growing number of CEOs are concluding that maximising quarterly growth is not the path to sustainable, long-term value.
Treating employees as more than an expenditure or incorporating a societal purpose into your company is no longer seen as feel-good marketing, but a necessity for survival.
Business Insider spoke with PwC global chairman Bob Moritz at the CECP's CEO Investor Forum in February, where CEOs of international public companies met with investors to discuss ways to move toward prioritizing long-term value in a way that benefits all stakeholders, including customers, employees, communities, and shareholders.
Moritz told us that a CEO who complains that shareholders won't let them make necessary investments for the future are missing the point. "You will never satisfy everybody," Mortiz said, adding that you shouldn't have to.
"The onus is on the CEO and the management team to put forth a value proposition that over a certain time horizon investors should want to participate and share in the returns of the company," he said.
In the 2018 CEO survey, Moritz wrote that this year's findings reveal a community of CEOs who are seeing a troubling misalignment of economic growth and social progress, primarily fueled by income inequality. He offered four suggestions for ways corporate leaders can address this.
"As business executives, we can supplement measures such as GDP and shareholder value with indicators of quality of life," Mortiz wrote.
He said he's found there's an increasing number of chief executives working with boards to developing long-term goals that will improve the relationship with the stakeholders other than investors. For example, consumer-goods company Unilever is working toward having all of its agricultural raw materials be sustainable by 2020 as part of its ambitious and broad Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.
For the last few years, one of the hottest topics in the entire business world is the rise of artificial intelligence across all walks of life, and how it will displace jobs. Moritz recommended that companies incorporate emerging technologies like AI in ways that take into consideration the ways they will affect their employees — an approach Microsoft's leadership team is currently focused on.
Mortiz wrote that he found it encouraging that the majority of the CEOs surveyed recognized the importance of investing in their employees' skillsets, given that we are in an age of rapidly changing technologies that will either transform or replace existing jobs.
BlackRock CEO Larry Fink caused a stir when he announced in January that his company, the world's largest asset manager, would only do business with companies that could define both their role in society and their long-term strategy.
Moritz agreed, noting that it's a necessity in today's world.
"From environmental footprints to social impacts to investor demands, businesses are scrutinized by an ever-wider array of stakeholders," he wrote. "If they fall short in any respect, they erode a vital commodity: trust. In an age of enhanced transparency and heightened accountability, a loss of trust has profound consequences."
He continued: "Perhaps the most important job CEOs — and the broader business community — can do to contribute meaningfully to social progress, as well as business results, is to commit to a common purpose, a shared set of values and behaviours, and drive them through our organisations."