If you think the life of a CEO today isn’t hard enough, a new study from consulting firm EY suggests that things are about to get a lot tougher. According to the 2019 EY CEO Imperative Study, global CEOs will increasingly be called upon to tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges. That includes uncovering growth in a world of “protectionist economic policies, technology backlashes, and climate-driven natural disasters,” according to the firm.

The study found that CEOs are the ones that will increasingly be called upon to address “humanity’s greatest challenges” with investors and boards expecting action. EY suggests that this new growth imperative, while adding more pressure, opens up new opportunities for CEOs and emphasizes long-term value.

EY points to two examples that make for compelling business cases. First, consider that a recent United Nations report found that equalizing lifetime salaries between men and women would add $160 trillion to the global economy. At the same time, innovations like renewable energy could provide the opportunity to save up to $160 trillion in climate change costs by 2050.

But finding—and monetizing—solutions is easier said than done.

When asked what the biggest challenges were in terms of potential harm to growth and the overall global economy, the EY study respondents cited the following reasons: cybersecurity, technology-induced job loss, income inequality, artificial intelligence ethics, and climate change.

Indeed, there’s no shortage of challenges to tackle, but what’s an already busy CEO to do?

Thankfully, the EY study offers some strategic guidance, many of which we’ve covered here before on the APEX of Innovation. Take a look below:

  • Identify a global challenge that aligns with your business: As reported by EY, it’s important to understand global challenges in the context of your operational areas and key stakeholders. This includes the role your business plays in the issue and examining where you can make the most impact.
  • Align the C-Suite, board, and investors: Success requires a common point of view and an agreed upon plan of action. Understanding both the opportunity and risk of “action or inaction” comes into play, according to EY, as various stakeholders may see things differently.
  • Make transformational change: Solving problems requires internal change that leads to external actions, says EY. Linking corporate purpose to global challenges, taking both a short-term and long-term strategic view, and ensuring executives play an active role in communicating and driving transformation are keys to success.

To learn more, including the impact on future investment decisions, see the complete EY article.

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