25th Annual Global CEO Survey
Belgian CEOs believe global economic growth will improve over next 12 months
Belgian CEOs confident about their company’s prospects for revenue growth over next 12 months
of Belgian respondents’ organisations have made net-zero commitments
Belgian CEOs worried about a cyberattack
The global economy seems to have rebounded from the depths of mid-2020, when uncertainty about the real impact of the COVID-19 pandemic reigned, a circumstance reflected in the optimism of the 4,446 CEOs from 89 countries - including 46 from Belgium - who took part in our 25th Annual Global CEO Survey. More than three-quarters (77%) of respondents believe that the global economy will improve over the coming 12 months. For Belgian CEOs, that number rose to 80%, just two percent down on last year. A similar number (81%) of Belgian CEOs are confident of Belgium’s economic growth in the same period and of their own organisation’s growth (93%). Looking further forward, 91% of Belgian CEOs expressed confidence for revenue growth within their firm over the coming three years. Yet, there are concerns too.
What keeps Belgian CEOs up at night? The risk of a cyber attack (54%), health risks (50%) and climate change (37%) top the list, the top two appearing in the same position for CEOs globally (with macroeconomic volatility coming in third).
Almost two-thirds (63%) of Belgian CEOs fear that a cyber risk could inhibit their ability to innovate over the next 12 months. At the same time, they see the potential of health risks to continue to disrupt business. Indeed, Belgian CEOs seem significantly more worried about health risks (50%) compared to the European Union (EU) average (42%) and globally (48%). And certainly compared to neighbouring countries France (30%), Germany (31%) and the Netherlands (26%). Coming in a close fourth (at 33%) for Belgian CEOs - third globally (43%) - on the threat list is concern about macroeconomic volatility, including fluctuations in GDP and unemployment, and inflation. For the latter, it’s mainly energy prices that are pushing inflation to historic levels.
“Today, new challenges with the global pandemic and climate change are testing CEOs like never before.”
Despite rising interest in environment, social and governance (ESG) topics, strategy remains primarily driven by business metrics. However, environmental issues do seem to be beginning to permeate business discussions. Belgian CEOs’ extreme concern for climate change rose by nine percentage points to 37% compared to last year (28%). But there's still significant room for real action: Just under one third (28%) of Belgian CEOs’ organisations have made net-zero commitments. This is above both the EU (23%) and global (22%) averages. Their motivation to do so was reported to be their overall desire to mitigate climate change risks, followed by meeting customer expectations. A key barrier to making commitments seems to be uncertainty about how to measure and manage decarbonisation (55%).
On the people front, focus remains on the short term. Concerns about the ability to attract and retain talent are mostly associated in the minds of CEOs with health risks (62%) and social inequality (69%). Most CEOs have goals related to customer satisfaction (76%), employee engagement (70%) and automation or digitisation (61%) included in their long-term strategy, all non-financial outcomes that are intertwined with day-to-day business performance. Much less well-represented in strategies and compensation are targets related to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (57%) and workforce gender representation (48%) or racial and ethnic diversity (26%).