As the world becomes increasingly politically polarized and some governments abandon sustainable initiatives, like US President Donald Trump’s announcement to pull out of the Paris Agreement in 2017, consumers are now looking towards CEOs and their companies to spearhead sustainability.
What makes an activist CEO?
WEF research shows that companies in the tech sector are already leading sustainability – through renewable energies and zero-waste models of production – and are shaping consumers’ minds on how technology companies approach sustainability. Forty-two percent of the 80 most influential company profiles were from the tech sector and three out of the five top companies ranked by public opinion to be contributing the most to sustainability were tech companies: Amazon, Microsoft and Google.
Consumers expect companies to publicly lead the debate with both short-term and present strategies that deliver with long-term commitment. As demonstrated in the case of Starbucks, consumers pay attention to follow-through and highly value tangible initiatives catalysing consumer and other brands’ actions.
CEOs must actively join the public discussion. Consumers expect CEOs to prioritize sustainability in operating their businesses, as our analysis shows. Consumers need role models and leaders especially when public opinion expresses disappointment that some governments are not prepared to make tangible commitments.
There is a clear opportunity for CEOs to take responsibility by joining and leading the public debate on sustainability.