Business should create a positive impact beyond profit, say 93% of the 2 200 CEOs who responded to the 2019 Global Leadership Survey conducted in December 2018 and early January 2019 by the global leadership organisation YPO. They shared these findings during a panel discussion entitled Profit with Purpose: A New Global Model during the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos.

The CEO respondents indicated that they wanted to make a positive impact on society through their business, rather than through politics. They believe the biggest obstacles to making this impact are government regulations (51%) and taxation (27%).

Political unrest was identified as the biggest constraint by respondents in Africa (32%) and 39% in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), while on average only 19% of respondents from other regions identified unrest as an obstacle.

The CEOs identified their top three concerns for the future as lack of quality education (37%), climate change (37%), and peace, justice and global institutions (30%). More specifically, lack of education was a major issue for business leaders from Latin America (56%) and the US (41%). European (48%) and Asian (41%) respondents cited climate change as their major concern, which is higher than the 37% of all survey respondents who identified climate as a concern.

The leaders are working towards addressing these concerns through their businesses by ensuring the company makes a positive difference (57%), creates jobs and prosperity for people (49%) and teaches/mentors others (43%). Additionally, reducing waste and having an environmental impact were key focal points for participants in Asia and Europe (44%) and Africa (43%).

A large majority of the respondents (74%) say their perspective on their role as a business leader has changed in the past five years. The biggest influencers for change were employees (43%), colleagues (40%) and their children (37%).

Comparing young leaders

In another concurrent survey, YPO got responses from 1 800 future leaders, aged 18-31 with at least some college education, to see how their thoughts on these same topics compared to those of the current stewards of business. This group overwhelmingly agreed (92%) that the purpose of business is to have an impact on society, beyond pursuing profits and wealth.

Climate change (37%) was also a top concern among this younger generation and more than half of those surveyed (55%) want to reduce their environmental impact. Lack of quality education (27%) availability of work opportunities and economic growth (24%) and peace, justice and global institutions (22%) were also important concerns for the future leaders.

They do, however, differ from their elders on the biggest impediments to making an impact. Instead of government regulations, the future leaders believe corruption (42%) and business leaders not being in interested in doing more (32%) are the real obstacles to making an impact.

For more information, visit