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Russia's attack on Ukraine has abruptly changed the geopolitical landscape - with huge implications for the German and global economy. This is also reflected in our annual survey of CEOs of large companies worldwide.

As our survey shows, inflation concerns and geopolitical uncertainties in German companies are currently overshadowing other challenges such as ESG or digital transformation. However, the latter two topics remain the most important trends in the long term.

All relevant figures from the survey of CEOs of large German companies and the analysis of our experts can be found in "KPMG CEO Outlook 2022: Growing in Turbulent Times“.

Between recession and resilience

91 percent of the CEOs of large German companies expect a recession over the next twelve months, which the vast majority believe will be short and mild. They perceive their companies as robust enough to cope well with the crisis. Nine out of ten German companies have anticipated the recession and made adjustments. In the medium term, therefore, the positive growth prospects predominate.

Nothing works without ESG

Three out of four CEOs report rising expectations for ESG reporting. However, almost one in two companies is struggling to formulate a compelling ESG story. Currently, the biggest challenges to ESG implementation are other acute business/economic issues and insufficient budgets.

More speed in the digital transformation

Disruption risks arising from new technologies remain an important topic for the CEOs surveyed. Driving the digital transformation forward in the currently particularly uncertain times is thus becoming a special challenge. In addition, many companies are unsure of how to measure the added value of digitalisation projects, which is perceived as a major obstacle.

In particular, faster implementation, entering into partnerships and an aggressive digital investment strategy are cited as success factors for achieving digitisation goals. Cyber security is also of central importance: For 82 percent of CEOs in Germany, the cyber security strategy is crucial for the trust of their stakeholders and as a source of competitive advantage.

Confidently into recruiting

In view of the current challenges, the question of how companies can attract top talent in the competitive candidate:inside market has been pushed somewhat into the background. Due to the expected recession, two-thirds of companies are considering or have already implemented a hiring freeze. In the next three years, however, more than 70 per cent want to expand their workforce.

In this context, the issue of diversity is playing an increasingly important role. 80 per cent of the (predominantly male) CEOs surveyed see gender equality in their own management ranks as an important factor in achieving the growth targets they have set. The effectiveness of diversity programmes is also under increasing scrutiny.

The significant increase in hybrid and remote working in the wake of the Covid 19 pandemic has only had a negative impact on collaboration, productivity and innovation in comparatively few cases, according to CEOs. Nevertheless, 89 per cent of CEOs want to see their office staff back on site in the future.