Finding opportunity in uncertainty

The 2022 CEO Outlook draws on the perspectives of 1,325 global CEOs across 11 markets to provide insight into their 3-year outlook on the business and economic landscapes. The survey also reveals shifts in strategy and viewpoints from the KPMG CEO Outlook Pulse Survey, conducted ahead of the Russian government's invasion of Ukraine.

The report reveals that 58 percent of leaders expect a recession to be mild and short. Fourteen percent of senior executives identify a recession among the most pressing concerns today — up slightly from early 2022 (9 percent), while pandemic fatigue tops the list (15 percent).

Over the next year, more than 8 out of 10 (86 percent) global CEOs anticipate a recession to hit, with 71 percent predicting it will impact company earnings by up to 10 percent. A strong majority of senior executives believe that a recession will disrupt anticipated growth (73 percent). However, three-quarters (76 percent) have already taken precautionary steps ahead of a looming recession.

A likely recession's impact on ESG

Despite geopolitical and economic challenges, global economic confidence over the next 3 years has rebounded from early 2022, rising to 71 percent. As companies continue to navigate the changing landscape resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, 85 percent of global CEOs report positive growth expectations in 2022; steady from earlier this year and down slightly from 2021 (87 percent).

As CEOs strive to maintain optimism and take steps to insulate their businesses from an upcoming recession, indicators point to ESG progress suffering as a result, following the trend of CEOs reassessing initiatives in many areas of the business (e.g. transformation and staffing). Our survey shows recession-proofing businesses may come at the expense of furthering ESG efforts. As economic uncertainty continues, 50 percent are pausing or reconsidering their existing or planned ESG efforts over the next 6 months, and 34 percent have already done so.

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