Wednesday, February 21, 2024

CEOs have found their voice in a year of upheaval

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Something unusual happened in 2020, a year marked by a global pandemic and nationwide protests against the way police treat people of color: CEOs have found a voice.

Previously known to avoid sensitive topics for fear of upsetting customers and investors, many business leaders have actually made waves. The waves they created were not tsunamis, and the spectrum topics they chose to delve into were limited, but their outspokenness nonetheless stood out compared to years past.

“Our employees want to know that they are working for an organization that is willing to visibly defend our values ​​and speak out in favor of these societal changes that are near and dear to us,” Joe Ucuzoglu, CEO of Deloitte United States, the domestic arm of the business consulting giant, said in a discussion on Fortune “Leadership Next” podcast.

In the wake of the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, many CEOs are having, for the first time, conversations with their employees about race while vowing to do more to diversify their workforce. Others spoke of climate change and the need to protect the environment.

The push by business leaders to tackle social issues has recently been dubbed “stakeholder capitalism”. Yes, companies always want to make their shareholders happy, but they also want to make sure that their workers, their local communities and their suppliers are not left behind.

The question is whether companies are lip service to the idea of ​​doing good. After all, talking is not expensive, while action can be expensive.

How will CEOs handle the automation of their workplaces, which can put employees out of work? How about standing up to a chair, even one who likes to use Twitter attack anyone who dares to denounce him?

To be sure, CEOs will pick and choose which problems to solve and which to ignore in their pursuit of profit. In general, however, Ucuzoglu said the overall benefit will be positive.

“We, the business community, have an obligation to help ensure that this prosperity is inclusive, that we are focused on development and retraining – ensuring that all communities participate equitably in a technology-driven future.” , did he declare. “But ultimately it will increase the opportunities for a broad cross section of society in an incredibly beneficial way.”

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