CEOs have placed environmental sustainability in their top 10 strategic business priorities for the first time, new Gartner research has said, showing a shift in concerns that could affect firms of all sizes.

Environmental concerns came in at 8th place in the company’s annual Gartner 2022 CEO and Senior Business Executive Survey, a significant jump from 14th place in 2019 and 20th in 2015.

However, the future of the planet was unsurprisingly pipped to the post by priorities such as growth, tech related challenges, and the workforce, which were cited by 51%, 34%, and 31% of those surveyed respectively.

Changing attitudes

Despite other concerns taking precedence, 74% percent of CEOs agreed that increasing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) efforts attracts investors toward their companies.

Of the 80% of CEOs who intend to invest in new or improved products this year and next, environmental sustainability was cited as the third largest driver, just behind functional performance and general quality.

Sustainability also appears as a competitive differentiator for CEOs in 2022 and 2023 – in fact, it is on the same level as brand trust among respondents according to the research.

So, what is keeping CEOs up at night?

Artificial intelligence (AI) was reported as the most impactful new technology among CEOs for the third year in a row.

The metaverse didn’t fair quite so well in the survey

A clear majority – 63% – of CEOs see the metaverse as either not applicable or very unlikely to be a key technology for their business.

In addition, 62% of CEOs see general price inflation as a persistent or long-term issue.

Unfortunately for consumers, their top response to inflation is to raise prices (51% of respondents), rather than responding with productivity and efficiency (22% of respondents).

In fact, Gartner found productivity and efficiency are not even in the top 10 business priorities for CEOs this year.

“2022 is the year that CEO perspectives truly changed,” said Mark Raskino, distinguished research vice president at Gartner. “The pandemic gradually brought a number of deep societal trends to the surface, such as a desire to change the way we work and the fragility of long-distance global supply chains.”

He added: “More recently, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is amplifying macroeconomic factors that CEOs must now deal with, such as inflation.”

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