Short-term economic worries dominate business concerns – global survey

Insurers warn business leaders not to neglect longer-term risks

Short-term economic worries dominate business concerns – global survey


By Ryan Smith

The impact of skyrocketing inflation, debt crises, and the exploding cost of living are the biggest threats over the next two years in G20 countries, overshadowing environmental concerns, according to new data from the World Economic Forum.

The findings of the 2022 Executive Opinion Survey, which polled more than 12,000 business leaders from 22 countries, come ahead of COP27 in Egypt and the G20 summit in Indonesia later this month.

Rapid and/or sustained inflation was the most commonly cited top risk, with 37% of G20 countries identifying it as a top concern, followed jointly by debt crises and the cost-of-living crisis, each at 21%. Geo-economic confrontation was identified as the top risk by two G20 countries, while other respondents cited the potential for state collapse and a lack of widespread digital services and digital inequality.

This year’s survey findings are a significant departure from 2021’s survey results, particularly in areas such as technological and environmental risk. Despite mounting environmental pressures over the last year, environmental issues placed significantly lower as a top-five risk for G20 countries in 2022. And despite the growing threat of cyberattacks on critical infrastructure, cybercrime and other tech risks were among the least commonly cited top-five risks this year.

The survey also exposed significant regional variations between advanced economies and emerging markets. While the economic risks associated with rapid and/or sustained inflation were named the top risk by respondents from Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and East Asia and Pacific, societal concerns about the cost-of-living crisis were the dominant issue in the Middle East and Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. In Central Asia, interstate conflict topped the list, while debt crises were the chief concern in South Asia.

Experts at Marsh and Zurich warned that despite current concerns, business leaders couldn’t afford to ignore cyber and environmental issues.

“G20 business leaders are rightly focused on the immediate and urgent economic and geopolitical risks they are facing right now,” said Carolina Kint, risk management leader for continental Europe at Marsh. “However, if they are overlooking major technological risks, this could create future blind spots, leaving their organisations exposed to severe cyber threats that could seriously impact their long-term success.”

“After a jump of 2 billion tons in 2021, the rise in global CO2 emissions this year is much lower – close to 300 million tons,” said Peter Giger, group chief risk officer at Zurich Insurance Group. “This is thanks to growth in the use of renewable energy and electric vehicles. Despite these positive developments, we are still not on track to reach the 1.5°C target.

“The transition to net zero has dropped too far down on the short-term agendas of many business leaders. Yet the impacts of climate change are both short-term and long-term. Even in the current geopolitical and economically challenging environment, we need to focus on building a cleaner, more affordable and more secure energy system if we hope to keep a net-zero future within grasp.”

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