Climate risk means 45% of global CEOs see their firm as unviable in 10 years

Smaller companies are at greater risk

Almost half of CEOs do not believe their businesses will be viable in a decade as tech and climate pressures accelerate, according to a PwC Global CEO Survey.

The level of leaders saying their current business won’t exist if it continues on its current path has hit 45%, up from 39% in 2023, the survey found.

Smaller companies are at greater risk: 56% of CEOs leading businesses generating less than $100m in annual revenue believe their businesses will only be viable for 10 years or less if it continues running on its current path. This falls to 27% for those making $25bn or more in revenue annually. 

Corporate confidence among business heads is fragile as megatrends including technological disruption, exemplified by generative AI, and the climate transition converge. 

Reflecting uncertainty about how they will manage these megatrends, CEOs are less confident than last year in their own company’s prospects for revenue growth over the next 12 months, down from 42% to 37%.

Bob Moritz, global chair at PwC, said business leaders are becoming more focused on disruptive forces within their industries. 

“Whether it is accelerating the roll-out of generative AI or building their business to address the challenges and opportunities of the climate transition, this is a year of transformation.” 

Climate transition opportunities

As CEOs establish priorities, many are seeing the climate transition as an industry disruptor containing distinct opportunities in addition to risks. 

Nearly one-third of global CEOs expect climate change to shift the way they create, deliver, and capture value over the next three years, up from less than one-quarter who said as much regarding the past 5 years. 

CEOs are making progress in turning their commitments into action. More than three quarters (76%) have either begun or completed steps to improve energy efficiency, while 58% report having made similar strides when it comes to innovating new, climate-friendly products, services or technologies. 

On the other hand, only 45% note having made progress on or completed incorporating climate risk into financial planning (with 31% noting no plans to do so). 

Action on adaptation to physical climate risks is also lagging at 47% (with 29% noting no plans to act). 

The survey suggests significant support for decarbonisation, with only 26% saying that a  board or management buy-in is a moderate or large barrier to decarbonisation. 

Instead, CEOs cite regulatory complexity (54%) and lower economic returns for climate friendly investments (51%) as the biggest barriers to be overcome.

However CEOs are beginning to take on the economic barrier, with four in ten reporting that they have accepted lower hurdle rates for climate-friendly investments than for other investments, in the majority of cases between one and four percentage points lower. 

Moritz added: “This year’s data suggests a high degree of CEO uncertainty ahead, but CEOs are taking action. They are transforming their business models, investing in technology and their people, and managing the risks and opportunities presented by the climate transition. 

“If businesses are to thrive over the short and long-term, build trust, and deliver sustained and long-term value, they must accelerate the pace of reinvention.”