In the face of ongoing economic uncertainty and geopolitical instability, Mazars C-suite barometer reveals bold leadership and commitment to shaping a sustainable future

In the face of ongoing economic uncertainty and geopolitical instability, Mazars C-suite barometer reveals bold leadership and commitment to shaping a sustainable future

To shape a sustainable future, for both their business and wider society, the C-suite leaders are increasingly investing in technology and sustainability

· The majority of businesses (86%) have a positive outlook for growth for 2023

· Business leaders name transforming company technology and implementing a new or revised sustainability strategy as the top two strategic priorities for the coming three to five years

· Economic uncertainty, energy prices, geopolitical instability, and difficulty recruiting a skilled workforce named key factors holding back growth in the coming year

· 89% of the Romanian C-suite leaders have a positive outlook for growth

· More than half of the Romanian respondents (57%) are confident their data is “completely” protected

· Eight in ten Romanian businesses are either currently producing a sustainability report or planning to

· 93% of the Romanian C-suite executives believe that teamwork/camaraderie is the most essential ingredient for attracting the best talent

Mazars, the international audit, tax and advisory firm, today releases its 2023 C-suite barometer: Bold leadership for a sustainable future. This report is the result of an in-depth survey conducted in Q4 2022, which took the pulse of over 800 executives from 27 countries around the world.

Mark Kennedy, Partner and member of the Group Executive Board at Mazars, says: “To shape a sustainable future, for both their business and wider society, the C-suite leaders are increasingly investing in technology and sustainability. With uncertainty the norm for the foreseeable future, they need to continue to be bold today, to achieve sustainable success tomorrow.”

Optimism in the face of ongoing challenges

Despite economic instability, growing energy prices, and geopolitical tensions, executives are optimistic about their company’s future growth: 86% have a positive (28% very positive) outlook for growth in 2023.

Trends impacting businesses in 2023 and confidence to respond

According to our research, the top three external trends expected to have the biggest impact on businesses this year are:

1. economic trends including inflation and higher cost of living.

2. energy prices and/or shortages.

3. emergence of new technologies.

Leaders are most confident in their ability to manage emerging technologies (54% very confident). They are least confident coping with geopolitical instability (23% very confident), energy prices/shortages (27%), scarcity of talent (32%), and economic trends (33%) - these are also considered the main barriers to growth.

The Mazars Confidence Index (average percentage of ‘very confident’ across all trends) stands at 37%, slightly down on the previous barometer (44%) but up on our 2020 research (32%).

Embracing a digital world

Transforming company IT/technology is the top strategic priority for leaders over the coming three to five years. The emergence of new technology is expected to have a big impact on their business and executives recognise the importance of technologies such as artificial intelligence, automation, big data and Web3. Cyber threats remain an everyday reality, but leaders are confident their data is protected.

Investing in a sustainable future

A new or revised sustainability strategy is second on the list of C-suite strategic priorities for the coming three to five years and over two thirds (68%) plan to increase investment in sustainability initiatives in the coming year, signifying the importance of ESG on the C-suite agenda. Most businesses (65%) produce a sustainability report, but admit data quality and tracking can be challenging, and just over a third (36%) feel totally ready for new ESG reporting requirements.

Recognising the importance of diversity and talent

A quarter of leaders say a new or revised talent attraction and retention strategy is a strategic priority, with nearly a third (28%) identifying the inability to attract a skilled workforce as a barrier to their company’s growth. Despite acknowledging the importance of a diverse workforce, true equity remains elusive in many companies, with little progress in terms of gender diversity among top decision-makers.

Our research shows executives are committing time, money, and resources in the areas that matter most: technology, sustainability, and people. In the face of ongoing uncertainty, this shows courage, with leaders making bold moves to shape a sustainable future.

Kennedy adds: “Businesses will face further volatility this year - they will have to be agile and may need to re-prioritise and re-focus. But companies have developed a lot of resilience since the financial crisis of 2008, which will stand them in good stead for the coming year.”

Over 89% of the Romanian C-suite leaders have a positive outlook for growth in 2023

Our previous C-suite study revealed that the Romanian C-suite leaders were optimistic about the future of their businesses, and within this year’s report, while recognising the significant challenges that our country, as well as the entire world, is facing, 89% of them look ahead with a positive mindset (14% are very positive, 14% are positive, and 61% are slightly positive).

During the last few years, in Romania as well, we witnessed many companies go through extremely difficult situations, and the outcomes of those circumstances were almost always determined by their management team. I have seen great leaders in action and I believe that they had the strength and resilience to respond to fear and vulnerability in a way that gave them and their teams long-term success. Therefore, they are now in a position to not only confidently respond to challenges, but also shape and create new opportunities for the future.”, mentioned Dino Ebneter, Country Managing Partner, Mazars in Romania.

Following this positive note, when asked which will be their most important sources of growth in 2023, the Romanian C-suite leaders mentioned organic growth (43%), M&A activity (36%), and strategic alliances/joint ventures with third parties (11%). Although they are optimistic about the future, they are still prepared for the current and coming challenges, therefore, they have identified the top three trends that will have the biggest impact on their businesses in 2023: energy prices and/or shortages (61%), economic trends, including inflation/higher cost of living (57%), and geopolitical tension/instability (43%).

  1. Technology remains one of the most important priorities for leaders

When asked „Which are the top strategic priorities for your business over the next 3-5 years?”, Romanian leaders chose the entering of a new product or service category (36%) as a top priority (vs. ranked fourth globally), followed closely by transforming their company’s IT/technology (29%) and implementing a new or revised sustainability strategy (29%). Globally, number one is taken by transforming the company's IT/technology.

C-suite leaders must understand emerging technologies and embrace today’s digital world. According to our research, executives are at least fairly familiar with the more leading-edge technologies including automation (96%), artificial intelligence (AI)/ machine learning (71%), metaverse (61%), and Web3 (57%). When it comes to understanding and exploiting these technologies, surprisingly, Web3 is considered the most important (46%), while metaverse, automation, big data, and AI, share the same percentage (32%).

Another high priority for businesses both locally and globally is represented by IT security. More than half of the Romanian respondents (57%) are confident their data is “completely” protected, while 43% of them believe it is “partially” protected, compared to last year, when they were very pessimistic regarding this topic – only 31% felt their data was “completely” protected. 86% of the respondents are confident that they will not have a data breach in their organisation in the next 12 months.

  1. A sustainable future, today and tomorrow

Sustainability stands as one of the top three strategic priorities for Romanian C-suite leaders over the next three to five years. While 43% of the respondents have already budgeted costs to implement their sustainability strategy and reporting, 29% are planning to do so in their next budget review. Furthermore, most businesses (46%) already produce a sustainability report, and a further 36% plan to in the coming 12 months, meaning eight in 10 are either currently producing a report or planning to.

When it comes to readiness for ESG reporting, only 14% report being completely ready, while 54% mention they are mostly ready, meaning that they could publish according to regulations with little extra effort. Of course, there are still 25% who will need to show a significant effort.

This commitment to reporting is not always easy to action. While globally the main challenges when producing a sustainability report remain identifying data quality (37%) and data tracking (28%), at the local level, having the internal capabilities/expertise (21%) represents the top challenge, followed by finding the right service provider (18%).

At the same time, the responsibility for ESG reporting is very important, and at the moment, we can identify at the local level several representatives who are in charge of this project within a company, such as the CEO (18%) or the leaders of the marketing (11%), risk (11%), and sustainability (7%) departments. Globally, things are a little bit better, with the chief sustainability officer taking the lead (29%), together with the CEO (25%).

  1. Focus on people and work culture

Businesses are looking at their work culture to attract the right talent. The Romanian C-suite executives believe teamwork/ camaraderie (93%), quality of team members (89%), and opportunity for advancement (83%) are the most vital ingredients for attracting the best people to their organisation.

The vast majority of leaders (90%) say gender equality and the advancement of women is on their organisation’s top management agenda – 43% consider it a top three priority, while 29% a top five priority. To drive this forward, around half (46%) report having a dedicated programme on gender, equality, and sexism in place. But, despite the investment and commitment, there is no real progress in gender balance at the top level. Only 21% of the leaders boast over 30% of women among their top strategic decision-makers.

I believe that our thought leadership research shows leaders’ fighting spirit, optimism in the face of ongoing challenges, and confidence to invest in and shape a sustainable future, while still recognising that great people make great companies.”, added Dino Ebneter, Country Managing Partner, Mazars in Romania.

Click here to download the full report. 

About the study

The Mazars C-suite barometer was designed and conducted by GQR Research, in collaboration with Mazars. The data was gathered via an online survey between 9 November 2022 and 14 December 2022. The total sample is N=832.

About Mazars

Mazars is an internationally integrated partnership, specialising in audit, accountancy, advisory, tax and legal services*. Operating in over 95 countries and territories around the world, we draw on the expertise of more than 47,000 professionals – 30,000+ in Mazars’ integrated partnership and 17,000+ via the Mazars North America Alliance – to assist clients of all sizes at every stage in their development.

*Where permitted under applicable country laws

www.mazars.com | Mazars on LinkedIn

About Mazars in Romania

In Romania, Mazars has 28 years of experience in audit, tax, financial advisory, outsourcing, consulting, and sustainability. We empower over 300 people to deliver our promise to clients with confidence.

www.mazars.ro | Mazars Romania on LinkedIn

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