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CEO survey: Organizations not prepared to deal with a major crisis

Written on Jan 18, 2023

A new survey of CEOs reveals most don’t think their organizations are prepared to deal with a major crisis. Less than half (49%) said they are ready for a pandemic or global health crisis; 41% are prepared for cybersecurity crises; and 39% have planned for financial instability. 

The results are from The Conference Board’s C-Suite Outlook 2023 which surveyed 670 CEOs around the world and measured the extent to which they felt their organizations were ready for 15 crisis situations. The list of other crisis triggers—and how prepared the executives said they are ready to deal with them—includes: 

  • Recession (36%) 

  • High inflation (31%) 

  • Surge in energy prices (31%) 

  • Supply chain disruption (28%) 

  • Expansion of war in Ukraine (17%) 

  • Extreme climate events (16%) 

  • Water shortages (15%) 

  • Food shortages (14%) 

  • Civil unrest (13%) 

  • Terrorism (12%) 

Tied for last place on the list was an armed conflict between major powers (6%) and the use of a tactical nuclear weapon in the war in Ukraine (6%). 

But the list is the tip of the iceberg of the hundreds of human and nature-related triggers that can cause a crisis for companies and organizations. 

The failure of companies to respond quickly and strategically could damage their brand, image, and bottom line and place them at a competitive disadvantage in the marketplace. 

“CEOs are significantly more pessimistic than the rest of the C-suite when it comes to crisis management,” Paul Washington, executive director of the Environmental, Social and Governance Center at The Conference Board, said in a statement. 

“While 53% of C-suite executives believe they are well prepared for a major crisis in cybersecurity, only 41% of CEOs say that’s the case,” he noted. 

“That carries through to other areas: supply chain disruptions (36% vs. 28%); and high inflation (40% vs. 31%). The gap is surprising because many companies have recently been through such crises.  

“At the same time, CEOs in Europe say updating risk management is their #10 priority for 2023. Neither crisis nor risk management makes the top 10 priorities for U.S. CEOs,” Washington observed.