New YPO Global Leadership Survey Finds Young Business Leaders Overwhelmingly Believe Business is a Force for Good

Ninety-three percent surveyed say business should have a positive impact on society

DAVOS, Switzerland, 23 January 2019 – YPO, the premier global leadership organization for more than 27,000 chief executives, conducted a survey of its members in over 130 countries to get their thoughts on if the purpose of business is to have an impact on society beyond profits and wealth.

YPO’s 2019 Global Leadership Survey, conducted 23 December 2018 through 4 January 2019 with more than 2,200 CEO respondents, found that a massive cultural shift about the role of business leadership is in progress as indicated by the following findings:

  • A large majority of respondents (74 percent) say their perspective on their role as a business leader has changed in the past five years. Employees (43 percent), colleagues (40 percent) and their children (37 percent) were cited as some of the top influencers behind this new belief.
  • Business leaders shared that they are much more inclined to make an impact through their business than by being involved in politics.
  • The biggest obstacle, according to surveyed CEOs, in their efforts to create a greater impact through their business is government regulations (51 percent) with taxation cited as a distant second (27 percent). Regionally, political unrest was identified by members in Africa (32 percent) and MENA (39 percent) significantly more than the survey average (19 percent).
  • CEOs said their top three concerns for the future are lack of quality education (37 percent), climate change (37 percent), and peace, justice and global institutions (30 percent). The depth and type of concern did vary by member geography:
    • Lack of quality education was noted as an issue among both Latin America (56 percent) and U.S. (41 percent) members.
    • Climate change was most cited among members in Europe followed by Asia (48 percent and 41 percent compared to the survey average of 37 percent).
  • Leaders are acting to address these concerns through their business. Ensuring their business makes a positive difference (57 percent), creating jobs and prosperity for people (49 percent) and teaching/mentoring others (43 percent) are the primary ways that CEOs surveyed are focusing their efforts. Additionally, reducing waste and having an environmental impact were key focal points for participants in Asia (44 percent), Europe (44 percent) and Africa (43 percent).

For additional perspective on these findings, YPO concurrently surveyed more than 1,800 future leaders, people ages 18-31 with at least some college education, to see how their thoughts on these same topics compared to those of the current stewards of business. This group also overwhelmingly agreed (92 percent) that the purpose of business is to have an impact on society beyond pursuing profits and wealth.

Climate change (37 percent) was also a top concern among this younger generation and more than half of those surveyed (55 percent) want to reduce their environmental impact. Lack of quality education (27 percent), availability of work opportunities and economic growth (24 percent) and peace, justice and global institutions (22 percent) also weighed on future leader’s minds.

Whereas most current leaders identify government regulations as the biggest impediment to making an impact, future leaders believe corruption (42 percent) and business leaders not being in interested in doing more (32 percent) are the real obstacles.

YPO will be sharing the 2019 Global Leadership Survey findings at an upcoming panel discussion entitled Profit with Purpose: A New Global Model in Davos on 24 January 2019. Complete survey results are available at YPO.org/GlobalLeadershipSurvey.

YPO 2019 Global Leadership Survey Methodology:

The YPO 2019 Global Leadership Survey of its members was conducted by YPO from 23 December – 4 January via an online questionnaire with a representative probability sample of 2,283 YPO members. The sample included members in 110 countries. The questionnaire was in English. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 1.97 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

The companion survey of younger generation people (future business leaders) was conducted by YPO from 23 December – 4 January. A total of 1,871 global respondents, ages 18-31 with at least some college education, participated in the survey. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2.3 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.



Angela Mers is the global PR and Media Manager at YPO and has worked for the organization since 2007. She is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill with degrees in journalism and political science.