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We’ve all seen the headlines from financial services CEOs declaring the advent of purpose-driven companies. CEOs such as Larry Fink (BlackRock) and Jamie Dimon (JPMorgan Chase) are taking visible steps towards leading with purpose, rather than (or in addition to) profit – calling on other corporations to do the same. But our CEO Purpose Report survey results show that another sector is leading the charge in 2021, ushering in these changes as well: the tech sector.

The pandemic has forced corporations and communities to reconsider what is important to them, how they want to spend their time, and what they want to do in the future. Our survey shows that 79% of CEOs surveyed said the pandemic has had an impact on the way they run their business. But tech CEOs felt this more than any other sector, with 85% saying the pandemic has impacted the way they run their business.

As a result, tech CEOs are placing great importance on ESG (environment, social and governance). More than any other sector, they are accelerating efforts around long-term value creation (41%), corporate responsibility (41%) and corporate governance (40%), as well as company purpose (37%).

The industry leader

Tech is ahead of the curve when it comes to purpose: More than one in three tech CEOs (36%) say they already have a purpose statement. This is higher than any other sector, and higher than the global average of 27%. Professional services, retail and CPG CEOs are lagging behind, with just one in four stating they have a purpose statement. And even further behind are construction and real estate CEOs (one in five).

Tech CEOs stand by purpose and could be looked to as both inspiration and aspiration for other industries. Those with a purpose statement stalwartly believe that purpose is integral, driving initiatives across their business, building connection to customers, and demonstrating to them that they share the same values.

However, across industries, it’s universally agreed that purpose is crucial when it comes to achieving sustainability goals. Regardless of industry, CEOs agree that purpose-driven companies are better at navigating a sustainable world than profit-driven companies, and that purpose can help guide companies to make decisions that contribute to a sustainable world. But just because they agree with a statement doesn’t necessarily mean they will put those beliefs into practice.

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An exceptionally collaborative sector

External pressure from stakeholders and other forces beyond their control may force them to reconsider – but tech CEOs, more than other CEOs in other industries, believe it is precisely this external pressure that leads to companies integrating sustainable considerations into their purpose (44% vs. 36% globally). And tech CEOs are already working with sustainability-minded partners – again, more so than other industries (47% vs. 39% globally).

Tech CEOs also know that the dreams they have for the future, particularly when it comes to sustainability, cannot be accomplished in a vacuum – there must be collaboration across industries. Other industries are lagging in this belief, so it will be up to tech CEOs to lead the charge and call for collaboration, with expectations, measurable goals, and specific actions that will set a positive precedent for all.

Tech CEOs are also ahead when it comes to culture change and are already educating their existing workforce and new hires on their organization’s purpose. By setting an example and communicating how they are going about enacting their purpose with the business world at large, there is hope that other industries will follow suit – developing and enacting a purpose.

While tech CEOs are not all purpose-driven, they nonetheless appear to be the industry that best understands that purpose and collaboration are key, not only to the financial success of their business, but also to the sustainability of the planet. To truly become the gold standard, tech CEOs have to be willing to share their learnings about developing, enacting and activating a purpose in order for the world to reap the benefits. And CEOs from other industries have to be willing to listen and put these lessons learned into practice.

CEO Purpose Report 2021

Is purpose more than just a corporate buzzword? How does it affect business performance? And has it reached a tipping point in 2021?

Find out what over 700 CEOs across six markets truly think about purpose.

Explore the report