CEO Confidence on the Rise; Importance of ESG Growing Marcum-Hofstra Survey Reveals
JULY 12, 2023 (New York City, NY) – The latest Marcum-Hofstra University CEO Survey provides compelling insight into the evolving mindset of middle-market CEOs across a range of industries, revealing a broadly optimistic view of the business landscape and the importance of companies supporting social and political causes.
The survey, which continues to track CEO sentiment over time, revealed a noticeable uptick in optimism. Compared to April, 12.4% of respondents rated their outlook as “very positive,” up from 9.8%. More than a third – 39.6% – placed themselves in the high range of optimism, an increase from 37.6%.
The largest gains in optimism came in the construction, professional services, and technology sectors. However, the healthcare and retail sectors saw a dip in CEO optimism, indicating the nuanced industry dynamics at play in the current business environment.
In a world where social activism increasingly intersects with business, 71.6% of CEOs felt it was important for companies to actively support political or social causes. About a third – 33.6% – said that embracing environmental, social and governance causes is a central focus in their business planning and actions.
Nearly a quarter of CEOs said supporting social and political causes actively contributed to achieving their business outcomes, and 45.6% said they believe it is the right thing to do regardless of the impact on their bottom line.
“The embrace of environmental, social and governance (ESG) is, quite literally, a generational change driven by young people who make decisions about what they buy and where they work based on a company’s ethical impact,” said Janet Lenaghan, dean of the Frank G. Zarb School of Business. “We focus on ESG at Zarb in many ways and across all disciplines – in the curriculum, with experiential learning opportunities like our student-managed sustainability fund, and through an interdisciplinary graduate dual-degree program.”
The Marcum-Hofstra CEO Survey is a periodic gauge of mid-market CEOs’ outlook and priorities for the next 12 months. The survey polls the leaders of companies with revenues ranging from $5 million to $1 billion-plus. This latest survey was conducted the week of June 19, 2023, and polled 250 mid-market CEOs.
Despite the improved economic sentiment, the shadow of a recession continues to linger among CEOs. The latest data shows a substantial drop in CEOs who say they are ‘very concerned’ about recession, from 46.5% in November 2022 to 26.4% now, but 74.0% retain some concern. Moreover, 61.6% admit these concerns impact their staffing plans, with 17.6% already curtailing hiring and 9.6% laying off staff. Conversely, CEOs expressing no recession concern have increased from 6.3% to 15.6%, indicating a shifting economic landscape.
“Our latest CEO survey shows that optimism is on the rise, but it’s clear that these leaders are keenly aware of the challenges ahead,” said Jeffrey Weiner, Chairman & CEO of Marcum. “From managing economic uncertainties and grappling with talent shortages to mitigating the impact of rising operational costs, CEOs will need adaptability and grit in this fluid business landscape.”
The survey is developed, conducted, and analyzed by Zarb School MBA students, led by Dr. Andrew Forman, associate professor of international business and marketing, in partnership with Marcum.
“The Marcum-Hofstra CEO survey provides students with the basis to consider whether it is prudent and beneficial for companies to focus resources and attention on the broader issues confronting their communities and society at large,” Dr. Forman said. “While many CEOs felt it was important for the companies to support political and social causes, their motives vary. This provides a springboard for students to think critically about how broader concerns affect corporate decision-making.”
Other Key Findings
- Economic concerns continue to be a dominant influence in business planning, despite a slight decline from 58.0% to 55.2% since April.
- The availability of talent remains a key factor, reflecting the ongoing struggle for human resources in a tight labor market.
- Rising material and operational costs continue to weigh heavily on the minds of CEOs, with this concern showing a small increase since the previous survey.
Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)
- 15.2% of CEOs said they were rethinking previous support for political or social causes due to concerns over the impact on their business.
- 43.6% of CEOs said they consider ESG goals, but they are secondary to company goals.
- 12.8% of CEOs said ESG goals are not part of their planning, and they do not expect it to be in the future.
About the Frank G. Zarb School of Business at Hofstra University
Hofstra University’s Frank G. Zarb School of Business prepares students to become tomorrow’s global leaders. Located just 25 miles from New York City, Zarb students have access to internships and networking opportunities across every industry. The Zarb School combines entrepreneurial, hands-on learning and research with real-world experience and mentorship in state-of-the-art facilities, including a Behavioral Research in Business Lab, Center for Entrepreneurship, and academic trading room. Our undergraduate and graduate programs in accounting, management and entrepreneurship, marketing and international business, finance, and business analytics are ranked and recognized by US News & World Report, Princeton Review, Pets & Quants and Fortune Magazine.
About Marcum LLP
Marcum LLP is a top-ranked national accounting and advisory firm dedicated to helping entrepreneurial, middle-market companies and high net worth individuals achieve their goals. Marcum’s industry-focused practices offer deep insight and specialized services to privately held and publicly registered companies, and nonprofit and social sector organizations. The Firm also provides a full complement of technology, wealth management, and executive search and staffing services. Headquartered in New York City, Marcum has offices in major business markets across the U.S. and select international locations. #AskMarcum.