EY: CEO AI confidence tempered by ethical & security risks

Respondents to EY's CEO Outlook study see AI as a force for driving business efficiency – but work is needed to address social, ethical and security risks

CEOs are today embracing the opportunities created by AI, but also remain wary of its consequences, according to the findings of EY’s latest CEO Outlook Pulse survey. 

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of CEOs told EY that AI is a force for good, but a near equal proportion say more work is needed to address social, ethical and security risks – which range from cyberattacks and disinformation to deep fakes. 

The survey of 1,200 global CEOs, which provides insights on AI, capital allocation, investment, sustainability and transformation strategies, found that 66% of CEOs believe the impact of AI replacing humans in the workforce will be counterbalanced by new roles and career opportunities that the technology creates.

"CEO concerns about the unintended consequences of AI reflect a broader confluence of – sometimes dystopian - views in media, society, and contemporary culture,” comments Andrea Guerzoni, EY Global Vice Chair – Strategy and Transactions. “They see a role for business leaders to address these fears – an opportunity to engage on the ethical implications of AI and how its use could impact key areas of our lives, such as privacy. 

“CEOs clearly see the huge advantages of AI and its potential to drive productivity and positive outcomes for all stakeholders, which has galvanized investment in AI-driven innovation – they know that bold actions to harness the upside potential will lead to future competitive advantage.”

Economic instability remains; sustainability initiatives at a crossroads

Despite ongoing macroeconomic volatility, CEO told EY that they are cautiously more optimistic regarding a global economic downturn than at the start of 2023, as only 33% of CEOs expect a severe temporary or persistent downturn, compared to 50% in January. 

Today, just 38% of CEOs stated that they would prioritise sustainability issues when making capital allocations decisions. This is in contrast to the 2022 edition of EY’s CEO Outlook, when 73% of CEOs said that sustainability and ESG issues would be an important driver of growth in the near-to-mid-term.

“Today’s uncertain macroeconomic environment has led CEOs to be more focused on near-term performance – even if that comes at the expense of longer-term sustainability initiatives,” Guerzoni adds. “Many CEOs will have already integrated sustainability into long-term investment strategies but regardless of prioritization, CEOs will need to meet stakeholder sustainability demands. That requires new ways of delivering and communicating strategic performance across nonfinancial and financial metrics to bridge any gap with stakeholder expectations and align with increasing regulation.”

To read the full report, please visit: ey.com/CEOOutlook.

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