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The CEO's Tightrope: Balancing Growth, Politics, and ESG in a Disrupted 2024

Author Gary Cleland
Published 16 Oct 2023
Corporate Communications

We advise high-profile international companies and organisations on a range of communications issues in complicated commercial and regulatory environments.

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Analysing the latest findings in global CEO research to better understand and navigate upcoming risks.

A few things jump out of the KPMG 2023 CEO Outlook report, the findings of which chime with Hanover’s own research of corporate affairs and communications leaders. 

First, that political uncertainty and geopolitical risk are considered the biggest risk to growth in the year ahead – despite not being in the top five last year. This is unsurprising, with significant elections in the UK, Europe, and the USA on the horizon. Hanover’s own research of corporate affairs leaders found the majority were concerned that they were not sufficiently well connected across potential new administrations.

CEOs also continue to prioritise ESG, despite an increasingly polarised debate. This is interesting – posing a challenge for reputation leaders who, our research suggests, are increasingly attuned to the potential for backlash on social and environmental issues. As one corporate affairs leader put it – everyone agrees that their business should take the lead and have an opinion, the challenge is everyone wants it to be their opinion.

We asked CEOs how confident they were, out of 10, that everything would be fine. On average, they scored themselves 7 out of 10

CEOs remain optimistic about the wider economic outlook. Hanover’s own research also found CEOs to look on the brighter side of life. When we asked them to score, out of ten, their optimism for the year ahead, they averaged seven. When communications leaders were asked the same question, they scored themselves four.

We think this is a smart starting position for reputational professionals. Not to say don’t be ambitious, proactive, and confident. But to be wary enough to ensure that you prioritise insight, measurement, and robust issues management processes – and serve as an early warning system in the boardroom.

The value of prescience in the corporate world is immense, and it is a foundation of resilience – perhaps the most important organisational characteristic in an age of constant disruption.

So much of the work we do is around networks, insights, and issues & risk preparedness. This is where smart organisations are putting their time and effort to ensure reputational resilience.

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Gary Cleland

Group Managing Director

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