Cybersecurity is the biggest threat to the world economy over the next decade, CEOs say

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CEOs see cybersecurity as the number one threat to the global economy over the next five to ten years, a new report has claimed.

In its 2019 CEO Imperative Study, published Tuesday, management consultancy EY surveyed 200 global CEOs among the Forbes Global 2000 and Forbes Largest Private Companies. Researchers also interviewed 100 senior investors from global firms that had managed at least $100 billion in assets.

Income inequality and job losses arising from technological change were ranked second and third in the list of threats, while ethics in artificial intelligence and climate change rounded out the top 5.

'Tipping point'

According to the study, global CEOs see more growth opportunities than risks in acting on those global challenges, with half of chief executives saying they believed the world's largest companies should be engaged in addressing such problems.

More than two in three CEOs also said they were likely to take a public stand on the biggest global challenges.

"We have arrived at a tipping point in corporate action on global challenges which will have a powerful impact. The world's largest companies are set to undertake a range of meaningful actions to address global challenges such as income inequality, the ethics of AI, cybersecurity, and climate change," the report said.

How do you stop a cyberwar?
How do you stop a cyberwar?

The most common action being taken by CEOs was realigning their corporate purpose to address societal problems. Boardrooms are also more likely to establish partnerships with governments or non-government organizations (NGOs). Just under half of respondents said they had adopted a corporate reporting framework that incorporated non-traditional values, or had participated in industry coalitions.

Investors were also surveyed and ranked the integration of global challenges into corporate strategies as their top priority for CEOs. 43% said a CEOs' top priority when it came to addressing these issues should be linking internal governance, performance measures and rewards to the fixing of global problems.

"CEOs, boards and investors recognize they have a role to play — along with the public sector — in addressing social challenges that speak to their values and in pursuing inclusive, sustainable growth," Carmine Di Sibio, EY global chairman and CEO, said in a press release Tuesday. "It's encouraging to see signs of support within the investment community for long-term value creation."

EY's survey was conducted between January and April 2019 and included respondents from companies in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the Asia-Pacific region.