About Our Survey and Methodology

We are pleased with the global reach of our survey this year, with strong participation from 1,304 board members and executives across a variety of industries. Our survey captures insights from C-suite executives and directors, 47% of whom represent companies based in North America, 13% in Europe, 11% in Asia, 9% in Latin America, and 8% in Australia/New Zealand, with the remaining 12% from India, Africa and the Middle East.

Our survey was conducted online in September and October of 2022 to capture perspectives on risks on the minds of executives as they peered into 2023. Each respondent was asked to rate 38 individual risk issues in terms of their relative impact using a 10-point scale, where a score of 1 reflects “No Impact at All” and a score of 10 reflects “Extensive Impact” to their organization over the next year. We also asked them to consider how each of these risks was likely to affect their organizations 10 years in the future (i.e., in 2032).

For each of the 38 risk issues, we computed the average score reported by all respondents. Using mean scores across respondents, we rank-ordered risks from highest to lowest impact. This approach enabled us to compare mean scores across the past three years to highlight changes in the perceived level of risk.

Consistent with our prior studies, we grouped all the risks based on their average scores into one of three classifications:

  • Risks with an average score of 6.0 or higher are classified as having a “Significant Impact” over the next 12 months (2023)/over the next decade (2032).
  • Risks with an average score of 4.5 through 5.99 are classified as having a “Potential Impact” over the next 12 months (2023)/over the next decade (2032).
  • Risks with an average score of 4.49 or lower are classified as having a “Less Significant Impact” over the next 12 months (2023)/over the next decade (2032).

We refer to these risk classifications throughout our report, and we also review results for various subgroups (i.e., company size, position held by respondent, industry representation, geographic location, and organization type). With respect to the various industries, we grouped related industry sectors into combined industry groupings to facilitate analysis, consistent with our prior years’ reports.

The following table lists the 38 risk issues rated by our respondents, arrayed across three categories — Macroeconomic, Strategic and Operational.

Risk categories

Macroeconomic risk issues

  • Anticipated volatility in global financial markets and currency exchange rates may create significantly challenging issues for our organization to address
  • Political uncertainty surrounding the influence and continued tenure of key global leaders, shifts in the balance of global power, and political extremism may impact the stability of national and international markets to the point of significantly limiting our growth opportunities
  • Evolving changes in global trade policies (e.g., post-Brexit implementations, escalating tariffs, border restrictions and shifts to multilateralism) as well as assumptions underlying globalization may affect our ability to operate effectively and efficiently in international markets
  • Our ability to access sufficient capital/liquidity may restrict growth opportunities for our organization
  • Economic conditions (including inflationary pressures) in markets we currently serve may significantly restrict growth opportunities, impact margins or require new skill sets for our organization
  • The adoption of digital technologies (e.g., artificial intelligence, automation in all of its forms, natural language processing, visual recognition software, virtual reality simulations) in the marketplace and in our organization may require new skills that either are in short supply in the market for talent or require significant efforts to upskill and reskill our existing employees
  • Geopolitical shifts, regional conflicts, and instability in governmental regimes or expansion of global terrorism may restrict the achievement of our global growth and profitability objectives
  • Anticipated increases in labor costs may affect our opportunity to meet profitability targets
  • The current interest rate environment may have a significant effect on the organization’s capital costs and operations
  • Government policies surrounding public health practices (in response to the pandemic) and stimulus to drive recovery and national resilience may significantly impact the performance of our business*
  • Shifts in perspectives and expectations about social issues and priorities surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion (e.g., board composition, representation in the C-suite and leadership ranks, and onboarding policies) are occurring faster than the pace at which our organization is motivated and able to manage effectively, which may significantly impact our ability to attract/retain talent and compete in the marketplace*
  • Uncertainties from reliance on international markets for key elements of our supply chain will continue to create significant challenges for us to meet revenue/profitability goals**

* These risks were new to the 2021 survey.

** This risk is new to the 2023 survey.

Strategic risk issues

  • Rapid speed of disruptive innovations enabled by advanced technologies (e.g., artificial intelligence, automation in all of its forms, hyper-scalable platforms, faster data transmission, quantum computing, blockchain, digital currencies and the metaverse) and/or other market forces may outpace our organization’s ability to compete and/or manage the risk appropriately, without making significant changes to our business model
  • Rapidly expanding developments in social media and platform technology innovations may significantly impact how we do business, interact with our customers, ensure regulatory compliance and/or manage our brand
  • Regulatory changes and scrutiny may heighten, noticeably affecting the way our processes are designed and our products or services are produced or delivered
  • Growing focus on climate change and related ESG policies, regulations and expanding disclosure requirements, as well as expectations among governments, current and potential employees, and other stakeholders about “green” initiatives, supply chain transparency, reward systems, and other governance and sustainability issues, may require us to significantly alter our strategy and business model in ways that may be difficult for us to implement as timely as the actions of our competitors
  • Ease of entrance of new competitors into the industry and marketplace or other significant changes in the competitive environment (such as major market concentrations due to M&A activity) may threaten our market share
  • Our organization may not be sufficiently resilient and/or agile to manage an unexpected crisis (including a catastrophic event) significantly impacting our operations or reputation
  • Growth opportunities through acquisitions, joint ventures and other partnership activities may be difficult to identify and implement
  • Opportunities for organic growth through customer acquisition and/or enhancement may be significantly limited for our organization
  • Substitute products and services may arise from competitors that may enhance the customer experience and affect the viability of our current business model and planned strategic initiatives
  • Sustaining customer loyalty and retention may be increasingly difficult due to evolving customer preferences and/or demographic shifts in our existing customer base
  • Performance shortfalls (including lack of progress on ESG goals/expectations) may trigger activist shareholders who seek significant changes to our organization’s strategic plan and vision
  • Market conditions imposed by and in response to COVID-19 and emerging variants, including shifts in consumer behavior to digital channels, may continue to impact customer demand for our core products and services*
  • Our organization may not be able to adapt its business model to embrace the evolving “new normal” imposed on our business by the ongoing pandemic and emerging social change*

* These risks were new to the 2021 survey.


Operational risk issues

  • Changes in the overall work environment including shifts to hybrid work environments, expansion of digital labor, changes in the nature of work and who does that work, and M&A activities may lead to challenges to sustaining our organization’s culture and business model*
  • Uncertainty surrounding our organization’s core supply chain including the viability of key suppliers, scarcity of supplies, energy sources, unpredictable shipping and distribution logistical issues, or lack of price stability in the supply chain ecosystem may make it difficult to deliver our products or services at acceptable margins
  • Third-party risks arising from our reliance on outsourcing and strategic sourcing arrangements, ecosystem partners, IT vendor contracts, and other partnerships/joint ventures to achieve operational and go-to market goals may prevent us from meeting organizational targets or impact our brand image
  • Our organization’s succession challenges and ability to attract and retain top talent and labor amid the constraints of a tightening talent/labor market may limit our ability to achieve operational targets
  • Our organization may not be sufficiently prepared to manage cyber threats such as ransomware and other attacks that have the potential to significantly disrupt core operations and/or damage our brand
  • Ensuring data privacy and compliance with growing identity protection expectations and regulations may require alterations demanding significant resources to restructure how we collect, store, share and use data to run our business
  • Our existing operating processes, in-house talent, legacy IT infrastructure, lack of digital expertise and/or insufficient digital knowledge and proficiency in the C-suite and boardroom may result in failure to meet performance expectations related to quality, time to market, cost and innovation as well as our competitors, including those that are either “born digital” or investing heavily to leverage technology for competitive advantage
  • Inability to utilize data analytics and “big data” to achieve market intelligence, gain insights on the customer experience, and increase productivity and efficiency may significantly affect our management of core operations and strategic plans
  • Resistance to change in our culture may restrict our organization from making necessary adjustments to the business model and core operations on a timely basis
  • Our organization’s culture may not sufficiently encourage the timely identification and escalation of risk issues and market opportunities that have the potential to significantly affect our core operations and achievement of strategic objectives
  • Our ability to meet expectations around protecting the health and safety of employees, customers, suppliers and the communities in which we operate may be insufficient to receive market permission to operate or encourage people to work for us or do business with us*
  • Our approach to managing ongoing demands on or expectations of a significant portion of our workforce to “work remotely” or increased expectations for a transformed, collaborative hybrid work environment may negatively impact our ability to retain talent as well as the effectiveness and efficiency of how we operate our business*
  • The rising threat associated with catastrophic natural disasters and weather phenomena (e.g., wildfires, floods, extreme heat/cold, cyclones/hurricanes/typhoons) may create significant operational challenges that threaten our assets, employees, and our ability to deliver products and services to our customers**

* These risks were new to the 2021 survey.

** This risk is new to the 2023 survey.


December 8, 2022

Executive Perspectives on Top Risks for 2023 and 2032

The level of uncertainty in today’s global marketplace and the velocity of change continue to produce a multitude of potential risks that can disrupt an organization’s business model and strategy on very short notice.