Only 16% of the respondents state that the energy transition is a recurring item on the boardroom agenda. In only 4% of the organisations concerned does it have a real strategic impact, which is a remarkable finding given the increasing global focus on this theme. The results of the Strategy Trends Survey in the Netherlands show that the Dutch business community is more concerned about the energy transition (26%), possibly as a consequence of the problems in the north of the country caused by gas exploration.
Another finding is that, compared to Belgium, many more companies in the Netherlands use sustainability in their competitive positioning (31% vs. 16%). In Belgium companies tend to position themselves more on quality than in the Netherlands (58% vs. 46%). “The fact that Belgian customers generally look for certainty plays a role here,” believes Tom Vansteenkiste, managing director of the NKVK. Marlon Drent, strategy consultant at Berenschot adds: “When it comes to sustainability, Belgian CEOs do say that they are working on some measures but that Belgian consumers are not yet prepared to pay more for sustainable products or services.”
So what keeps Belgian CEOs awake at night? The themes of growth and digitalisation are mentioned repeatedly by 71% of the businesses surveyed. Companies seem to want to benefit from the favourable economic climate of the past few years. They see opportunities for growth, despite current international trends such as trade wars and political instability. Digitalisation can help businesses to accelerate this growth and new business models are inevitable. “The impact of digitalisation on business strategy was highlighted only recently by the restructuring at KBC which saw the need to reduce the number of bank branches,” says Pieter Strackx, senior strategy consultant at Berenschot. “And one factor behind the recent bankruptcy of Thomas Cook is certainly their slowness in responding to digitalisation in the sector.”
The emphasis on digitalisation is also driving the major impact that the ‘labour market’ theme has on business strategies. Forty-three percent of survey respondents state that labour market issues are a key factor influencing strategy. “Continuous developments in digitalisation and innovation will change the way that administrative and manual tasks are organised in future. Demand is much higher than supply when it comes to graduate- and highly trained technical staff, and ‘21st-century skills’ are becoming increasingly important. This war for talent is being waged right up to boardroom level,” Pieter Strackx concludes.