Here’s what tech CEOs are most worried about going into 2020 — and why they’re looking to the …

Executives say workforce, data privacy and healthcare are top priorities ahead of the presidential election, according to a new survey and policy report …
  • Executives say workforce, data privacy and healthcare are top priorities ahead of the presidential election, according to a new survey and policy report from PricewaterhouseCoopers.
  • Two themes were consistent across the issues — policy has become a key factor in business strategy, and data has become a key factor in policy.
  • Also, as the regulatory landscape grows more complex and spans across borders, businesses are often just looking for certainty.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Presidential election years aren’t just busy for political candidates. They’re also crucial for executives who hope to shape the conversation around issues that will impact their businesses — and 2020 won’t be an exception.

This cycle, executives are particularly concerned about workforce issues, data privacy, and healthcare coverage, according to a new survey conducted by consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. That’s especially true for tech, media, and telecom companies, where more than 70% of executives say their companies are “very actively” looking to influence each of these topics.

By disrupting existing industries and at times creating entirely new ones, tech companies have also introduced new challenges around how they manage both labor and data.

PwC’s survey found that an overwhelming majority of the companies surveyed are actively looking to influence policy. Executives said that meant spending more on traditional lobbying, but also things like publishing position papers and coordinating efforts with other tech companies by joining industry lobbying groups.

This has been seen most clearly in companies’ responses to labor issues and scandals affecting contractors or gig workers. Google has had a contentious relationship with its massive contract workforce; Facebook’s content moderators face increasing mental health concerns; and Amazon warehouse laborers are reportedly injured at excruciatingly high rates. In response, the companies have taken to lobbying. Uber led a legal crusade to keep its drivers classified as independent contractors and Amazon spent $1.45 million to try to unseat a Seattle politician, for example.

Alison Kutler, leader of strategic policy advisers at PwC and a co-author of the policy trends report, said “the issue that we hear about all the time is AB-5 in California, independent contractors, sharing economy, how we’re going to build our workforce.”

AB-5, a new California law that aims to limit who can be considered an independent contractor, shows the potential for policy changes to significantly impact tech companies’ core business models, which often rely on independent contractors and part-time or temporary employees — who cost less as they don’t receive the same benefits as full-time employees. 

As 2020 candidates discuss universal healthcare proposals, expanding data privacy rights, and other plans to regulate big tech, tech executives are paying close attention. A wide range of topics including trade, antitrust, tax policy, and regulations on emerging technologies will all be on companies’ radars as the election continues to heat up, according to PwC’s survey.

“The data is really the unifying thread across these top policy areas,” Kutler said, pointing out that stipulations about how data is collected, secured, and shared are making their way into everything from new trade deals to antitrust enforcement actions.

A key takeaway for business leaders, Kutler said, is that “if you’re able to successfully integrate your regulatory strategy, your policy strategy, into your business strategy from the top, you can come out and be much more successful in this environment.”

Kutler said that’s particularly true given how many different jurisdictions and regulations companies have to navigate these days. Various state and federal regulators in the US, as well as their counterparts in Europe and China, have all become important players in the conversation.

Perhaps more than getting everything they want on every single policy issue, “one of the most critical things we hear from our clients is, ‘we want certainty,'” Kutler said.

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