Agenda 2008; The next year--and the decade to come--promise to be full of challenges for the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. So Chief Executive asked business leaders from a wide range of industries: what issues or challenges will be uppermost in your mind, for you, your industry and the economy in general, as you face the next 12 to 18 months?

Author:Buss, Dale
 
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Power Over Poverty

Hector Ruiz, chairman and CEO, AMD

"Global business has rarely had greater influence than it does today. As leaders of those businesses, CEOs have a special responsibility to ensure that influence is used not just to do well, but also to do good. Two of the great challenges of today's generation of business leaders are how to use this influence both profitably and responsibly, while also creating a new template for the leaders of tomorrow.

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As business leaders, we have great power at our disposal. There are a multitude of forces--the Internet, globalization and the spread of democracy among them--that have combined to allow businesses to extend the reach of our products and services. And with every advance in technology, we empower more people to participate in the global economy. Our success has turned global business into the most effective and efficient mechanism to reach people all around the world.

As leaders of these global businesses, we are in a rather unique position. We have a historic opportunity to take the remarkable influence business has and leverage it not just to fatten our balance sheets, but to end poverty. Educate a new generation. Bring affordable health care to millions. Slow global warming. Prevent cancer or eradicate disease.

Solving these problems need not just be an act of good will. Successfully solving these problems can also be an act of good business built on sustainable business models. Through our 50x15 initiative, an ambitious effort to enable 50 percent of the world's population with Internet access by the year 2015, AMD is but one example of an organization experimenting with the newfound power we have as a global company to attract business while addressing greater world challenges.

Twenty-first century CEOs will be judged not only by how well they changed their industries, but also how well they led their companies to have positive impacts on the world. In an economy that is as global and connected as it is today, we cannot be selective in our leadership. As CEOs and role models for tomorrow's leaders, we bear a special burden to not only continually advance our role, but also to educate the market and media on how they should qualify and evaluate CEO performance.

The great changes taking place in our world present a unique road map for today's CEO. It is a road map that demands greater responsibility but offers greater opportunity. It is a road map that offers CEOs the chance to do very well for investors and also the chance to do great good for the world. And by the time they are through, I believe their positive effect on society will far surpass their superior return to shareholders."

AMD is a $5.6 billion microprocessor supplier based in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Pursuing Performance

Fernando Aguirre, chairman and CEO, Chiquita Brands International

"One key challenge is to control costs while supporting innovation efforts. Cost savings programs have not been nearly enough to offset higher industry and other costs. Our costs for fuel, fruit, ship charters, paper and resin increased by more than $50 million in 2006 and have continued to accelerate in 2007. We expect to face similar trends in the next year. As a result, we are continuously evaluating how to make our business more efficient and drive synergies. We are reviewing every cost area with the goal of decreasing the total cost while delivering innovation.

The second challenge is to remain agile in a competitive, fast-paced marketplace that is characterized by growing consumer expectations. To strengthen our business and the power of our brand, we are developing strategies based on consumer trends for healthy, fresh foods and focusing on diversification and innovation. Our vision is to become an innovative global leader in branded, healthy, fresh foods. To achieve this goal, we are focused on two key objectives: to pursue profitable growth by delivering innovative, higher-margin products and to build a high-performance organization.

We are transitioning from low-margin commodities to more profitable, value-added products, while maintaining excellence in food safety, cold-chain management, product quality, customer service and in-store execution. We have more work to do, but as we continue to transform into a consumer-centric and customer-preferred company, we will strengthen our balance sheet, improve our risk profile, focus on market initiatives and diversify our company by product, channel and geography."

Chiquita Brands International is a $4.5 billion provider of fresh and value-added food products in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Economic Distress

T.J. Rodgers, founder, president and CEO, Cypress Semiconductor

"Most of all, I worry about the overall economy. We're spending money at an atrocious rate in Iraq, and the price of oil is going up, which is like a tax on the economy. We just mail the extra $50 a barrel to the outside world instead of to the U.S. government. Also, if the Democrats get control of the...

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