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Accenture CEO on inflation: There's 'absolutely’ concern ‘around the globe’

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Accenture CEO Julie Sweet, the head of a consulting giant that works with more than three-quarters of Global Fortune 500 companies, told Yahoo Finance that businesses worldwide are worried about persistent inflation as snarled supply chains cause product delays and demand imbalances.

In response to the disruption, many companies have sought to bolster their supply chains and improve their capacity to anticipate further problems, she said.

"There's absolutely concern really around the globe," Sweet says. "It's been a long time before this, since there was pressure — many of us are old enough that we remember when inflation was something that we talked about." 

Consumer prices in Canada rose 4.4% in September compared to the same month a year prior, which marked the nation's fastest annual growth rate in 18 years, according to figures released by Statistics Canada on Wednesday

News of that price hike came a week after the U.S. reported a 5.4% rise in consumer prices in September, which amounted to a 13-year high for the annual rate. 

Speaking on a panel last month, leaders of the Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, the Bank of England, and the Bank of Japan acknowledged that supply chain bottlenecks could cause heightened inflation for a prolonged period. But they signaled that prices would likely come down as pandemic-related supply disruptions return to normal.

In recent weeks, many major corporations — including global consumer brands like Nestle (NSRGY) and Unilever (UL) — warned of rising inflation and price hikes

Companies are trying to adapt their supply chains and anticipate other potential disruptions, Sweet said.

"There's a couple of things that clients are needing to do," she says. "First of all, really, plan differently, and look at things like their supply chain and have different forecasting abilities. 

"It comes back always, again, to understanding the market and being much more agile — being able to respond to the market."

New York NY Oct 16: America's supply-chain shortage is evident in local pet and grocery stores in New York City as store owners struggle to keep inventory stocked on October 16 2021 Credit: MPI99 / MediaPunch /IPX
New York NY Oct 16: America's supply-chain shortage is evident in local pet and grocery stores in New York City as store owners struggle to keep inventory stocked on October 16 2021 Credit: MPI99 / MediaPunch /IPX

Sweet began her career as an attorney at the high-powered firm Cravath, Swaine, & Moore and later joined Accenture as a general counsel. In 2019, she became CEO.

Speaking to Yahoo Finance, Sweet noted that companies have shifted their emphasis in supply chain from efficiency to resilience. 

"We've all focused on cost and efficiency," she says. "When the pandemic hits, what companies realized is they needed to also focus on resilience — and resilience requires a different strategy." 

"We're really working with many of our clients to go all the way back from the customer to the actual manufacturing, and to have that link be very different," she adds. "It's hard to underestimate what's happening."

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