The global study polled more than 11,000 consumers and business leaders across 15 countries, including 1,000 from Australia, and found that most people are fed with the lack of progress towards sustainability and initiatives. People are demanding that businesses should walk the talk and believe that this could help companies succeed where people have failed.
“The events of the past two years have put sustainability and social initiatives under the microscope and people are demanding material change. While there are challenges to tackling these issues, businesses have an immense opportunity to change the world for the better,” says Rucker.
“The results show that people are more likely to do business with and work for organisations that act responsibly toward our society and the environment."
“This is an opportune moment. While thinking has evolved, technology has as well, and it can play a key role in overcoming many of the obstacles that have held progress back,” she adds.
Key findings from the report include:
Human bias and operational challenges are holding businesses back
Sustainability and social responsibility are now in the limelight. Business leaders are becoming acutely aware that sustainability efforts are critical to corporate success. But businesses have mixed responses, with some leaders in Australia even trusting bots over humans alone to drive sustainability and social efforts:
Eighty-five percent of Australian business leaders surveyed believe sustainability and ESG programs are critical to the success of their organisations. Executives identified the top four benefits as strengthening the brand (36%); attracting new customers (35%); increasing productivity (31%); and improving supply chain management (31%).
The vast majority of Australian business leaders (83%) are facing major obstacles when implementing sustainability and ESG initiatives. The biggest challenges include difficulty tracking progress (32%); obtaining ESG metrics from partners and third parties (30%); and a lack of data with which to track progress (30%).
Ninety-five percent of business leaders in Australia admit human bias and emotion often distract from the end goal, and 83% believe organisations using technology to drive sustainable practices will be the ones that succeed in the long run.
Eighty-eight percent of local business leaders would trust a bot over a human to make sustainability and social decisions. They believe bots are better at collecting different types of data without error (44%); predicting future outcomes based on metrics/past performance (39%); and making rational, unbiased decisions (38%).
However, despite a high preference for bots, business leaders believe people are still essential to the success of sustainability and social initiatives and believe people are better at implementing changes based on feedback from stakeholders (45%); making context-informed strategic decisions (42%); and educating others on information needed to make decisions (41%).
Australians want businesses to step up sustainability and social efforts
The survey revealed people are fed up with the lack of progress and are calling for businesses to step up and make real change:
Ninety-one percent of respondents from Australia believe sustainability and social factors are more important than ever and 68% said the events over the past two years have caused them to change their actions.
Ninety-one percent believe society has not made enough progress. Forty-four percent attribute the lack of progress to people being too busy with other priorities, 41% believe it is the result of more emphasis on short-term profits over long-term benefits, and 40% believe people are too lazy or selfish to help save the planet.
Forty-five percent respondents believe businesses can make more meaningful change on sustainability and social factors than individuals or governments alone.
Seventy-six percent are frustrated and fed up with the lack of progress by businesses to-date, and 85% believe it’s not enough for businesses to say they’re prioritising ESG, they need to see action and proof.
Seventy-one percent of Australian respondents believe businesses would make more progress towards sustainability and social goals with the help of artificial intelligence (AI).
People will cut ties with businesses that don’t take action on sustainability and social initiatives
Australians want to see progress on the sustainability and social fronts with many willing to take action if change does not come. Businesses need to prioritise sustainability and social issues and rethink how they use technology to make an impact – or risk facing major consequences.
Eighty-nine percent of people surveyed in Australia said they want to make progress on sustainability and social factors to save the planet for future generations (53%); establish healthier ways of living (52%); and help create more equality around the world (47%).
Sixty-three percent of people would be willing to cancel their relationship with a brand that does not take sustainability and social initiatives seriously, with the same percentage again indicating they would even leave their current company to work for a brand that places a greater focus on these efforts.
If organisations can clearly demonstrate the progress they are making on environmental and social issues, the majority of those surveyed said they would be more willing to pay a premium for their products and services (77%); work for them (76%); and invest in them (74%).
Australian business leaders understand the importance and urgency – 89% believe sustainability and societal metrics should be used to inform traditional business metrics, and 90%want to increase their investment in sustainability.
“It's never been more critical for businesses to invest in sustainability and ESG initiatives, as people don’t just want to hear about it – they’re looking for decisive action and are demanding more transparency and tangible results,” comments Oracle Australia vice president of applications John Leonard.
“Business leaders understand the importance, yet often have the erroneous assumption that they need to prioritise either profits or sustainability."
“Given Asia Pacific’s large share of the global population and emissions, climate vulnerabilities, and technological and financial strengths, the global fight against climate change will be won or lost in Asia Pacific. It’s imperative that we take action on climate change and businesses have a narrowing window to lead the way,” states Deloitte Asia Pacific sustainability and climate lead Will Symons.
“It is great to see organisations like Oracle helping businesses to step up and prioritise sustainability. The study results show people want businesses to prioritise progress on sustainability and are willing to reward those who lead. To do this organisations must re-think how they use technology to shift from ambition to action on sustainability commitments while ensuring transparency and accountability to all stakeholders,” Symons concludes.