88% of Aussie business leaders say bots make better sustainability calls

Pamela Rucker, CIO Advisor and Instructor for Harvard Professional Development

Australians are demanding more on corporate sustainability from businesses, but not all leaders are confident in the ability of their people to make the right call, instead putting their faith in bots to make decisions in key areas, according to a new study “No Planet B” by Oracle and Pamela Rucker, CIO Advisor and Instructor for Harvard Professional Development.

The full No Planet B Global Study of over 11,000 consumers and business leaders across 15 countries, including 1,000 from Australia, found that most people are fed up with the lack of progress society is making towards sustainability and social initiatives, want businesses to turn talk into action, and believe tech can help businesses 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,” said Pamela Rucker, CIO Advisor and Instructor for Harvard Professional Development.

“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,” Rucker further commented.

What were the key findings of the No Planet B study?

Key findings from the report include:

Human bias and operational challenges are holding businesses back

Sustainability and social responsibility have taken centre stage in the way the businesses interact with consumers. Business leaders are becoming acutely aware that sustainability efforts are critical. But the way businesses are responding to these considerations has been mixed, with some leaders in Australia trusting bots over humans alone to drive sustainability:

  • 85% 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%).
  • 95% of business leaders in Australia admit human bias and emotion often distract from the end goal, and 83 percent believe organisations that use technology to help drive sustainable business practices will be the ones that succeed in the long run.
  • 88% 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, 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

Recent events have worked to illuminate sustainability and social efforts, with people fed up with the lack of progress and calling for businesses to step up and make real change:

  • 91% of Australia respondents believe sustainability and social factors are more vital than ever and 68% said events over the past two years have caused them to change actions.
  • 91% believe society has not made enough progress. 44% attribute the lack of progress to people being too busy, 41% believe it is the result of emphasis on short-term profits over long-term benefits, and 40% believe people are too selfish to help save the planet.
  • 45% respondents from believe businesses can make more meaningful change on sustainability and social factors than individuals or governments alone.
  • 76% are frustrated and fed up with the lack of progress by businesses to-date, and 85% believe it’s not enough to say they’re prioritising ESG, they need to see proof.
  • 71% of Australian respondents believe businesses would make more progress towards sustainability and social goals with the help of artificial intelligence (AI).

People cut ties with businesses that don’t take action on sustainability

The desire for Aussies to see progress on the sustainability and social fronts is almost unanimous, with many willing to take action. Businesses need to prioritise sustainability and rethink how they use tech to make an impact – or risk facing major consequences.

  • 89% 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%).
  • 63% of people would be willing to cancel their kinship with a brand that does not take sustainability and social initiatives seriously, with the same percentage indicating they would leave their firm to work for a brand that places a greater focus on these efforts.
  • If firms 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.

What are the stakeholder thoughts on the study?

“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 action and are demanding tangible results,” said John Leonard, Vice President of Applications, Oracle Australia.

“Business leaders understand the value, yet often have the erroneous assumption that they need to prioritise either profits or sustainability. The truth is this is not a zero-sum game.”

“The tech that can eliminate all the obstacles to ESG efforts is now available, and firms that get this right can not only support their communities and the environment, but also realise significant revenue gains, cost savings, and other benefits that impact the bottom line.”

“Given APAC’s large share of the global population and emissions, climate vulnerabilities, and tech and financial strengths, the 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,” said Will Symons, APAC Sustainability and Climate Lead, Deloitte.

“It is great to see firms like Oracle helping businesses to step up and prioritize sustainability.”

“The study results show people want businesses to prioritise progress on sustainability and are willing to reward those who lead. To do this organizations 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 concluded.

Learn more about this global report here: www.oracle.com/noplanetb