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Sustainability - Will Bots Will Succeed Where Humans Have Failed

April 25, 2022

People around the world are demanding more progress on sustainability and social efforts and are looking to businesses to step up, according to a new study by Oracle and Pamela Rucker, CIO Advisor, Instructor for Harvard Professional Development. The “No Planet B” study surveyed more than 11,000 consumers and business leaders across 15 countries and found that 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 technology 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 organizations 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.”

“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,” said Juergen Lindner, senior vice president and CMO, Global Marketing SaaS, Oracle. “Business leaders understand the importance, yet often have the erroneous assumption that they need to prioritize either profits or sustainability. The truth is this is not a zero-sum game. The technology that can eliminate all the obstacles to ESG efforts is now available, and organizations that get this right can not only support their communities and the environment, but also realize significant revenue gains, cost savings, and other benefits that impact the bottom line.”

People want businesses to step up sustainability and social efforts

The events of the past two years have put a spotlight on sustainability and social efforts with people worldwide fed up with the lack of progress and calling for businesses to step up.

  • 93 percent of people believe sustainability and social factors are more important than ever and 80 percent said the events over the past two years have caused them to change their actions.
  • 94 percent believe society has not made enough progress. 42 percent attribute the lack of progress to people being too busy with other priorities, 39 percent believe it is the result of more emphasis on short-term profits over long-term benefits, and 37 percent believe people are too lazy or selfish to help save the planet.
  • 45 percent believe businesses can make more meaningful change to sustainability and social factors than individuals or governments alone.
  • 78 percent are frustrated and fed up with the lack of progress by businesses to-date and 89 percent believe it’s not enough for businesses to say they’re prioritizing Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG), they need to see action and proof.
  • 84 percent believe businesses would make more progress towards sustainability and social goals with the help of AI and 61 percent even believe bots will succeed where humans have failed.

Human bias and operational challenges are holding businesses back

Business leaders know sustainability efforts are critical to corporate success and even trust bots over humans alone to drive sustainability and social efforts:

  • 92 percent believe sustainability and ESG programs are critical to the success of their organizations. Executives identified the top three benefits as strengthening the brand (40 percent); increasing productivity (39 percent); and attracting new customers (38 percent).
  • Almost all business leaders (91 percent) are facing major obstacles when implementing sustainability and ESG initiatives. The biggest challenges include obtaining ESG metrics from partners and third parties (35 percent); a lack of data (33 percent); and time-consuming manual reporting processes (32 percent).
  • 96 percent of business leaders admit human bias and emotion often distract from the end goal and 89 percent believe organizations that use technology to help drive sustainable business practices will be the ones to succeed in the long run.
  • 93 percent of 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 (43 percent); making rational, unbiased decisions (42 percent); and predicting future outcomes based on metrics/past performance (41 percent).
  • 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 (48 percent); educating others on information needed to make decisions (46 percent); and making context-informed strategic decisions (42 percent).

People will cut ties with businesses that don’t take action on sustainability and social initiatives

Businesses need to prioritize sustainability and social issues and rethink how they use technology to make an impact or risk facing major consequences.

  • 94 percent of people want to make progress on sustainability and social factors to establish healthier ways of living (50 percent); save the planet for future generations (49 percent); and help create more equality around the world (46 percent).
  • 70 percent of people would be willing to cancel their relationship with a brand that does not take sustainability and social initiatives seriously and 69 percent would even leave their current company to work for a brand that places a greater focus on these efforts.
  • If organizations can clearly demonstrate the progress they are making on environmental and social issues, people would be more willing to pay a premium for their products and services (87 percent); invest in them (83 percent); and work for them (83 percent).
  • Business leaders understand the importance and urgency. 94 percent believe sustainability and societal metrics should be used to inform traditional business metrics and 91 percent want to increase their investment in sustainability.

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