A staggering number of consumers and even employees are unimpressed by the work businesses have done with long-term viability thus far.

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Image: Romolo Tavani, Getty Images/iStockphoto

A new study shows that people believe more in bots than they do in humans, especially when it comes to enterprise sustainability. A majority (61%) of the 11,000 consumers and business leaders surveyed in Oracle’s “No Planet B: How Can Businesses and Technology Help Save the World?” report said they think machines will fare better than people do with sustainability and social efforts. The global survey was conducted by Oracle and Pamela Rucker, CIO advisor and instructor for Harvard Professional Development.

“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,” Rucker said. “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.”

Expectations high for enterprises to step up

One key point from the study is that a large contingent of those surveyed said their faith in organizations is waning. The biggest revelations from the report are:

  • 93% of people believe sustainability and social factors are more important than ever
  • 94% believe society has not made enough progress
  • 45% believe businesses can make more meaningful change on sustainability and social factors
  • 78% are frustrated and fed up with the lack of progress by businesses to date
  • 84% believe businesses would make more progress towards sustainability and social goals with the help of AI

The majority of those surveyed believe that issues such as climate change, resource scarcity and population growth need to be addressed by large businesses to assist with sustainability. Many business owners seem to agree, but are dealing with challenges when it comes to implementing the necessary changes. Reportedly 91% of business leaders list finding the right data to track progress and completing time-consuming manual processes to track sustainability metrics as barriers to progress.

These challenges faced by business leaders are resulting in both perceived and real inaction, causing a rift in the way enterprises are viewed by consumers and even their own employees. Seventy percent of those who responded to the survey said they would be willing to “cancel their relationship with a brand that does not take sustainability and social initiatives seriously, and 69% would even leave their current company to work for a brand that places a greater focus on these efforts.”

SEE: Artificial Intelligence Ethics Policy (TechRepublic Premium)

What can businesses do to prioritize sustainability?

Oracle proposes a number of implementations companies should consider concerning sustainability initiatives. One of the first things businesses should do is streamline their processes for collecting, converting, standardizing and aggregating data. Next, organizations should establish a consistent framework when it comes to comparing KPIs and then consolidate and aggregate these KPIs for analysis.

Reporting these metrics not only internally but to external stakeholders as well can show the progress being made on the business side of things, giving customers confidence that the enterprise is doing everything in their power to create real change. As illustrated in the data, it is imperative that organizations achieve success with sustainability efforts to not only retain current customers, but to bring in potential consumers as well.

“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 of global marketing SaaS at 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.”