Bring in the bots
89% of South African respondents believe businesses would make more progress towards sustainability and social goals with the help of AI, and 61% even believe bots will succeed where humans have failed.
This is according to the findings of a new study by Oracle and Pamela Rucker, CIO Advisor and Instructor for Harvard Professional Development.
The study of more than 11,000 consumers and business leaders across 15 countries including South Africa 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.
Based on this research, the companies have concluded that people in South Africa want businesses to step up sustainability and social efforts.
The report stated that 97% of people in South Africa believe sustainability and social factors are more important than ever and 87% said the events over the past two years have caused them to change their actions.
Other noteworthy stats:
• 98% believe society has not made enough progress. 56% attribute the lack of progress to people being too busy with other priorities, 50% believe it is the result of more emphasis on short-term profits over long-term benefits, and 46% respondents in South Africa believe people are too lazy or selfish to help save the planet.
• 57% in South Africa believe businesses can make more meaningful change on sustainability and social factors than individuals or governments alone.
• 87% are frustrated and fed up with the lack of progress by businesses to-date, and 95 percent believe it’s not enough for businesses to say they’re prioritizing ESG – they need to see action and proof.
Human bias and operational challenges
Business leaders know sustainability efforts are critical to corporate success and even trust bots over humans alone to drive sustainability and social efforts. Research has found:
• 91% believe sustainability and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) programs are critical to the success of their organisations. Executives identified the top three benefits as strengthening the brand (54%); increasing productivity (45%); and attracting new customers (49%).
• Almost all business leaders (92%) are facing major obstacles when implementing sustainability and ESG initiatives. The biggest challenges include obtaining ESG metrics from partners and third parties (45%); a lack of data (48%); and time-consuming manual reporting processes (37%).
• 97% of business leaders in South Africa admit human bias and emotion often distract from the end goal, and 92% believe organisations that use technology to help drive sustainable business practices will be the ones that succeed in the long run.
• 90% of business leaders in South Africa 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 (60%); making rational, unbiased decisions (50%); and predicting future outcomes based on metrics/past performance (54%).
According to Oracle, 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 (61%); educating others on information needed to make decisions (61%); and making context-informed strategic decisions (48%).
People in South Africa will cut ties with businesses that don’t take action on sustainability and social initiatives, research shows.
Businesses need to prioritise sustainability and social issues and rethink how they use technology to make an impact – or risk facing major consequences.
If organisations 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 (92%); invest in their companies (90%); and work for them (88%).
Business leaders understand the importance and urgency – 94% believe sustainability and societal metrics should be used to inform traditional business metrics, and 95% want to increase their investment in sustainability.
“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.”
Juergen Lindner, senior vice president and CMO, Global Marketing SaaS, Oracle, said, “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. Business leaders understand the importance, 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 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 realise significant revenue gains, cost savings, and other benefits that impact the bottom line.”