A global survey on ESG issues has crystalized what needs to be done to prevent global climate tragedies from happening sooner.

A survey conducted between 25 February and 14 March 2022 across 11,005 respondents from 15 countries—on sentiments of consumers and business leaders towards issues such as sustainability efforts, AI and robots in environmental, societal, and governance (ESG) efforts—has unveiled results that are pertinent to the Asia-Pacific and Japan region (APJ).

The 4,000 APJ respondents indicated disappointment with the lack of ESG progress and a yearning for businesses to step up.

Some of the key APJ findings are:

  • 95% of respondents believed sustainability and social factors were more important than ever; and 81% indicated that the events over the past two years had caused them to change their actions.
  • 94% of respondents believed society had not made enough progress. Specifically, 40% percent attributed the lack of progress to people being too busy with other priorities; 43% believed it was the result of more emphasis on short-term profits over long-term benefits; and 37% believed people were “too lazy or selfish” to help save the planet.
  • 50% of respondents believed businesses can make more meaningful change on sustainability and social factors than individuals or governments alone.
  • 75% were frustrated and fed up with the lack of progress by businesses to date, and 91% believed it was not enough for businesses to say they were prioritizing ESG without proof of action and outcomes.
  • 89% believed businesses would make more progress towards sustainability and social goals with the help of AI; some 66% believed bots “will succeed where humans have failed”.

Globally, the data pointed to similar sentiments:

  • 93% of respondents believed sustainability and ESG programs were critical to the success of their organizations, citing as the top three benefits: increasing productivity (42%); brand benefits (40%); and attraction of new customers (37%).
  • 93% of respondents who were business leaders were facing major obstacles when implementing sustainability and ESG initiatives. The biggest challenges included: obtaining ESG metrics from partners and third parties (39%); a lack of data (37%); and time-consuming manual reporting processes (35%).
  • 97% of business leaders in the survey admitted that human bias and emotion often distracted from the end goal, and 91% believed organizations that used technology to help drive sustainable business practices were likely the ones that succeeded in the long run.
  • 94% of business leaders in the survey indicated they would trust a bot over a human to make sustainability and social decisions. They believed bots were better at collecting different types of data without error (48%); making rational, unbiased decisions (46%); and predicting future outcomes based on metrics/past performance (45%).
  • 51% of business leaders in the survey believed people are better at implementing changes based on feedback from stakeholders; 48% believed people were better at educating others on information needed to make decisions; and 45% believed people were better at making “context-informed” strategic decisions
  • 95% of respondents wanted to make progress on sustainability and social factors to establish healthier ways of living (53%); save the planet for future generations (49%); and help create more equality around the world (49%).
  • 74% of respondents indicated they would be willing to cancel their relationship with a brand that did not take sustainability and social initiatives seriously; while 72% would even leave their current company to work for a brand that places a greater focus on ESG efforts.
  • 89% of respondents would be more willing to pay a premium for their products and services (89 percent); 87% would be willing to work in such places; and 86% would invest in such firms.
  • 95% of business leaders in the survey believed sustainability and societal metrics should be used to inform traditional business metrics, and 92% wanted to increase their investments in sustainability.

Stop the mere talk and take action

Said Juergen Lindner, Senior Vice President and CMO, Global Marketing, SaaS, Oracle, which commissioned the survey: “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 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.”

According to Will Symons, Asia Pacific Sustainability and Climate Lead, Deloitte: “Given the Asia Pacific region’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 there. It’s imperative that we take action on climate change and businesses have a narrowing window to lead the way.”

Symons continued: “The study results show (respondents) want businesses to prioritize 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.”