Has the global pandemic awoken the world to the need to balance profit, planet, and people? One survey holds some clues…

In an online survey in August 2021 of 2,213 business decision makers and 10,880 knowledge workers working at organizations with at least 1,000 employees in the USA, EMEA, India and Asia Pacific regions, environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues were increasingly a top priority.

Among the respondents, 28% of APAC business decision makers indicated they were increasing investment in ESG ahead of increasing market share (21%) or accelerating financial growth (20%).

Among the knowledge workers, some cited that as much as 50% of the data their business used on a day-to-day basis should be focused on doing good for the communities being served by their business. This was a sentiment that 54% of business decision makers agreed with, suggesting that profit and ESG were no longer mutually exclusive pursuits for the respondents.

Other findings include:

  • 29% of business decision makers and knowledge workers in the survey believed that their company should be publicly supporting sustainable business practices.
  • 88% of knowledge workers argued there was a need to use AI to deliver more sustainable business practices that benefited both their organization and the communities it served.
  • 27% of business decision makers were active regarding the implementation of these technologies and had a limited understanding of how these worked.
  • 24% of knowledge workers and 30% of business decision makers believed employees would leave the organization if the latter failed to use data to deliver more sustainable outcomes and quickly.
  • Workers in the survey indicated their daily tasks had been augmented or automated by AI (38%), ML (40%) and data analytics (27%) in the last 12 months. The biggest benefits of this were allowing them/their team to focus more on strategic work (38%) and saving time (32%).
  • 84% of knowledge workers in the survey were comfortable taking on a new role due to AI/ML/data analytics.
  • 96% of business decision makers in the survey indicated their organization would commit to continuous investment in reskilling employees as more tasks were automated.

The survey, commissioned by Cloudera, could indicate a “new wave of economics focused on doing equally great things for profit, planet, and people, driven by automation and AI,” according to the firm’s president, Mick Hollison. “For business leaders this means it’s time to refocus how they think about technology investment—identifying not only the data that will support growth, but also the technology that will help employees and communities gain meaningful access to it.”

According to the firm’s Vice President (Asia Pacific and Japan), Remus Lim: “Utilizing data and analytics can yield more benefits than simply increasing profit margins or gaining a competitive advantage. Thoughtful data collection and analytics can help with the success of initiatives close to our hearts, such as sustainability, diversity, equity and inclusion; and (help us) find new ways to serve our communities better, while ensuring business continuity.”