New research finds consumers fed up with lack of progress from businesses on ESG goals

New research finds consumers fed up with lack of progress from businesses on ESG goals

Courtesy of Fateme Alaie (Unsplash).

A growing majority of Aussies are becoming increasingly tired of society's lack of progress towards sustainability and social initiatives, and are looking to businesses to step up and make a real change.

As the world acknowledges Earth Day 2022, Oracle has released a study gauging the views of 11,000 business leaders and consumers around the world, including 1,000 Australians, on the progress of ESG (environmental, social, and governance) goals.

The ‘No Planet B Global Study’ highlights the frustrations amongst Australians, with 63 per cent confirming they would be willing to cancel their relationship with a brand that does not take sustainability and social initiatives seriously.

The same percentage have indicated they would leave their current company to work for a brand that places a greater focus on these efforts.

“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,” Oracle Australia vice president of applications John Leonard said.

“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 organisations 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.”

More than three-quarters of Aussie respondents have made clear they are willing to pay a premium for products and services from businesses that can clearly demonstrate their progress on environmental and social issues. Roughly the same number of people responded that they would rather work for and invest in these companies.

The survey suggests Australian business leaders are becoming more cognisant of the importance and urgency required, with 89 per cent believing sustainability and societal metrics should now be used to inform traditional business metrics with 90 per cent wanting to increase their investment in sustainability.

Eighty-five per cent of Australian business leaders believe sustainability and ESG programs are critical to the success of their organisations. Executives identified the top four benefits as strengthening the brand (36 per cent), attracting new customers (35 per cent), increasing productivity (31 per cent), and improving supply chain management (31 per cent).

“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,” Harvard Professional Development CIO advisor and instructor Pamela Rucker said.

“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,” she added.

There is a growing consensus amongst consumers in Australia who believe that sustainability and social factors are more important than ever, but also believe society has not made enough progress (both 91 per cent), with 68 per cent responding that events since the start of the COVID pandemic have caused them to change their actions.

Australians blame the lack of progress on people being too busy with other priorities (44 per cent), more emphasis on short-term profits over long-term benefits (41 per cent) and believing people are too lazy or selfish to help save the planet (40 per cent).

Paying lip service to prioritise ESG goals may become more of an issue for businesses in the future, with 85 per cent of consumers now wanting companies to demonstrate action and proof of progress. Just less than half of respondents are looking to businesses to make meaningful changes, believing they can contribute more than governments and individuals.

“Given Asia Pacific’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 in Asia Pacific,” Deloitte Asia Pacific sustainability and climate lead Will Symons said.

“It’s imperative that we take action on climate change and businesses have a narrowing window to lead the way.”

Both business leaders and consumers are looking at artificial intelligence (AI) to help meet future goals, with 71 per cent of Australian respondents believing businesses would make more progress towards sustainability and social objectives with the help of AI.

A staggering 88 per cent of Aussie business leaders believe robots make better sustainability and social decisions than people, which could stem from 95 per cent of the same cohort acknowledging human bias and emotions hurt corporate sustainability efforts.

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