UAE art sustainability COP
Can AI be the tech tool that businesses need to speed up their shift to green? Image Credit: Gulf News

Dubai: UAE consumers want businesses to start pulling their weight when it comes to sustainability, sharing that responsibility with government initiatives and efforts by individuals. According to a new survey by the tech giant Oracle, 94 per cent of respondents believe that businesses only talking about ESG will no longer cut it.

In these two years, the UAE government has provided more clarity on its sustainability goals, setting clear timelines to go in for net zero carbon emissions. Billion dollar ventures have been taken up in creating renewable energy capacity, including in blue- and green hydrogen ventures.

Oracle survey
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If businesses join in, this will ease and speed up the UAE’s path to those goals. In fact, “99 per cent of people in the UAE believe sustainability and social factors are more important than ever and 94 per cent said the events over the past two years have caused them to change their actions,” says the Oracle findings.

Change or lose customers

Businesses, the big names in particular, are getting active about their carbon footprints and ways to mitigate such risks. ‘Green’ or ESG linked corporate bonds or debt are becoming more common, and at the SME level, gradual progress is being made. But consumers want more. According to the Oracle survey:

  • 80 per cent of people in the UAE would be willing to cancel their relationship with a brand that does not take sustainability and social initiatives seriously. And 81 per cent would even leave their current company to work for a brand that places a greater focus on these efforts.
  • If organizations 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 (97 percent); invest in their companies (92 percent); and work for them (95 per cent).

“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, Global Marketing SaaS, 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.”

Apart from respondents in the UAE, the Oracle findings polled those in 14 other countries, including Saudi Arabia. It surveyed more than 11,000 people on their sentiments towards sustainability. It was conducted by Oracle and Pamela Rucker, CIO Advisor and Instructor for Harvard Professional Development.

Are businesses listening?

Business leaders sure get the message, and they are hoping technology can help shorten the sustainability gaps. According to the Oracle survey,

  • 95 per cent believe sustainability and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) programmes are critical to success. Executives identified the top three benefits as strengthening the brand (40 per cent); increasing productivity (50 per cent); and attracting new customers (44 per cent).
  • Almost all business leaders are facing major obstacles when implementing ESG initiatives. The biggest challenges include obtaining ESG metrics from partners and third-parties (46 per cent); a lack of data (38 per cent); and time-consuming manual reporting processes (40 per cent).
  • 99 per cent of business leaders in the UAE admit human bias and emotion often distract from the end goal, and 97 per cent believe organizations that use technology to help drive sustainable business practices will be the ones that succeed in the long run.
  • Now, here’s a surprise - 98 per cent of business leaders in the UAE 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 (46 per cent); making rational, unbiased decisions (50 per cent); and predicting future outcomes based on metrics/past performance (47 per cent).

“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. “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.”