More than one-quarter of business decision-makers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are now increasingly investing in environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG).
The preference for ESG investing fell ahead of developing new products/services (24 per cent) or growing shareholder value (15 per cent).
Most knowledge workers also believe as much as 49 per cent of the data their business uses on a day-to-day basis should be focused on doing good for the communities it serves. This is a sentiment 66 per cent of business decision-makers agree with; a clear indication that profit and ESG are no longer mutually exclusive pursuits.
This is according to the latest research report by enterprise data cloud company Cloudera, dubbed ‘Limitless: The Positive Power of AI Study’. Its survey, which unearthed exclusive insights from a total of 2,213 enterprise business decision-makers globally including the UAE, examines the fact that ESG is identified as a top priority for business leaders.
The study also explores the shift in attitude towards artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and data analytics. The survey also targeted C-Suite and a total of 10,880 knowledge workers among which 528 are UAE-based.
A lack of social consciousness jeopardises business growth
Thirty-three per cent of UAE business decision-makers and knowledge workers believe that their respective companies should publicly support sustainable business practices.
Additionally, the majority of knowledge workers argue that there is a need to use data analytics to deliver more sustainable business practices that benefit both their organisation and the communities it serves.
Sixty-one per cent claim to be very active regarding the implementation of these technologies. However, a third claim to be active but lack the required knowledge in order to implement these technologies.
Companies that choose to address these gaps, therefore, stand to gain a competitive advantage over customers and talent.
According to the report, businesses that truly want to embed sustainability at their core, its leaders must start to use data to deliver more sustainable outcomes – and quickly.
Failure to act should incite employees to abandon the business they work for, a view shared by around a third of knowledge workers and business decision-makers.
This, the report suggests, could be a business-destroying move amidst a global talent shortage, especially if all of a company’s competitors are the ones that are addressing the gap.
“In my opinion, businesses, regardless of the industry they operate in, should today act in a socially responsible manner,” explains Karim Azar, Cloudera’s regional director of the Middle East and Turkey.
“As the research points out, doing this can start with data. Companies can, and should, use big data and AI to make more sustainable business decisions.”
Invest in reskilling to curb fear of job loss to AI
The research findings also dispel the long-held belief that workers were afraid of AI taking over their jobs.
An explosion in the volume of data now available to businesses has made AI/ML a common threat to many job roles and a powerful ally.
Over half of UAE-based knowledge workers say their daily tasks have been augmented or automated by AI (73 per cent), ML (63 per cent) and data analytics (78 per cent) in the last 12 months.
The biggest benefits of this have been saving time (40 per cent) and allowing them/their team to focus more on strategic work (32 per cent). What’s more, a majority 88 per cent of knowledge workers are now comfortable taking on a new role due to AI/ML/data analytics.
To capitalise on this, businesses have to do more and invest in employee reskilling.
Ninety-six per cent said that their organisation will commit to continuous investment in reskilling employees as more tasks are automated. But the investment in people can’t stop there.
Companies also need to make employees partners in the upskilling and reskilling processes to ensure a level playing field for staff.
“The study reveals a new wave of economics, focused on doing equally great things for profit, planet, and people, driven by automation and AI, is emerging,” comments Mick Hollison, Cloudera’s president.
“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.
“At Cloudera, we work with our customers to transform their economic output with data analytics and AI.”