In the face of the ongoing cost of living and energy crises in the UK, it is becoming increasingly challenging for businesses to take the necessary steps towards achieving their Net Zero goals and building a sustainable future. To gain further insight into this endeavor, we surveyed over 250 senior decision-makers responsible for sustainability and ESG across various industries in the UK in March 2023.
This Censuswide survey included sustainability professionals from airlines, automotive, banking, energy, healthcare, manufacturing, media, insurance, retail, and travel. Company sizes ranged from 50 to 500+ employees, with annual turnovers of £100,000 to over £500 million.
The results of our survey, featured in Globant Report, Charting the Course to a Sustainable Future in the UK, shed light on the current state of businesses’ sustainability efforts, the role of technology in helping them meet climate targets, and the obstacles hindering progress. The rapidity of climate change and the need to reduce CO2 emissions is an issue that demands collective action and responsibility. Amidst the challenges faced, one thing is clear: businesses leveraging technology to achieve their decarbonization goals are moving faster than others.
Technology enables businesses to accelerate their efforts toward sustainability goals. Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and the Internet of Things are already being used to address the energy crisis and improve energy efficiency.
Key highlights from the survey:
- The growing focus on sustainability and technology: Last year, the top three priorities for the respondents of the survey were technology (42%), sustainability (39%), and employee wellness (37%). Looking ahead to the next twelve months, sustainability actually becomes the number one focus for respondents, with 43% citing it as their priority, followed by technology (40%) and employee wellness (36%).
- Sustainability struggles: Businesses struggled to implement their sustainability plans, with nearly 1 in 5 companies (19%) saying that only 41-50% of their plans were executed, and 18% saying 51-60% were carried out. Only 12% of respondents implemented over 70% of their plans, and 0% executed more than 90%.
- Barriers to progress: 53% of companies said the financial crisis was preventing them from executing their full sustainability plans, and 47% reported that the energy crisis was their major issue. This is translating into a lack of sufficient budget and not enough investment in sustainability programmes, preventing companies from reaching their targets.
- Finding a solution: The most common approach taken by firms to overcome these challenges is education: 67% of respondents said that they are trying to reduce their company’s carbon footprint and tackle the energy crisis by teaching employees about ways to reduce water and energy use. This is followed by over half saying they are using new technologies (56%), or incentivising employees for good ‘green’ behaviour (54%).
- Technology’s role: There is a general awareness that technology is going to be a major component in efforts to improve sustainability, with 91% of ESG leaders surveyed agreeing that technology is key to tackling the energy crisis, 52% of whom strongly agreed. Importantly, the majority of companies not currently using Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Big Data plan to implement them in the near future, with 58% saying they will introduce AI and ML technologies within the next 12 months, and 56% looking to adopt IoT and Big Data solutions.
The survey pinpoints how organizations are struggling to meet sustainability goals due to budget constraints and a lack of understanding about how to leverage new tech. Overall the cost of living crisis in the UK, coupled with rising energy prices, have put additional strain on budgets earmarked for sustainability.
Many companies also need clear guidance on the actions which need to be taken to reduce their carbon footprint in order for them to achieve their sustainability goals. Their struggle, linked to financial constraints, wide skill gaps, and a need for more understanding of available technologies, must be addressed through a collaborative effort from all stakeholders including governments, businesses, and educational institutions.
Navigating the challenges of the 21st century will require all industries to place sustainability matters at the forefront of their business strategy. By embracing innovation and collaboration, businesses can overcome barriers and contribute meaningfully to the global pursuit of a Net Zero future. Harnessing the power of technology is critical if we wish to create a more sustainable, equitable, and prosperous world for generations to come.
Read our report, Charting the Course to a Sustainable Future in the UK, to learn more about our key findings.
Visit our Sustainable Business Studio to learn more about how Globant is helping businesses strategically and efficiently achieve their sustainability goals.