Business calls on technology to address climate change and social issues

A new global report from Deloitte shows that 81 per cent of Australia’s business leaders believe that climate change will have a negative impact on their business operations (compared with a global average of 48 per cent).

The report, The Fourth Industrial Revolution: At the intersection of readiness and responsibility, surveyed more than 2,000 C-suite executives across 19 countries, including 151 in Australia, and suggests that as we enter a new decade, capitalism is being redefined, with evidence business leaders and organisations around the world are starting to prioritise their responsibilities to society alongside profitability.

Australian businesses appear to be more socially-minded than their global counterparts, with 41 per cent saying they want to use new technologies to increase their company’s positive impact on society, versus a global average of 23 per cent. In terms of the top five greatest outcomes they hope to achieve with their investments, this is second only to driving greater revenue (62 per cent).

“We’re entering a new era where shifting community attitudes have made it imperative for businesses to place societal responsibility at the heart of their strategies,” Robert Hillard, Deloitte Australia’s Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer, said. “Climate-related disasters will have a significant economic impact and businesses need to demonstrate to investors that they are taking appropriate steps to mitigate their exposure.”

Richard Deutsch, Deloitte Australia CEO, commented on the need to consider the timing of the survey. “It’s important to note the timing of this global survey, which took place before the devastating Australian bushfire crisis commenced late last year,” Deutsch said. “We can assume that Australian executives would feel even more strongly about businesses helping to address climate change and encouraging sustainability for the long term. There’s no doubt that our immediate focus must be on supporting local communities and those in need on the ground. Regeneration and rebuild will take years and I have no doubt Australian business will play a critical role in making this happen.”

On par with the global average of 68 per cent, 65 per cent of Australian business leaders see Artificial Intelligence (AI) as the Industry 4.0 technology expected to have the most profound impact, followed by nano-tech (61 per cent). They are far less bullish on the value of the top globally rated technology, the Internet of Things (seen as having the most profound impact by just 32 per cent of Australians, versus 72 per cent globally).

Australians are also more likely to take an integrated approach in implementing new technologies, with 88 per cent of Australian executives saying this was an investment priority, compared to 47 per cent globally. It is also notable that just 8 per cent of Australian businesses said they would invest in new technology to protect themselves from disruption, versus 56 per cent globally.

Almost all Australian executives surveyed (89 per cent) indicate training and developing their workforces is a priority, and 99 per cent say they are committed to a culture of lifelong learning. But only three per cent strongly believe their organisation currently has the Industry 4.0 skills needed in the future (compared to 20 per cent globally) and only 13 per cent have an understanding of exactly which skills will be required to thrive, versus a global average of 59 per cent.

“Technology is changing the workplace so quickly that many of the jobs of the future haven’t been invented yet,” Hillard said. “People need the chance to play with, and explore, new technology and work out new ways to use it. Problem-solving is also a very human skill.”

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