What will help enterprises meet sustainability goals? Algorithms, says Oracle

If you want to retain customers, Big Red recommends putting AI in charge

The pandemic has made people more concerned about sustainability than ever, and businesses are the focuses of their collective ire, with most saying they don't take enterprise sustainability goals (ESGs) seriously. The solution, Oracle says, is to put AIs in charge.

Oracle's 2022 ESG Global Study surveyed some 11,000 consumers and businesses, and its findings reveal a population overwhelmingly frustrated with a lack of progress toward sustainability initiatives (94 percent). Seventy-eight percent also say that they're frustrated with the lack of progress businesses have made on the ESG front.

Consumers aren't content to let businesses pat themselves on the back either: nearly half said that they believe businesses have more power than individuals or governments to affect change, and 89 percent said they need to see proof that progress is being made toward ESG goals.

Failure to meet ESG expectations is a new red line for 70 percent, who said they'd readily break off their relationship with a brand that doesn't take sustainability seriously. Nearly the same amount of employees (69 percent) said they'd leave their jobs to work for a company where ESG is more of a priority.

"The results show that people are more likely to do business with and work for organizations that act responsibly toward our society and the environment," said Harvard instructor and CIO advisor Pamela Rucker, who contributed to the study. "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."

Say hi to your algorithmic overlord

Businesses that participated in the study agree that ESGs are critical to their success, but 91 percent said they're facing serious challenges to making progress. A lack of unified standards, no enforcement body, and non-existent internal reporting structures were cited as leading challenges.

That's not all, though: 96 percent of business leaders said they believe "human bias and emotion often distract from the end goal of ESG programs," the report said. The solution that Oracle proposes is to let a bot make ESG decisions, with humans kept around to enact its will. Luckily for us, Oracle SVP and CMO of Global Marketing SaaS Juergen Lindner says there's no need to wait for the coming corporate algocracy.

"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," Lindner said.

In the study, 61 percent said they think AI bots can succeed with ESGs where humans have failed, but business leaders don't want to give the impression that humans will be completely obsolete. They said humans will still need to implement changes based on feedback, educate users on decision-making context, make decisions based on said contexts, and shift quickly in the face of change. 

What bots have to offer, those same leaders said, is less error-prone behavior, unbiased decision making, the ability to make predictive analyses, and the ability to better plan toward ESG goals.

As for businesses opting to not cede ESG leadership to AIs, Oracle said that may come back to bite them as most of the world makes a similar decision. "Organizations resisting this change will be taking a poorly calculated risk." ®

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