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Artificial intelligence and reshaping business priorities for the environment

By Shannon Williams
Thu 17 Mar 2022

More than one quarter (28%) of APAC business decision makers are now putting increasing investment in environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) ahead of increasing market share (21%) or accelerating financial growth (20%), a new report has found. 

The research, from Cloudera, found workers believe as much as 50% 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 54% of business decision makers agree with — a clear indication that profit and ESG are no longer mutually exclusive pursuits.

These findings are revealed in Cloudera’s Limitless: The Positive Power of AI Study, which surveyed 2,213 enterprise business decision makers — including 54% C-Suite representation — and 10,880 knowledge workers in the USA, EMEA, India and APAC. It shows that ESG is identified as a top priority for business leaders and those who fail to act for the good of communities put business growth and talent at huge risk. 

The study also examines the shift in attitude towards AI, Machine Learning (ML) and Data Analytics across enterprise decision makers, including C-Suite, and knowledge workers. The data shows that all the pieces are in place for this to be the right moment for companies to accelerate their AI/ML strategy.

Failing to act for social good puts business growth, and talent, at risk

More than a quarter (29%) of business decision makers and knowledge workers believe that their company should be publicly supporting sustainable business practices. In addition, the vast majority of knowledge workers (88%) argue there is a need to use AI to deliver more sustainable business practices that benefit both their organisation and the communities it serves.

But that said, less than a third (27%) of business decision makers are active regarding the implementation of these technologies and have a limited understanding of how they work. Companies that address these gaps now gain a real competitive advantage in the battle for customers and talent. If businesses truly want to embed sustainability at their core, leaders must start to use data to deliver more sustainable outcomes – and quickly. Failure to act and 24% of knowledge workers and 30% of business decision makers believe employees would leave the business. This could be a business destroying move amidst a global talent shortage, especially if all of a company’s competitors are addressing the gap.

Fear of losing jobs to AI is replaced by a focus on investment in reskilling

The research findings also dispel the long-held belief that workers were afraid of AI taking their jobs. An explosion in the volume of data now available to businesses has made AI/ML a common thread to many job roles and a powerful ally. Over a quarter of knowledge workers say their daily tasks have been augmented or automated by AI (38%), ML (40%) and Data Analytics (27%) in the last 12 months. The biggest benefits of this are allowing them/their team to focus more on strategic work (38%) and saving time (32%). What’s more, 84% 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. Nine in ten (96%) business decision makers said 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 results of this study reveal a new wave of economics, focused on doing equally great things for profit, planet, and people - driven by automation and AI - is emerging,” says Mick Hollison, president, Cloudera. 

“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.”

Remus Lim, vice president, Asia Pacific and Japan, Cloudera, says, "We have seen that businesses in APAC which adopt AI, ML, and Data Analytics as part of digital transformation efforts demonstrate greater business resiliency, flexibility, and agility during these challenging times. Some have even opened new lines of business.

“Utilising data and analytics can yield more benefits than simply increasing profit margins or gaining a competitive advantage," he says. 

"Thoughtful data collection and analytics can help us with the success of initiatives close to our hearts, such as sustainability, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and find new ways to serve our communities better, while ensuring business continuity."

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