Majority in the UAE expect bots to outshine humans in corporate sustainability

Four in five are willing to cut ties with brands or employers who do not adhere to ESG goals, an Oracle study reveals

Bots made up almost two-thirds of internet traffic during January to June last year, but bad bots held a 39 per cent advantage, a 2021 study showed. AFP
Powered by automated translation

About three quarters of people surveyed in the UAE believe artificial intelligence-powered bots — applications that run automated tasks — will do a more successful job than people when it comes to corporate sustainability, according to a study from Oracle.

Respondents from the Emirates showed overwhelming concern for organisations' actual adherence to environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG), with 99 per cent believing that sustainability and social factors are more important than ever, compared to the global average of 93 per cent.

Also, 97 per cent said society has not made enough progress, with the reasons being too busy with other priorities (47 per cent), putting more emphasis on short-term profits over long-term benefits (43 per cent) and being too lazy or selfish to help save the planet (42 per cent).

Ninety six per cent of UAE respondents believe artificial intelligence would help businesses make more progress towards achieving ESG goals and 74 per cent said bots will succeed where humans failed.

“Business leaders understand the importance, yet often have the erroneous assumption that they need to prioritise either profits or sustainability,” Juergen Lindner, a senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Oracle, said in the report.

“The truth is this is not a zero-sum game. The technology that can eliminate all the obstacles to ESG efforts is now available, and organisations that get this right cannot only support their communities and the environment, but also realise significant revenue gains, cost savings and other benefits that impact the bottom line.”

Bots — in this context, short for internet bot — are programmes that simulate human activity, either by running tasks automatically without specific instructions or mimic human interaction such as the voice assistants that greet people who contact a call centre.

The global bot services market was valued at $537 million in 2020 and is expected to reach $7.8 billion by 2030, growing at a compound annual growth rate of almost 31 per cent from 2021 to 2030, latest data from Allied Market Research shows.

Bots, however, have also gained a bad reputation for their misuse and their role in the spread of disinformation, something regulators and companies struggle to keep in check.

They made up almost two-thirds of internet traffic during January to June last year, with bad bots holding a 39 per cent advantage, a 2021 study from web security company Barracuda showed.

The Oracle study said human bias and operational challenges are holding businesses back in the UAE when it comes to sustainability efforts, with 95 per cent of business leaders saying ESG programmes are critical to corporate success.

The top three benefits from this, according to these executives, are strengthening the brand (40 per cent), increasing productivity (50 per cent) and attracting new customers (44 per cent).

On the global level, 92 per cent of business leaders see ESG as essential. The same top benefits were mentioned, albeit at lower levels of 40 per cent, 39 per cent and 38 per cent, respectively.

Crucially, people are also willing to cut ties with businesses that do not take action on ESG commitments.

In the UAE, four fifths say there are willing to cancel their relationship with a brand that does not take ESG seriously, while roughly the same number are ready to leave their current employer to seek another that places greater emphasis on these efforts.

Globally, 70 per cent of those polled would give up their relationship with a brand, and 69 per cent say they will find a new place to work.

“The results show that people are more likely to do business with and work for organisations that act responsibly towards our society and the environment. 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,” Pamela Rucker, an adviser and instructor at Harvard Professional Development, said in the study.

“While there are challenges to tackling these issues, businesses have an immense opportunity to change the world for the better.”

The study from California-based Oracle, the world's largest software company behind Microsoft, was based on a survey conducted by Savanta between February 25 to March 14 with more 11,000 respondents from 15 countries.

Updated: April 21, 2022, 10:13 AM