Two-thirds of businesses expect to undergo some form of technological transformation sometime in the next five years, while almost as many expect to transform their approach to sustainability, according to a survey of 1,000 executives around the world.
Professional services firm Mazars sounded out views at the end of 2021 and found business leaders focused on technology, cyber risk and ESG agendas.
According to 45% of executives polled for the C-Suite Barometer 2021, home working was the most significant challenge caused by the pandemic, with half saying remote working is “here to stay”.
With that in mind, 94% say technology trends will impact their businesses, while 82% say they plan to increase investment in “maintaining and evolving IT systems”.
Asam Malik, a Mazars partner in technology and consulting, says companies face a “war for tech talent”. They must establish tech expertise in boardrooms and recognise the risks, particularly cyber risk, that comes with pursing the opportunities brought by new technologies.
“If you compare the list of the world’s largest companies 20 years ago to today, it’s clear how important tech has become as a driver of business growth,” says Malik.
“There are huge opportunities for those companies that get it right and those that get it wrong risk becoming obsolete.”
Confronting cyber risk
According to Jan Matto, a fellow partner at Mazars, the first challenge in confronting cyber risk is for companies to “close the gap” between their security policies and the technology on desks and in offices.
Another is to carefully manage relationships with technology providers, given the difficulties involved in verifying their security measures.
Lastly, companies should consider a cyber attack inevitable, and prepare a recovery plan to minimise disruption.
“Getting all this right will take time and it can be expensive,” says Matto. “But only a fraction as expensive as a cyber incident could be to your business.”
Elsewhere executives now recognise the centrality of ESG and sustainability to their business strategies. Of those polled 70% say Covid-19 has “sharpened their focus on ESG”, 75% say they have plans to increase investment in “sustainability initiatives” during this year, while a mighty 91% say they’re “confident” of coming to terms with ESG “expectations”.
There are some surprises though. For most businesses, (62% and 60%) reducing waste and cutting pollution are their top two sustainability priorities. Human rights (58%) come in third, but getting to “net zero” is last on a list of eight (47%).
Complexity of carbon reductions
Maud Gaudry, global co-head of sustainability at Mazars, says the priorities revealed by the survey are a “little surprising”. But it may be because other objectives are easier. “Committing to, never mind achieving, net zero and meaningful carbon reductions requires a lot of effort, a lot of planning and lot of investment.
“It’s good to see that businesses understand this complexity and are not making commitments lightly.”
Chris Fuggle, also global co-head of sustainability at Mazars, says leaders must work on turning ESG commitments into firm policies, improve data collection and deepen knowledge of the issue inside boardrooms.
“You also need to recognise this isn’t a quick fix. It’s going to be a five to ten-year journey for everyone. The important thing is to get started.”