Majority of companies consider ESG important, but only 35 percent currently integrate ESG into corporate strategy

Cognizant today presents the results of The Future-Ready Business Benchmark, an Economist Impact study commissioned by Cognizant. This comprehensive survey of managers in eight sectors and ten countries aims to gain insight into the state of the modern organization. It also highlights how managers prepare for long-term success in a post-pandemic world. The research identifies three essentials that managers must prioritize in order to create a future-proof organization: 1) reaping the full benefits of accelerated technology adoption, 2) rethinking workforce strategies, and 3) closing the gap between thinking and doing. in view of the growing environmental, social and governance (ESG) challenges.

“Resilience is the new must-have capability for any organization looking to succeed in this age of increased competition, accelerating digital technology and unpredictable global events,” said Euan Davis, Head of Cognizant Research. “To succeed as a modern business, managers must be prepared for anything, and prioritizing is key when everything seems equally important. We have shown that smart investments in technology, a focus on developing talent with new skills, and implementing and acting on an ESG agenda are core elements of focus on which leaders can build. Successful managers build future-proof, resilient businesses by ensuring that their organizations learn, adapt and continuously evolve.”

Cognizant commissioned Economist Impact to survey 2,000 senior executives in ten countries in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific to assess and compare their companies against a variety of metrics.

Key findings from the study include:

  • More than 90 percent of respondents indicate that it is a strategic priority to data-driven approach and create a digital-first business model. 37 percent of those surveyed said both requirements, along with the importance of aligning operations with these new ways of working, are ‘business critical’.
  • Technology investments are moving faster than the standard shopping list of cloud, advanced analytics, IoT and artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML). Even while respondents say they are not yet realizing the full value of existing investments. In addition to these basic technologies, which the vast majority of respondents (80%) say they have or plan to adopt, there is a growing demand for emerging technologies. More than 60 percent of respondents say they plan to introduce or already do so in quantum computing, blockchain and robotics.
  • Human Resources and Talent Management Strategies must be thoroughly revised to prepare employees for new ways of working. Nearly half of respondents (46%) acknowledge that they lack the talent needed to leverage advanced technologies. When asked about the biggest barriers to adopting new processes, products, services and technologies in the past 12 months, the two main challenges were workforce-related: a lack of well-trained staff and a chronic lack of focus on preparing employees for the new ways of working. For example, only a third (33%) of respondents use data to identify training needs and attract talent.
  • The resilience of companies that label ESG as important but fail to take action to implement ESG across the organization is at risk. Nine out of ten policy makers recognize that paying attention to ESG issues is an important aspect of a modern business. However, there is a large gap between recognition and action, with only 31 percent dedicating staff and resources to ESG, and only 35 percent integrating ESG into corporate strategy. A small majority (54%) say they set specific environmental targets and take action on them, while only 44 percent are currently measuring social impact.

“Many companies are already struggling to prepare for next month, let alone years to come,” said Vaibhav Sahgal, Principal at Economist Impact. “Companies that actually implement the future-proofing principles from our Future-Ready Business Benchmark in day-to-day production will maintain and expand their competitive advantage. Our data confirms that it is particularly difficult to make progress in this area when organizations struggle with different priorities. Our guideline is to start where the gaps are greatest and sharpen the focus on people; the benchmark offers concrete tools for companies in all countries and sectors. If companies do not embrace the ongoing instability and prioritize business plans and investments, they risk being no longer relevant.”

Research methodology

The Future-Ready Business Benchmark, a study by Economist Impact commissioned by Cognizant, examines the current state of businesses in the face of tomorrow’s needs. The benchmark has been developed through a rigorous process of research, expert consultation, data collection and analysis. The benchmark reflects a series of key considerations and measures of future-proofing for multinationals from 10 countries – including the Netherlands, Germany, UK and Sweden – and 8 sectors, based on the external environment, about business readiness factors and current performance. It focuses on cross-sectoral themes such as business fundamentals, talent, technology and innovative capacity, and ESG. Read more about the results here.

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