A new survey from global technology company SAP SE has found that investment in environmental strategies has increased significantly over the past five years. It found that the vast majority of businesses are now tracking their impact on the planet while also planning similar future investments.
The SAP survey in the UAE was undertaken as part of a global survey ahead of COP28 to identify trends and challenges in sustainability strategies and determine how technology could help bolster these efforts.
SAP Insights collected data from 4,750 respondents across 21 nations and 29 industries.
The study was conducted in February-March 2023 via an online survey.
Ninety-eight per cent of the surveyed companies said that measurement and reporting on environmental issues inform their strategic and operational decision-making – 51% said this occurs to a strong degree.
Further, it found that environmental data collection in the UAE has grown in recent years, with most UAE companies beginning this process within the past five years. Of these, 40.4% say they have been collecting data for a period from two years to fewer than five years, and a further 19.2% have been collecting data for less than two years.
Two per cent of companies report collecting environmental data for 20 years or longer.
The survey, which included senior executives from a cross-section of UAE industries of different sizes, found most were planning a substantial increase in investment in sustainability strategies over the coming three years.
While 73.5% of companies plan to increase this investment, 13.9% plan to maintain current investment levels, and 9.3% plan to start investing in environmental issues.
Only 2% had plans to decrease their existing investment, while 0.7% said they had no investment plans.
Respondents appeared optimistic about reaping rapid benefits from these investments. When estimating the period over which they expected to see a positive financial return, 30.1% said one to less than three years, 34.9% said from three to less than five years, and a further 28.8% said from 5 to less than ten years.
Sergio Maccotta, Senior Vice President of SAP Middle East and Africa – South, commented: “The findings demonstrate that companies in the UAE are aligned with the government’s commitment to responsible environmental practices. It is clear from the responses that senior executives recognize that these strategies are beneficial not only for the planet, but for their businesses too, increasing profitability and competitiveness. The impressive strides already made in tracking the environmental impact of companies’ operations through technology will be further bolstered by plans to invest heavily in sustainability strategies over the coming three-year period.”
Maccotta shared that the survey found that 49.7% of UAE companies see a strong positive relationship between profitability and environmental sustainability, and a further 35.1% describe it as a moderately positive relationship. Similarly, 53.6% see a strong positive relationship between competitiveness and environmental sustainability, and a further 33.8% perceive a moderately positive relationship between the two.
Considering specific business benefits, the majority of respondents (84.1%) believe that, to a moderate or strong degree, their environmental strategies are increasing the efficiency of their business processes.
Meanwhile, 82.1% believe the strategies are increasing the quality of their products and services.
In addition, 79.5% of respondents say their environmental strategies contribute positively to business outcomes, such as revenue, profitability and growth, to a moderate or strong degree. Ninety-four per cent believe environmental strategies reduce the overall costs of the business to at least some extent.
When considering the impact of environmental issues on their business, ‘energy consumption and emissions’ scored highest in terms of significance, with 100% of respondents recognising the issue, although 12.6% described the impact as small.
In line with this, 72.2% of respondents report measuring data for energy consumption and emissions.
The next most significant factors in terms of impact were identified as air pollution and freshwater availability, with approximately 85% of respondents seeing these issues as having a moderate or strong impact. Interestingly, only 49.7% of the companies are currently measuring data for air pollution and 42.4% are measuring freshwater availability.
Maccotta says the SAP survey has also uncovered “key pain points” in implementing and measuring sustainability strategies, most of which can be addressed by deploying SAP solutions as the company continues to enhance its offerings by embedding sustainability metrics and AI capabilities across its portfolio.
In particular, the survey, which included both SAP and non-SAP customers, highlighted the need to deploy better data collection methods, as only 35.8% of respondents were completely satisfied with the quality of the data collected.
Respondents were most satisfied with the relevance of the data collected and the availability of data analysis software and tools, with 35.8% completely satisfied on both counts.
The lowest satisfaction rates were related to the frequency of data collection, with 29.8% describing themselves as only slightly satisfied to completely unsatisfied.
The accuracy of data was also lacking, with 23.2% stating they were slightly satisfied to completely unsatisfied.