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New tech overtakes ESG as a top priority for UK business leaders

The 2023/24 Trends Report by Advanced reveals that 90% of UK business leaders are prioritising technology over longstanding objectives like ESG and DE&I

Content insights

Nine in 10 UK business leaders are seeking innovative ways to introduce new tech.
Systems businesses are most likely to invest in include digital immune systems.
6% of London businesses are not prioritising ESG.

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51% of businesses are ‘likely’ to invest in adaptive AI

Nine in 10 UK business leaders are seeking innovative ways to introduce new tech into their organisations at the expense of other long-standing priorities.

Advanced’s 2023/24 Trends Report – combining more than 6,600 senior executive voices from a cross-section of UK businesses – indicates that technological advancement is outpacing objectives such as Environmental Social Governance (ESG) and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I). These are priorities for only around half of the businesses surveyed, representing a significant fall from the company’s 2022/23 report when three-quarters said ESG was a priority.

The data highlights a clear shift in strategic priorities and direction for businesses as they grapple with new challenges relating to the economy, political turmoil overseas and the rise of AI.

The report indicates that ESG has been deprioritised as businesses focus on day-to-day survival. Instead, businesses report focusing on top priorities including; digital advancement, attracting and retaining talent, cybersecurity and data protection, cash flow and managing the cost of doing business crisis.

Systems businesses are most likely to invest in include digital immune systems (75%); adaptive AI (51%) and applied observability (39%). Business owners reported seeking better systems integration; improved functionality, security and remote access; and increased business intelligence as a result of technological investments. Over half (58%) of business leaders say they are already using AI tools.

Of those operating an ESG strategy, maintaining compliance with legislation was a top motivator for 62%. Around half (53%) said their ESG was motivated by reputation, while 47% sought to positively impact their communities.

Meanwhile, ESG was more likely to be deprioritised outside London – 6% of London businesses are not prioritising ESG, compared to an average of 11.6% in England and Wales (excluding London), 9% in Scotland and 15% in Northern Ireland. The latest Government policies have also indicated a broader reduction in the national focus on ESG – such as September’s change to net zero policies.

Simon Walsh, CEO of business software firm Advanced, said: “Businesses are facing acute external pressures which are forcing many to make difficult decisions about where priorities lie in the fight to survive. British businesses are facing very real and pressing issues and are having to adapt and evolve at pace thanks both to the high-pressure backdrop caused by the economy and the rapid advancement of new technology such as adaptive AI. This high-speed evolution brings with it its own challenges, for example with AI, understanding the safe and responsible use of this powerful new tool.”


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