What do SX leaders have in common? Find out in our survey of 1,800 business leaders in 9 countries

We recently conducted a major survey with the objective of understanding the principal global trends and reality of sustainability transformation (SX), involving 1,800 senior management and decision makers in 9 countries around the world. The results of the survey were compiled and published in the "Fujitsu Future Insights Global Sustainability Transformation Survey Report 2023," and it examines in detail the current state of SX and how digital transformation (DX) is contributing to the realization of sustainability. Importantly, the survey highlights four success factors for SX from the results, and in this article, we present three of the most important insights to share with business leaders in charge of sustainability.

Table of Contents
  1. Changes in management awareness
  2. What are the four success factors for SX?
  3. Digital technology is key

Changes in management awareness

Social issues such as geopolitical tensions, climate change, and the turmoil in financial markets caused by these factors are intricately intertwined, and the future remains uncertain. With such external issues having a significant impact on management, how are management's attitudes changing?

According to the survey, digitalization, customer satisfaction, and sustainability were the top three management issues that were identified as having increased in priority over the past year (Figure 1). This shows that sustainability is now recognized as an important issue for management to address.

Figure 1: Management issues prioritized over the past year

So why is sustainability becoming more important in management? In the survey, 50% of respondents answered that the main reason why sustainability was given a higher priority in management was to meet the expectations of consumers and customers (Figure 2). This was followed by responses to government regulations and guidelines, and responses to investor expectations for ESG investments.

Figure 2: Reasons for prioritizing sustainability

Now that customers and consumers value corporate sustainability, companies need to step up their sustainability efforts to meet their expectations.

What are the four success factors for SX?

However, not all companies are implementing SX initiatives and creating results.

In this survey, we analyzed the status of companies' SX from three perspectives: the progress of their sustainability initiatives, the maturity of their organizational capabilities, and whether they are actually delivering results. As a result, while SX initiatives are in the early stages for many companies, only 8% of companies can truly be identified as sustainability leaders (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Status of Sustainability Transformation

What can we learn from successful SX companies in order to approach SX with a high degree of practicality and create results? In this survey, Fujitsu analyzed the characteristics and initiatives common to these leaders and identified the following four success factors (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Four Success Factors for Sustainability Transformation

First, leading companies establish their sustainability-oriented purpose and implement management based on this. In addition, they are working to build empathy not only for employees but also for partners and customers by encouraging all stakeholders to understand and support their sustainability initiatives. They see sustainability as a business opportunity and integrate it into one of their financial indicators. Finally, they have a high level of awareness about digital, and they are working to coordinate both sustainability and digital initiatives.

Regarding digital, here is a quote from one Japanese manufacturing leader working on sustainability. You can see there's a lot of interest in using digital technology for sustainability.

Both things go hand in hand, and one depends on the other. To take actions on sustainability or even make plans based on present and past data, we need technological tools, databases, to create meaningful and concise data which is easy to read and act upon. So, for that, we need digital transformation.

Head of Sustainability, Manufacturing, Japan

Digital technology is key

So, what are the anticipated effects of digital technology in driving SX?

Many companies now understand the importance of DX and are actively promoting it. What's interesting is that in the past year, 91% of sustainability leaders have "increased their digital priorities."

Figure 5: Percentage of companies reporting an improvement in digitalization priorities over the past year

In order to clarify how business leaders are utilizing digital technology for SX, we surveyed the status of digital utilization in five areas *1 that Fujitsu believes are important for solving social issues.

Here are some examples of how AI is used, based on the survey results.
The use of AI to augment human physical and cognitive abilities and to automate tasks is expected to improve productivity in creative work through collaboration between humans and AI. It is also likely to be one of the solutions to labor shortages in a society with a declining population.
By industry, automation was most advanced in manufacturing and finance, with approximately 2/3 of respondents using AI to automate operations, improve employee productivity, and increasing the value of experience (Figure 6).

Figure 6: AI-powered automation improves employee productivity and increasing the value of experience (by industry)

We would like to know what you think!
In this article, we have presented some of the most important findings in the survey report. However, there is considerable further analysis on the promotion of SX using digital technology, as well as future prospects for digital technology.
We invite all business leaders working on sustainability globally explore the report findings in more depth, and have compiled some of the most important survey results and insights to help you assess the "current state" and "the future" of SX promotion.

Click here to download the Global Sustainability Transformation Report.

Editor's recommendation

Case study featuring Fujitsu's 5Key Technologies

5Key Technologies