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A new COVID booster? UK leaders now see sustainability as a key driver of economic growth

by uma

London, UK, 25th May 2022 – SAP SE (NYSE: SAP) today launches the results of a new study revealing how UK leaders are steering their organisations through a period of unprecedented economic uncertainty. The study by SAP Insights finds that sustainability has emerged as a key business action for over one third of UK executives, replacing other, more traditional, business strategies on the priority list.

As global leaders consider a path forward from COVID-19, climate change, geopolitical conflict and supply chain shortages at the World Economic Forum this week, SAP Insights finds that UK executives are re-examining their business models to find new approaches to maximise revenue, increase efficiency and reduce risk.

Out with the old, in with the new

With figures showing that the UK economy fell by 0.1% in March, and GDP declined too, the pressure is mounting on UK leaders to build a resilient business in times of flux. The study by SAP Insights reveals that this is leading UK businesses to rethink the rulebook on growth. So much so, that one third (33%) are prioritising sustainability action to accelerate revenue, while nearly two in five (37%) indicate that making operations sustainable is a priority in transforming the efficiency of their business.

This recognition of sustainability as the cornerstone of revenue and efficiency is a departure from the conventional business approach to growth and efficiency. This study reveals that just 28% would turn to new business partnerships to drive revenue today, and only 23% would consider expanding to new markets. While in the list of priorities to streamline and improve how the business operates, sustainability ranks ahead of tried-and-tested strategies, such as increasing business automation (35%); empowering employees to choose their preferred work environment (34%); building dependable supply chains ((33%) and increasing focus on supplier and partner networks (30%).

Fighting off economic risk

It’s not just in maximising revenue growth or boosting efficiencies that UK leaders are re-examining their business models but in how they view and reduce risk.

The research shows that recent economic uncertainty has led traditional risk factors to be upstaged by those rooted in the crises of COVID-19, ransomware attacks and supply chain shortages. For instance, almost half  (48%) of UK leaders indicate that mitigating cybersecurity attacks is a priority in reducing risk, while 43% point to strengthening supply chain fragility. This is compared to just 30% who prioritise protection against new market entrants and 27% who view fending off existing competition as a priority in reducing risk.

Furthermore, when asked about future global risks that their business will need to prepare for, UK leaders have three leading concerns: cybersecurity breakdown (42%), economic stagnation (40%) and climate change (38%). As UK businesses seek to fight off the effects of economic instability, the focus on cybersecurity and climate change shows that leaders feel they will be interlinked for the foreseeable future.

Building green shoots through digital

As leaders identify a new roadmap towards revenue growth and efficiency, and reducing risk in the face of economic turbulence, SAP Insight’s research also reveals the most sought after technologies that will support the improvement of business processes. The UK overwhelmingly points towards cloud computing (76%), cybersecurity infrastructure (72%), employee collaboration tools (72%) and business process intelligence (59%) as key priorities. This suggests that these technologies will be critical to leaders that seek to refresh their business models and establish continuity moving forwards.

Commenting on the research, Michiel Verhoeven, Managing Director SAP UK & Ireland, said: “It’s a sign of how far we’ve come that sustainability is a leading priority as businesses face economic uncertainty. There’s no doubt that it can be a key driver of growth, but leaders must be prepared to go all-in or face underwhelming returns.

“As our research shows, technologies like the cloud or business process intelligence can support UK leaders to improve their processes, and in this case, drive accurate, sustainable decision-making. However, these management systems are yet to be adequately implemented universally, making governance of sustainability goals, and in turn, profitability, increasingly difficult for organisations. But they do not have to do it alone, by partnering with the right technology experts, they can accelerate action and navigate today’s business challenges with ease.” 

To learn more about how businesses are approaching sustainability action, and navigating today’s economic uncertainty, please visit: www.insights.sap.com