EY Study: Sustainability is driving the emerging tech investment agenda

EY Study: Sustainability is driving the emerging tech investment agenda

The fourth edition of the EY Reimagining Industry Futures Study reveals that enterprises’ emerging tech investment decisions are increasingly driven by sustainability and ESG goals

  • 76% of enterprises surveyed now cite environmental, social and governance (ESG) as leading or important considerations for emerging tech investment
  • 77% prioritize emerging tech vendors that can articulate environmental impact
  • 5G investment growing; internet of things (IoT) strategies increasingly target growth

The fourth edition of the EY Reimagining Industry Futures Study reveals that enterprises’ emerging tech investment decisions are increasingly driven by sustainability and ESG goals. Of the 1,325 enterprises surveyed, 76% view ESG as a leading or important investment criteria, with 5G investment most likely to involve ESG as a leading or important principle (cited by 81%). Underpinning enterprises’ conviction, 76% believe emerging tech can play a critical role in reducing their organization’s carbon emissions.

When it comes to selecting an emerging technology vendor, 77% of respondents say they will prioritize those that understand the environmental impact of their tech. And while today “speed of deployment and execution” and “end-to-end solution capabilities” rank respectively as the top two vendor attributes, when looking to the future, enterprises rank “sustainability capabilities and credentials” as the top criteria, ahead of “competitive pricing” in second place.

Tom Loozen, EY Global Telecommunications Leader, says: “This year’s study highlights a marked shift in priorities, indicating that sustainability is set to become the dominant factor informing technology vendor decisions. To keep pace, CIOs must do more to ensure that high levels of expectation translate into long-term value creation by working with leadership teams to make sustainability a guiding principle that defines vendor relationships. Equally, vendors must play their part, going further to reflect sustainability in their offerings and doing more to sufficiently address ESG considerations through use cases.” 

Enterprises indicate that emerging tech provides a breadth of positive contributions to their sustainability ambitions. Reduced energy consumption (46%) tops the list, while improved sustainability measurement (39%) and planning (39%) rank high. However, perceived benefits vary by industry: 54% of automotive enterprises cite reduced energy consumption as a leading benefit, falling to 38% among health care respondents; and reduced waste is favored by 50% of manufacturing respondents compared with only 35% of government organizations.

Beyond the sustainability imperative, the study further reveals that levels of investment are rising for all eight emerging technologies  tracked in the study, with 5G and edge computing showing the largest increase – both up 4% year-on-year. 5G has the most active profile in terms of future investment, with 57% planning to invest within three years. At a regional level, Americas enterprises lead 5G investment today, with 35% currently investing – up 15% year-on-year. Levels of current and planned investment in Europe and Asia remain stable year-on-year, with the findings indicating that respondents in Asia may be deferring investment.

Notably, enterprises’ 5G and IoT strategies are more oriented toward growth this year. Thirty percent of respondents cite “overhaul existing business models” as an important driver of IoT spend, up from 25% last year. And 5G-IoT use cases such as virtual and augmented reality (cited by 50% of respondents) now score ahead of applications that deliver business continuity functions – contrasting to previous years when continuity and resilience were prioritized.

Adrian Baschnonga, EY Global TMT Lead Analyst, says: “As enterprises become more attuned to the opportunities that 5G and IoT offer in driving growth, vendors must proactively respond to evolving use case demands. Critical to this agenda is effectively mapping solutions to changing business needs, while also harnessing 5G and IoT with other technologies such as artificial intelligence and edge computing to maximize their collective impact.”

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About the survey

The EY Reimagining Industry Futures Study 2023 is based on an online survey of 5G perceptions among 1,325 enterprises worldwide in November 2022, the fourth wave of this annual survey. The questionnaire comprised multiple-choice questions and agreement statements, with respondents drawn from multiple industry verticals and geographies. Only respondents who self-selected as “moderately knowledgeable” and above about their organization’s IoT and 5G initiatives feature in the study results.

The questions explored enterprise executives’ attitudes and intentions toward emerging technologies, with a focus on IoT and 5G-based IoT. Themes pursued in the questionnaire included: enterprise spending intentions, desired use cases, organizational challenges and priorities, and enterprises’ engagement with technology suppliers and ecosystems.