The Fourth Industrial Revolution promises to change the way we live and work by marrying physical assets with digital technologies like analytics, artificial intelligence, cognitive technologies and the internet of things (IoT). Executives worldwide believe it’s going to be a change for the better.
In a recent report from Deloitte and Forbes Insights, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution Is Here—Are You Ready?,” 87% of the more than 1,600 executives surveyed said Industry 4.0 would lead to more equality and stability. They believe both public (74%) and private (67%) businesses will have the most influence on how Industry 4.0 shapes society; government came in a distant third.
It should follow that executives would expect their organizations to play influential roles in creating this more equitable and stable world. Yet, less than a quarter believe their own organizations hold significant influence over key societal factors. Just 10% believe their organizations can significantly influence environmental sustainability; 12% feel they can measurably impact the education and lifelong learning of employees; 17% believe they can significantly improve social and geographic mobility; and 24% believe they can become agents of change for a level and fair marketplace.
Brian Householder, president and COO at Hitachi Vantara, explained in an interview for the report that the day-to-day responsibilities of running the business take precedence over social vision. “While we have existing franchises that we have to manage, we also have to consider how we are changing our organization to make sure that we’re continuing to drive social values into the industry, into the world. It is important for us to figure out how to lead to stay relevant.”
Forbes Insights expects that in the future, executives will be able—or even be expected—to pay more attention to societal issues. While the need to achieve financial returns will never go away, Forbes Insights has observed four existing trends that can help companies drive social values:
1. Technology As A Social Tool
Advanced technologies are useful for pursuing commercial goals as well as societal goals. In fact, “humanity’s grandest challenges in education, health care, climate change, and even civil rights can all be viewed through a different lens as disruptive technologies energize creative problem-solving,” according to Deloitte’s “Social impact of exponential technologies.”