SINGAPORE: Many Singapore CEOs are shifting focus to artificial intelligence (AI) from sustainability initiatives.

According to a recent report from EY, around six in ten CEOs in Singapore have deprioritised sustainability over the past year, choosing instead to invest in technology to boost growth and productivity.

According to the Singapore Business Review, the EY report highlights that 33% of CEOs prioritise technology investments, including AI, over the next 12 months.

Additionally, 33% of CEOs focus on data management and cybersecurity, while 23% plan to invest in employee training and reskilling.

Mr Vikram Chakravarty, EY’s ASEAN Strategy and Transactions Leader, stressed the importance of a balanced approach.

According to Mr Chakravarty, CEOs must consider all aspects of AI and cybersecurity to “fully exploit the potential of technology on their company’s business performance and growth.”

However, as CEOs increasingly focus on technology, investments in sustainability are being set aside. EY’s data shows that 58% of Singaporean CEOs have reduced their focus on sustainability compared to a year ago.

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Economic and financial challenges are the primary reasons for this shift, cited by 43% of CEOs. Other boardroom priorities account for 15% of the responses.

Moreover, many CEOs (71%) are concerned about being accused of greenwashing. Additionally, 70% note that shareholders prioritise earnings targets over long-term sustainability performance.

Despite these trends, CEOs believe that technology and AI can address significant sustainability challenges. A substantial 73% of CEOs think that technology holds the key to overcoming these issues.

Mr Chakravarty urged business leaders not to lose sight of their sustainability goals: Sustainability has obviously slipped as a business priority among CEOs.

However, with governments continuing to focus on sustainability through regulations such as requirements for Singapore businesses to make climate-related disclosures in their sustainability reports, business leaders should not lose sight of their decarbonisation and sustainability strategies,” he remarked.

The report also explored CEOs’ plans regarding transaction opportunities over the next year. Every CEO surveyed indicated intentions to pursue various transactions.

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These include initial public offerings (IPOs), divestments, or spin-offs, with 63% of CEOs planning such moves.

Joint ventures and strategic alliances with third parties are on the agenda for 50% of CEOs, while 45% consider mergers and acquisitions.

The reasons behind these acquisitions vary. Half the CEOs aim to respond to changing customer behaviour, while 39% focus on growing market share. Accessing new markets is another significant driver, noted by 33% of CEOs. /TISG

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