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Small businesses, big expectations: Study finds consumers prioritise DE&I, Security and Sustainability

As consumers become more conscious of the issues surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I), security, and sustainability, they are also becoming more selective about where they choose to spend their money. 

A new study from Mastercard, launched today, has found that these issues are playing a critical role in consumer purchasing decisions, particularly in Australia.

The research found that 55 per cent of Australians are more likely to spend money with businesses that prioritise diversity, 59 per cent with businesses that prioritize sustainability, and 69 per cent with businesses that prioritize data security. These numbers indicate that consumers place a high value on DE&I, security, and sustainability when purchasing decisions.

However, the study also revealed that businesses that don’t meet customer expectations in these areas are at risk of losing customers and revenue. But there is a silver lining, many Australian businesses are rising to the challenge and making a concerted effort to prioritise DE&I, security, and sustainability in 2023.

The report on small businesses found that:

  • Only 33 per cent of small businesses currently have a DE&I strategy in place, compared to 67 per cent of medium businesses and 74 per cent of large corporations.
  • 42 per cent of small businesses report that their workplaces are fully accessible for workers with disabilities, compared to 72 per cent of medium businesses and 62 per cent of large companies.
  • Only 31 per cent of small companies have made significant changes to their workplaces in the past 12 months to make them more accessible to people with disabilities, compared to 67 per cent of medium and 56 per cent of large businesses.
  • 80 per cent of small businesses believe that increasing diversity and inclusion in the workplace will have positive effects on their business, compared to 98 per cent of medium and 97 per cent of large organisations.
  • 19 per cent of small businesses don’t have data retention policies.

According to the study, 55 per cent of Australians are more likely to shop with a business with more workforce diversity. Additionally, 75 per cent of Australians agree that all businesses should be accessible to people with physical, mental, sensory, or intellectual disabilities.

The research also found that nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) of Australians say they would be happy to see more accessibility built-in to products they use every day, such as touch-accessibility for people with vision impairments or better audio options for those who are hard of hearing.

Furthermore, 68 per cent of Australians say they would pay more for products if they knew they were accessible for people with disabilities.

How are Australian SMEs performing?

Fortunately, Australian businesses appear to be on the right track. 80 per cent of Australian organizations either currently have a DE&I strategy or are implementing one this year, and 88 per cent of Australian business leaders rate their organization’s diversity as better than average. However, there is still work to be done. 

While 85 per cent of Australian employees agree that their workplace is diverse, 50 per cent say they feel their employer could do more to foster diversity in the workplace, and 76 per cent of all Australians say organizations could do more when it comes to work and career opportunities for people with disabilities.

On a practical level, 74 per cent of Australian businesses say they have made accessibility modifications to their business premises in the last 12 months, and a majority (73 per cent) claim to have made the products they offer more accessible to consumers and clients with disabilities, either by creating a new accessible product (40 per cent) or making accessibility changes to existing products (55 per cent), or both.

The benefits of diversity and accessibility in an organization are well-known, with 92 per cent of business leaders believing that increasing their diversity and inclusion in the workplace will have positive benefits for the whole company, including improving innovation and profitability.

“Ensuring an accessible society for everyone is growing in importance as we hear from more diverse voices in our media and at incredible sporting events like the Australian Open. Technology and the digital environments we all interact with now have made the world more accessible than ever, and businesses must make the most of the opportunity. Creating touch-accessible products or sonic-accessible experiences must be on the agenda for 2023 and beyond,” said Richard Wormald, Division President, Australasia, Mastercard. 

“The past year has been challenging for businesses, emerging from the pandemic environment to heightened customer expectations and a changing economic environment.

“There’s been incredible resilience in the landscape, with 85 per cent of business leaders saying they are optimistic about the success of their business in 2023, but the message is clear that 2023 will be a year where businesses are rewarded for prioritising the things that are priceless for their customers and employees,” he added.

Sustainability remains a critical motivator

Sustainability remains a critical motivator for consumer decision-making in 2023. The research shows that 83 per cent of businesses believe sustainability is “critical for success” for their industry, compared to 76 per cent in 2022.

Consumers are also becoming more demanding when it comes to sustainable products, 58 per cent of Australians said they would actively avoid shopping with a business that does not source its products sustainably, an increase of 10 per cent from the previous year.

Additionally, 78 per cent of Australians said they would opt for a sustainable alternative if available, and 19 per cent would choose the sustainable option regardless of the price, an increase from 13 per cent in 2022.

Consumers pay attention to how businesses store and protect their data

Security is also a key driver for consumers; Australians place great importance on how businesses store and protect their data. The research shows that this will remain a key concern in 2023. 

Two in five (39 per cent) said they think Australian businesses need to take data security more seriously, and more than half (52 per cent) said they don’t think businesses are prepared to deal with cyber security threats. 

With more than two-thirds of Australians (69 per cent) saying they are more likely to purchase goods and services from organisations that take data security seriously, it’s concerning that almost a quarter (23 per cent) of Australian organisations say they have not reviewed data retention policies in the last 12 months, and nearly one in ten (8 per cent) don’t even have data retention policies.

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Yajush Gupta

Yajush Gupta

Yajush is a journalist at Dynamic Business. He previously worked with Reuters as a business correspondent and holds a postgrad degree in print journalism.

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