Australian employees want businesses to play a stronger leadership role on key societal issues, such as the environment, healthcare and cost of living, according to new research commissioned by Atlassian Corporation and conducted by PwC.

The Return on Action report surveyed more than 1,200 Australian employees and provides an up-to-date snapshot of the growing expectations on businesses to lead on the issues important to society. It revealed that businesses are more likely to lose employees if they don’t take a stand on important issues, with 69% of employees agreeing businesses should be just as concerned with their societal impact as they are with their financial performance.

Only 34% of employees are satisfied with the level of action their own employer takes on key societal issues such as climate change, data privacy, unemployment and the cost of living. Further, 67% agree businesses should publicly encourage governments to act on societal issues.

Atlassian co-founder and co-CEO, Mike Cannon-Brookes said Australian businesses have reached a tipping point and sitting on the fence is no longer good enough.

“As business leaders, we have an awesome responsibility. Employees want us to ensure we are making the planet better, not worse. Faced with government inaction on some of our biggest problems, it’s the business community that can step up and drive meaningful change,” he said.

Atlassian co-founder and co-CEO, Scott Farquhar added, “Many companies focus only on the Return on Investment and delivering profit for shareholders. But times have changed. As business leaders we should listen to the views of the workforce; focusing on our impact on society delivers a return of its own. It’s now on us to respond.”

Environment among top employee concerns

Across all demographics, environmental issues emerged as a key area for change. The research revealed that the majority of employees want businesses to use their resources to drive meaningful change in waste and pollution. Additionally, as Australia rebuilds from a summer marked by severe weather, drought and access to water was rated as one of the top three issues of most importance to Australian employees.

Almost two-thirds (65%) of respondents agree or strongly agree the impact of climate change will become significantly worse in the next five years, while 70% agree that businesses have the ability to significantly improve the impacts of climate change if they act now.

Commenting on the findings, PwC Australia CEO, Luke Sayers said, “The challenges we are facing as a nation and across the globe have never been more complex and we can’t rely on Governments alone for the solutions. Businesses must have a voice, contribute insights, take a position and innovate. It’s what most employees expect of their employers and it’s also the only way we are going to find the right solutions and build a secure and sustainable path for future generations.”