The study findings show customers are coalescing around organisations' CSR profile - including, but not limited to "green" initiatives -- and are increasingly demanding socially-minded products, services, and even supply chains.
CEOs indicated that while customers have always cared about societal issues, those concerns are now more frequently turning into action as the more socially aware customer evaluates an enterprise's CSR profile before making purchasing decisions.
To better understand and reach the new socially-minded customer, CEOs plan to increase their investments by 25 per cent over the next three years, the largest percentage increase of any trend identified in the study.
The study shows that while increasing CEO concern about environmental issues has doubled over the past four years globally, this concern is not evenly distributed worldwide.
Asia Pacific and European CEOs lead the world in focusing on environmental issues, followed by the Americas.
CEOs also revealed that CSR reputations are also an important tool to attract and retain employees.
Overall, CEOs recognise CSR is critical to maintaining current market share.
IBM Global Business Services senior vice president, Ginni Rometty, said the enterprise of the future accepts change as a permanent state within their organisations.
"Those CEOs who demonstrate the capacity to manage major change know they can beat the competition by reaching new classes of customers, and making bold moves to shift business design around principles of global integration," Rometty said.
"And it's clear that out-performers are distancing their enterprises from the competition based on their organisational capacity to take advantage of change."
According to IBM's A/NZ strategy and change practice leader, Matt English, the global findings are broadly consistent with trends in the local market.
English said the change gap is as strong locally as it is globally, and is a wake-up call to businesses in A/NZ.
He said this gap highlights an urgent need for CEOs to sharpen capabilities throughout their organisations, and the pressure is on to manage change effectively.
However, local CEOs revealed significant differences from the global findings in relation to the external forces that will shape their business and investment opportunities.
"The CEOs interviewed from Australia and New Zealand highlighted people skills as the greatest external force impacting their business in the next three years," English said.