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Can Digitization & Sustainability Go Hand in Hand?

There is a growing awareness that organizations have a responsibility to their employees, customers and shareholders that goes beyond the bottom line. Investors today progressively favour companies that implement ESG practices and goals. According to Deloitte Insights, “globally, the percentage of both retail and institutional investors that apply environmental, social, and governance (ESG) principles to at least a quarter of their portfolios jumped from 48% in 2017 to 75% in 2019.”

The organizations of today need to set strong ESG goals; They need to become sustainable. Sustainability refers to meeting our needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainability goes beyond environmentalism; it is a holistic approach that considers ecological, social and economic needs.

Adopting sustainable practices, whether large or small, can have significant impact in the long run. And here’s the thing, becoming more sustainable is simpler than you think!

How? Through digitization.

With innovation and the development of new technologies, the world is more connected and more digital than it has ever been before. Digitization is all about moving an organization to a digital-first business model. It refers to the refers to the use of digital technologies to change and add value to a business.

Are Digitization and Sustainability Really Linked?

According to the Global e-Sustainability Initiative’s (GESI) SMARTer2030 report, Information and Communication (ICT) technologies can enable a 20% reduction of global CO2e emissions by 2030, holding emissions at 2015 levels. These digital technologies also offer significant environmental benefits in addition to reducing carbon emissions through operational efficiency improvements.

ICT technologies also help create a more equitable society and will connect 2.5 billion extra people to the “knowledge economy” by 2030, giving 1.6 billion more people access to healthcare and half a billion more people access to e-learning tools.

From an economic lens, the same GESI report estimates that these digital technologies could generate over $11 trillion in economic benefits per year by 2030. Research from MIT tells us that digitally mature companies are 26% more profitable than their less mature peers.

Digitization and the use of digital technologies is a direct path towards building a more sustainable and more profitable organization. Digitization can help you meet your corporate ESG goals. More informed and purposeful deployment of digital technologies will catalyse progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)” (Source: Digital with a Purpose – Delivering a SMARTer2030, GESI).

So, What are the Digital Technologies We Need to Leverage?

The GESI has identified seven powerful digital technologies that increasingly pervade our lives and drive positive progress (Source: Digital with a Purpose – Delivering a SMARTer2030, GESI). These technologies are:

1. Digital Access
  • The ability to fully participate in a digital society
  • This includes tools and technologies that allow connectivity for people to people, and for people to the internet.
2. Fast Internet
  • Technologies (such as 5G) that allow for next generation connectivity
  • This provides speed and capacity to drive real-time data insights and to enable other technologies on this list such as IOT and augmented reality.
3. Cloud
  • The provision of highly scalable, advanced IT capabilities (such as computing power, data storage, etc) as third party services.
4. IOT (Internet of Things)
  • A network on internet-enabled physical objects. This allows for data collection, transferal, computation and decision making without human intervention.
5. Cognitive
  • The application of advanced analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence approaches to big data to develop insights and aid decision-making.  
6. Digital Reality
  • Virtual reality (i.e., virtual digital worlds or systems) and augmented reality (i.e., mixed virtual and physical worlds)
  • This could lead to personalized, accessible and well-designed digital experiences that could replace physical events.
7. Blockchain
  • A distributed, digital database of transactions (ledgers) that are governed by a collective network of computers rather than a singular central entity
  • Blockchain allows for privacy, security and transparency at the same time
How Can These Seven Technologies Help Drive Sustainability?

These seven technologies affect the world in multiple ways.  Here are the four key ways in which these technologies impact the world, enhancing and supporting your sustainability goals:

1. Connect & Communicate
  • Opening up relationships, information, ideas and opportunity
 
 
2. Monitor & Track
  • Real-time observations (i.e., data collection) of the world around us. This makes our impact on the world transparent and allows for targeted interventions
3. Analyze, Optimize & Predict
  • Analysis of vast swathes of information that allows us to develop critical data-driven insights
  • These insights can be used to optimize processes, procedures and resource productivity. This drives efficiency improvements.
  • Collected data and insights can also be used predict the future and determine where we need to intervene.
4. Augment & Autonomate
  • Augment our human abilities with digital technologies
  • Autonomate systems to carry out activities by creating an ‘active bridge’ between the physical and digital worlds.
What Can You Do?

For organizations, taking action is critical to fully realizing the business and sustainability potential of digital technologies. Leaders should explore digital opportunities and execute initiatives to realize digital-enabled operational efficiencies, cost-savings, energy-savings and reduced consumption of scare resources, all of which in turn increase sustainability.

Business leaders should encourage and galvanize an organization-wide understanding of how digital technologies can be deployed for positive impact. We have to move from digital transformation to purpose-led transformation powered by digital.

Where Do You Start?

Our team of experts can help lead your organization on your digital transformation journey, getting you ready for the sustainable, digital-first economy.

  1. Digital Strategy: We’ll help you define your digital strategy and create your digital roadmap.
  2. Business Design: We’ll design and optimize your business processes to align with your new digital strategy.
  3. Project Leadership: We’ll keep you on track and help you to execute and implement all your new business process improvement and digital initiatives.

Contact us at info@strategicfront.com and together we can harness the power of digital technologies!

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