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Sustainable Technology: A New Framework for Digital Solutions

From creating innovative made-to-measure products and services to boosting speed, convenience, and affordability – the digital revolution has transformed virtually all aspects of our life and work. But these advances come at a price. Digital solutions consume vast amounts of energy, and as new technologies like AI, blockchain and quantum computing gain ground, energy needs are set to rise further still. To reduce consumption of valuable resources and address environmental impacts, companies must focus on sustainable technology – not just in their internal IT operations, but also as a means of delivering sustainable outcomes.

Sustainable Technology 101

What sets sustainable technology apart from traditional tech approaches is that it respects natural resources and supports both economic and social developments. Disruptive tech of this kind can foster greater sustainability in a variety of ways, including the following:

  • By leveraging data to deliver insight into current problems

  • By helping reshape established business practices, enabling organizations to become sustainable enterprises, and

  • By supporting collaboration between public, private, and not-for-profit organizations, thereby creating a new governance model for environmental protection

As recent research shows, there are no end of compelling reasons why companies should now be directing more attention to sustainability and sustainable technology.

Why Sustainable Technology?

A study by McKinsey has discovered that, when it comes to companies’ competitiveness, some 80% of CXOs regarded a sustainability strategy as a must. This is hardly surprising, since sustainable business practices are now widely regarded as a necessity – with many organizations taking steps to measure and minimize activities with negative environmental impacts. This trend is reflected by the significant growth in sustainability reporting at G250 companies, which has risen from 64% in 2005 to 96% in 2020.

In addition, sustainable technology is playing an increasingly important role in companies’ operations. Not only does it help optimize costs, energy performance, and asset utilization; it also drives Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) outcomes – such as improving wellness and providing the traceability needed to ensure responsible business practices.

Deploying Sustainable Tech in Critical Business Areas

From an operational point of view, there are two key areas in which businesses can focus their sustainable technology efforts: internal IT operations and enterprise operations. In-house IT units can help companies up their sustainability by selecting and working with the right tools, hardware, and vendors. This approach can enable them to achieve maximum output using minimum viable resources.

It also makes sense to design and implement a sustainability tool stack, which should include state-of-the-art tracking tools. Solutions of this kind allow IT units to monitor and predict ESG risk and opportunities, for faster, more effective planning and action. And finally, retiring energy-intensive on-premise data infrastructures and moving to the cloud, can deliver energy savings of around 80%.

Putting Enterprise Operations on More Sustainable Footing

If today’s businesses are to gain and maintain the trust of investors and customers, open and accurate sustainability reporting is crucial. Sophisticated reporting tools enable businesses to collect reliable data and provide transparency into their sourcing and trading practices and into how they’re improving energy and material efficiency as well as reducing emissions.

It almost goes without saying that automating resource-intensive activities offers attractive opportunities for boosting sustainability. In addition, companies can deploy Internet-of-Things (IoT) sensors and devices to capture accurate data, which they can then analyze using advanced analytics and AI. The result: optimized resource consumption and streamlined processes, ultimately reducing environmental impact.

The effects of these various approaches can be further enhanced by implementing 5G and mobile technologies. These offer considerably faster connectivity, allowing huge volumes of data and insight to be quickly and easily shared between disparate locations.

Rising to the Environmental Challenges of Today and Tomorrow

As global heating gains pace, it’s imperative that businesses act to safeguard the environment. If this action is to be effective, it’s vital that organizations focus on integrating their digital-transformation strategies and efforts with those aimed at increasing sustainability.

One key aim here is to transform existing business processes into a green, intelligent workflow. What’s more, to firmly anchor sustainable tech, organizations should cultivate an enterprise-wide culture of environmental sustainability.

The Way Forward

Many companies are well aware of the challenges of sustainability – as is evident from their ambitious climate goals. However, the CXOs in charge of corporate technology haven’t always been able to successfully deliver on them.

If we are to achieve these aims, we need to address an urgent twofold imperative: Not only must we make technology itself more sustainable; we must also use technology to become more sustainable ourselves. In addition, it’s important to remember that making the company more sustainable is only part of the picture. To achieve true sustainability, businesses must also focus on providing sustainable services and products.

Want to Know More?

As ever, if you’re interested in taking a deeper dive into sustainable technology and how your business can define and achieve its sustainability goals, feel free to reach out to me. And if you have your own ideas on this important topic, please share them in the comments.

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