Sustainability and Digital Transformation: how to innovate responsibly?

4 min

Digitizing business processes, connecting devices, and investing in new technologies can be done without losing sight of environmental, social, and cultural sustainability? Yes, but only if we know the elements to be involved in the change and the real effect of our actions. Let’s find out how sustainability and digital transformation can walk hand in hand in companies that act responsibly. 

How do you combine Sustainability and Digital Transformation?

The impact of technology on the environment is a much-debated topic. In fact, even today, there are still questions about how to balance business productivity with environmentally sustainable choices. The transformation of business processes, from analogical to digital, generates greater efficiency, but it is not always eco-sustainable. Consequently, understanding the link between Digital Transformation and Sustainability is an important step to define the guidelines to follow in a Strategic Sustainability Plan.

Where to start? From the foresight of a sustainability-conscious CEO or manager who will feel, in any change, the weight of social responsibility. When embarking on the journey of digital transformation, one must inevitably consider the consequences as well. Many actions will impact people, the environment, and society as part of the same ecosystem. Basically, it is true that the first assessments will be made by executives in the strategic phase, but then the actions will be carried out by employees. Let’s not forget that in this process, all stakeholders, internal and external to the company, will be involved and will share a slice of that social responsibility.

Sustainability and Digital Transformation

The countless variables to be considered make it complicated, if not impossible, to assess the real impact of technologies on the environment. In addition, society is constantly changing. Therefore, when deciding to transform any business process, thorough data analysis is required to assess the final impact.

An example? Video calling. During the pandemic, we saw a significant change in the organization of business meetings. In-person meetings were replaced by online sessions thanks to the many platforms that allowed for interaction similar to what would happen in person. The effects of this change have been multiple: in addition to saving the company, air and road traffic has also decreased. Therefore, less pollution, but also fewer rooms booked, fewer dinners in restaurants, and a whole series of chain effects that, in the long run, have modified behavioral and consumption habits.

The same applies to smart working. A transformation that is reflected not only on business costs, with the reduction of space, but also impacts the employee’s private and working life.

A Digital Transformation path oriented to sustainability is not easy to achieve because it requires a synergistic orchestration of people, processes, cultures and business choices. Click To Tweet

As a result, we can see that it is not easy to keep the balance. It is important to put all the data we obtain during the initial strategic assessment on the Sustainability and Digital Transformation plates. The focus should then shift to analyzing the current context in which the company operates and the future forecast.

Verifying the sustainability of digital processes

Digital innovation acts on performance by optimizing processes and resources. And this is the positive aspect. However, we must never lose sight of the effects generated on the environment directly and on society indirectly. For example, digital processes consume much more energy than analogical processes. If this energy is not supplied by renewable sources, we cannot say that we have innovated sustainably.

Analyzing the Status Quo

Before embarking on any path of change in the company, it is important to first analyze the current scenario. It is necessary to examine processes, machinery, and actions, and only in this way will it be possible to have an initial estimate of the current degree of sustainability. This assessment serves, upstream of innovative investment, to understand what to maintain and what to renew. We will never be able to make a process sustainable if we do not act on the individual elements that compose it, whether they are production machinery or PCs.

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Enhancing collective intelligence

Investing in a path of sustainable innovation, which in the long term generates improvements, requires not only the economic capacity to do so but also and above all mindset. The entrepreneur must be highly motivated to succeed in transmitting his enthusiasm to employees who will be the key players in this process. Aiming at sustainability for companies means choosing energy from renewable sources, buying efficient machinery, but also consuming less paper and using biodegradable glasses.

Savings and daily attention to sustainability can only be achieved by involving employees.

An intelligence distributed everywhere: this is our starting axiom. No one knows everything, everyone knows something, the totality of knowledge resides in humanity.

Quote by Pierre Lévy from “Collective intelligence”.

Being guided by common sense

Deciding to transform your firm in a sustainable way is an important change, and it makes no sense to do it just to comply with a piece of legislation. The risk of implementing only the changes required by law to access funds would, in the long run, turn into an unnecessary waste of money. CEOs who want their firms to make a real leap forward need to be guided by common sense.

In general, technological changes and advances are essential for the economic improvement of the company. But they are not enough in a green perspective where the difference is made by individuals with common sense, capable of understanding how to minimize their social impact.

Today, decision-makers cannot avoid assessing business risks and ESG ratings (or sustainability ratings), i.e., all those metrics that express values related to the environment, social, and governance. The acronym includes the perfect synergy of responsible financial investments that consider: environmental, social, and above all, good governance impacts.

A proper synergy between Sustainability and Digital Transformation can be implemented only if the CEO, like a skilled master of the orchestra, conducts and coordinates all the actions and elements of change.

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