As our awareness of environmental, societal and governance issues has increased and evolved over the years, so has the sense that these elements should play a crucial role in overall business strategies. Sustainability isn't simply a ‘nice to have' anymore.
CXOs I speak to across business types and industries are increasingly focusing on sustainability as a route to boosting shareholder value in their companies. An IDC European Services Survey in 2020 revealed that almost two thirds (60%) of European organisations say they rank sustainability as a top business priority. A third (33%) said that sustainability and climate related goals are integral to their corporate strategy.*
If sustainable practices and processes are in place, the business benefits are vast:
- Employees and potential employees will be more attracted to a business with clear sustainable values
- Customers in both the B2C and B2B space will want to be associated with businesses with robust sustainability measures in place
- Sustainable businesses are more attractive to investors, who will increasingly put premiums on companies that are forward looking and view progress against sustainability as a safeguard against risk.
The business world is becoming ever more focused on quantitative assessment of impacts across environmental, social and governance matters. In fact, in a recent and positive move, companies have now begun reporting on their sustainability achievements and targets as frequently and thoroughly as they report on financial and operational matters.
This approach is also being formalised by widespread international acknowledgement of the importance of sustainability, social equality and governance. The UN's specific Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) were developed and adopted by all UN member states in 2015 to help businesses to cement their sustainability objectives and make them a core part of their overall business strategy.
The need for digitisation
Although the issue of sustainability itself is being taken very seriously, what's often missed in the conversation is the importance of information and the ‘resilience' aspect of sustainability.
Collecting and analysing key data and communicating these insights consistently and clearly throughout businesses plays a huge role in the overall push to achieve sustainable operations.
There is a need for a single, consistent data model and one consistent platform to enable progress. This enables companies to know more about their businesses, connecting disparate parts together in a meaningful way, and to build applications that provide greater understanding and ability to drive impact.
Some of the use cases we are seeing include:
- The integrated oil company moving towards a lower carbon form of energy production that needs a clear, consistent understanding of what the overall carbon intensity is, and can model and report this impact easily.
- The retail company that requires visibility of provenance across all parts of the supply chain, and an understanding of where risks and challenges may reside.
- And especially critical right now, the government agencies working with the healthcare industry to plan for the most efficacious way of rolling out unheralded volumes of vaccines in as rapid a manner as possible.
In terms of specific technologies, AI is becoming central in how businesses are adopting sustainability. Companies are using AI technologies to model out the impact of different scenarios, enabling them to choose the option that will optimise business and sustainability outcomes in an integrated way across their operations.
By identifying key data and developing simple yet critical applications, you can enable risk management teams to work much more proactively on identifying trends, working in a much more dynamic way than was ever possible before.
The benefits of digitisation
For these information flows to work efficiently and deliver on the sustainability agenda, a digitised approach is crucial. Digital technologies, such as the Now Platform, help businesses break down and unlock some of the big barriers to making progress on their sustainability (and profitability) goals.
- Digital processes mean that you can have a single source of truth on critical metrics, eliminating unnecessary siloes and inconsistencies in data and reporting.
- Joined-up, digital workflows allow for transparency and consistency across different business units, meaning information is simple, accurate and accessible.
- Digitisation allows businesses to align and sync with companies in related ecosystems and purchasing chains, again making the flow of information work faster and more effectively.
All of this is about simple, reliable flows of work and information. As we continue to navigate the challenges and opportunities that lie at our door on route to a more sustainable future, we can do so in the knowledge that intelligent, digitised frameworks and workflows can help get us there faster.
*Source: IDC, Sustainability Becoming a Differentiator for Services Companies, EUR246144520, Mar 2020.