On the outside, businesses partaking in digital transformation can come off as self-serving. Sure, there are techniques and strategies that prove beneficial to a company’s customers, but digital transformation at its core is an opportunity to revamp business and organizational processes with digital technology that will ultimately improve a company’s bottom line. This is an inherently selfish act, right? Actually, all you naysayers, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Sustainability plays a monumental role when it comes to digital transformation, and is resolutely intertwined with many of the strategies that facilitate it. As more and more companies adopt digital transformation, opportunities are arising that could have tremendous alleviating impact on our planet.
For example, a report from the World Economic Forum states that there’s potential to avoid 26 billion metric tons of net CO2 emissions should the electricity, logistics and automotive industries proactively transform digitally. And that’s only from three industries! Meanwhile, it’s estimated that information and communication technologies could facilitate a 20% reduction in global carbon emissions by 2030. The Global e-Sustainability Initiative reinforces this claim, with their research showing digital technologies have huge potential to reverse this trend of high growth-high carbon.
This level of corporate social responsibility is something all companies should aspire to meet, especially as corporations have moved to the forefront of the sustainability movement as environmental policies become increasingly tangled in bipartisan politics. Now that the United States has backed out of The Paris Agreement, the responsibility to spearhead sustainability efforts and protect the planet falls even more heavily on corporations doing the right thing, according to former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich.
And why shouldn’t they? Not only does digital transformation allow companies to widely revamp their businesses to become more efficient, innovative and profitable, but simple techniques can have profound sustainable benefits on the environment while costing businesses next to nothing.
As more companies continue to digitally transform in 2018, here are five sustainable strategies that embody CSR:
1. Go Circular
To truly capitalize on all natural resources, the move toward a more circular economy is a must. This means that collaboration between resource suppliers and partners across the entire value chain must be strong in order to extract as much value from resources for as long as possible. Businesses can start applying circular economy pillars to their digital transformation strategies by creating new collaborative platforms that better link buyers to sellers (like Brightstar’s TradeIn recycling program), offering services based on leftover existing assets (i.e. logistics crowdsourcing their warehousing) and constructing products that are recyclable or reusable in nature (i.e. selling by-products to waste-to-energy plants).
2. Put Your Head (and Files) in the Cloud
This one is easy as pie in the sky. Adopting cloud storage and digital file management tools greatly eliminates the waste that comes from paper, saves you on traditional storage costs and provides more secure file management. Get the ease and security of instant document access by using the cloud, while saving trees in the process – it’s a win-win for everyone!
3. Prioritize Transparency
Emerging technologies like IoT and blockchain are great tools for better managing your supply chain, and can be leveraged to improve sustainability and reduce carbon footprints. How so? By automatically tracking the quality of suppliers, vendors and end-products remotely, and more efficiently planning production schedules, maintenance tickets and shipping routes in order to maximize both resources and time. For example, Nike invented an environment scenario tool that assesses the environmental and financial impact of changes to its supply chain. This CSR “scorecard” allows the shoe company to be fully transparent in how business operations impact the environment.
4. Get Smart with Tech
With cloud and mobile-related technologies allowing people to telecommute and work from home more seamlessly, this greatly reduces daily commuting emissions, office overhead costs and energy consumption. Smart, interconnected technologies like IoT, intelligent automation and machine learning tools rake in energy saving benefits, especially for energy guzzling facilities like data centers. In fact, Google cut the cooling bill for its data centers by 40% using automation and machine learning technology.
5. Set Sustainability Guidelines
While digital transformation greatly reduces the amount of physical waste and carbon emissions, it can still lead to an avalanche of unwanted e-waste. Setting up simple guidelines and best practices for the disposal of any e-waste that may result from digital transformation efforts will show your company is thinking responsibly about how it’s revamping its processes. Additionally, look into sourcing clean energy and improving the efficiency of data centers (as Google did) to further embody a sustainable state of mind.