How to create a sustainable digital business

The two main challenges facing businesses today are easy to identify

The first, COVID-19, has accelerated an already pressing need for digital transformation, forcing many organizations to introduce hybrid work models at breakneck speed. Second, beyond the pandemic, there is a growing awareness that our planet is threatened by an increasingly urgent climate crisis. This makes a more sustainable approach to business absolutely essential.

There is no doubt that taking steps to address these challenges should be the top priority for forward-looking businesses. In fact, decisive action is needed – and it is needed now. But organizations should avoid tackling digital transformation and sustainability as separate agenda items. It is mutually beneficial to tackle them in tandem. Benefits and green credentials can be improved by reducing overall waste and optimizing energy efficiency.

A company-wide strategy is needed to make it a success. But IT teams will play a particularly important role in assessing their organization and building sustainable digital transformation to create future resilience. It involves balancing the needs of profit with people and the planet.

So how can you, as a digital leader, go about it?

Sustainable digital transformation in action

Before embarking on a sustainable digital transformation initiative, take stock of the current state of your organization and the relative success of all previous efforts. This is essential for effective goal setting – you need to have a good understanding of baselines in order to assess the results of any changes you make. Measurement is also crucial because it allows you to demonstrate the business value of your efforts. This, in turn, allows you to secure buy-in at the board level, which is a prerequisite for projects of this nature.

Once you have a good understanding of current performance, it’s time to take a closer look at the digital business ecosystem. In most companies, digital is the lifeblood. It has its roots in the fabric of the organization which develops in the service and supply chains that support business processes. It also enables interactions and facilitates meaningful customer relationships that retain loyalty year after year.

So assess how your data is structured, stored and accessed. While ensuring that all are optimized to minimize environmental impact, while delivering maximum value to the entire organization.

Offer an eco-responsible experience

As customers become more environmentally conscious, it makes sense to provide them with an online experience that enhances your green credentials across all leading digital touchpoints and makes it easier for consumers to make the right choice. Consumers and investors are increasingly willing to vote with their wallets and walk away from companies that don’t care about the planet. Becoming a truly green company is therefore crucial for its survival.

But don’t forget that digital is also ubiquitous in the physical customer experience: it’s the mobile application with integrated loyalty programs that offers contextual offers to customers based on their preferences. This includes digitizing customer service through automation and intelligent services such as chatbots.

Using methods such as service design, you can define the complete end-to-end experience. This not only helps you create optimal experiences for your customers and build better operations to support their interactions; you can also avoid any unintended consequences and limit waste.

Fix back-end inefficiencies

Behind the scenes, digital encompasses your broader domain, including technical infrastructure, web hosting, data, and artificial intelligence (AI). There are a wide range of areas where you can review and identify inefficiencies and then rectify them.

With the exponential increase in technological innovations: AI, Internet of Things (IoT), cloud, blockchain and more, data can be used to expose insights that underpin new opportunities and solutions to existing problems. The combination of the critical application of data and the adoption of new technologies can shape business practices and help create a sustainable business.

On the other hand, inefficiencies in legacy data strategies and data management approaches, which prevent data from being used to its full potential, are both an organizational and environmental loss. Your IT team should aim to revamp data collection, storage, and query in the most sustainable and energy-efficient way possible.

This involves bringing the latest thinking to data, enabling it to work better across the enterprise through a combination of visualizing data as a commodity and democratizing it through data marketplaces and self-service. By giving employees on-demand access to data and information, you can increase product and service innovation, which increases revenue while increasing operational efficiency and reducing operational costs.

Take away keyYes

The convergence of digital transformation with sustainability is an imperative for all organizations and needs to be addressed urgently. Digital technology provides the platform to reshape art

possible, inspire new innovation and enable people to collaborate on the most pressing problems known to mankind. It is the platform needed to facilitate environmental sustainability.

Digital transformation on its own can seem like a daunting task – combining it with sustainability seems even more so. But it is not necessary. Simply identify the major issues and decide which element to tackle first, based on your strategic imperatives and the larger needs of the climate emergency.

A “do nothing” approach will not work for your business, the planet or its people. By adopting a more progressive attitude, companies can emerge from this process stronger, more agile and more sustainable than before.

About the Author

Lindsay Ratcliffe is Product Manager at Kin + Carta Europe.

Featured Image: ©Malp

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