Many digital business leaders already invest in cutting-edge technologies to drive business growth and maintain their competitive edge. However, they may be missing out on the opportunity to leverage these same technologies to improve the sustainability performance of their business. Are you familiar with digital sustainability and its possibilities?

Health crises, climate risk – the vulnerability of many industrial ecosystems has become painfully clear. Many are now mapping paths to future growth. I think a sustainable transformation of business models could offer a way for businesses to find new opportunities and avenues for growth for their future business. Different digital technologies benefit the environment, people – and business – through, for example:

  • Demand-response charging infrastructure in transportation
  • Optimised energy system forecasting
  • Analytics and automation for smart urban planning
  • “Hyperlocal” weather forecasting for crop management
  • Supply chain monitoring and transparency

Successful digital sustainability initiatives can improve risk management throughout the supply chains, build customer and employee loyalty and attract more a motivated workforce, for example.

Digital sustainability can improve financial performance through increased competitive advantage and innovation. It can also  help companies realise significant cost savings through better management of natural resources like water and energy, as well as minimising waste.

Sustainability can be a growth opportunity

By viewing digital sustainability through the lens of growth and opportunity, businesses can apply their creativity and innovation to tackle some sustainability challenges while also opening up new digital business models, strategies, products, and services. This translates into value-added and thus constitutes a business case for digital sustainability which recognises no borders. There is a need for these kinds of cases in the near future.

On the EU level 37% (EUR 265 bn) of the recently agreed Recovery Fund will be directed to fight climate change whilst all investments under the recovery fund will have to respect the emission thresholds laid out in the EU’s green finance taxonomy. 20% (EUR 134bn) of the funding will be focusing on digital initiatives, which sets a clear indication to which direction Brussels wants this recovery to go.

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What is digital sustainability?

Sustainability as a business concept can be defined as a set of ecologically safe and stable factors and principles that refer to the long-term perspective for social and economic development. Digital sustainability on the other hand is how technology is used to deliver sustainability and therefore represents a wide range of new opportunities to respond to these challenges.

Not all digitalisation is sustainable

Let us make it clear: digital does not automatically equal sustainability. In fact, a lot of digitalisation today aims to increase excessive consumption. This way, it accelerates unsustainable lifestyles and values. Most digitalisation contributes to either digital unsustainability or unsustainability. This is why, in my mind, digitalisation is one of the key features of every scenario for sustainable business practices and must be planted into every ambitious sustainability strategy.

 

The writer Jasmin Ahonen is a multi-talent Junior Advisor at Sofigate with a special skill of seeing business solutions where others see challenges. Her previous working experience in different Nordic countries and European Institutions ensures her ability to observe the business competitiveness in a bigger picture. Right now, she is very excited to innovate new sustainable and digital ways for businesses to exit the current crises.

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