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Towards digital sustainability – Start with the “three L” approach

Organisations of all sizes have been forced to rethink their businesses in terms of sustainability and resilience in the event of external shocks. Digitalisation is key in building a sustainable business and must be planted in every ambitious sustainability strategy. But where to begin?

Crises, like COVID-19 pandemic, have traditionally been profound catalysts for change, creating opportunities to gain new perspectives. Businesses that see digital sustainability not only as a tool but as an opportunity might be best placed to unlock new innovations and ignite unexpected collaborations.

Especially in the Nordics, we have sustainability thinking more or less built inside the business DNA. In other words, we know the basics but how does one transform a business into a sustainability champion by digital means? Based on the lessons out there in the field the “three L” approach seems evident:

1. Long-term digital vision:

Cut the short-term thinking in business strategy – how will climate change affect your industry in the long term? Bringing digital excellence and sustainable practices together should be at the forefront of strategic thinking for any business — as a way to differentiate itself and gain long-term viability among customers, regulators, and the communities where businesses operate.

2. Learn:

Recognise the places of improvement. Digital sustainability will not happen without conscious decisions. Digital technologies are currently often used to accelerate unsustainable trends, from more efficient ways to explore for and exploit new fossil fuel resources to ways to encourage people to overconsume. There are also new challenges related to privacy, cybersecurity, cyberbullying – but also spaces for reflection and the appreciation of experiences in nature. Therefore, businesses need to find ways to reconfigure their operations to help accelerate the transformation toward greater sustainability.

3. Lead (together):

Look around for opportunities to leverage your business ecosystem to help create a competitive advantage in a sustainability-focused world. Establish board-level digital and sustainability advisory units to ensure that boards understand AI and other digital technologies, including considerations of safety, values, ethics, and governance. Companies should also ensure that their digital strategies optimize the effect technology will have on sustainability outcomes, both to capture new business opportunities and to manage risks.

Data makes it possible to combine growth and sustainability

The age of big data offers solutions like automated data aggregation and visualization to support the sustainability objectives of the industry. In energy-intensive industries, such as construction, comprehensive, accurate, and timely data is necessary. With it, businesses can:

Another example can be found from the logistics sector where different route optimisation solutions can contribute significantly to reducing emissions from transport, whilst cutting the costs and improving time optimisation.

In addition, the shifts in consumer behaviour create market opportunities for sustainable alternatives, especially among GenZ consumers, who will determine the nature of consumption in the coming years. By using digital technology such as electronic tagging, companies can start to harvest data about demand, usage, and the life cycle of products for “circular economy” benefits.

Read more on how you can harness data to build digital sustainability with our help