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How to put sustainability at the centre of your digital transformation

In 2024 we must keep pace with developments in systems and environmental legislation. The answer is making sure climate change and emissions are key factors in your organisation’s tech decisions. 

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Sustainability has become one of the largest considerations for businesses worldwide. 96% of G250 companies now report on sustainability or environment, social and governance [ESG] matters. When it comes to digital transformation and technological upgrades, considering and mitigating environmental impact has never been more important. 

‘Developing your digital transformation strategy has many considerations, but one that you shouldn’t neglect is the impact it can have on the environment,’ says Chris Weston, CDIO at UK IT digital services specialist Jumar.

‘Integrating sustainability into a digital transformation program is not just about reducing environmental impact,’ he continues. ‘It’s about future-proofing your business, enhancing efficiency, and meeting the expectations of customers and stakeholders in an increasingly eco-conscious world.’

So, how can we ensure our organisation keeps pace with technology, without adding to its footprint? 

Why include a sustainability strategy in your digital transformation?
Businesses don’t just have an ethical responsibility to manage their sustainability, but they also now have the added pressure of government legislation to comply with. As climate change continues, the UK government has issued a net zero plan – looking for the decarbonisation of all sectors by 2050. This strategy pulls into focus the changes and successes of businesses in their sustainability goals m. This means adopting a sustainability strategy in every aspect of operations is more important than ever.

‘It is projected that the total demand for computing power might raise up to 20% of the global demand for energy by 2030,’ says Andy Beardshaw, Head of Development at Jumar. ‘Organisations will be increasingly measured on their carbon footprint by regulators or by customers who are made to, or decide to, measure their downstream emissions. Taking a sustainable approach to digital transformation allows them to make improvements in this area as part of existing change programmes.’

Sustainability, in all areas of your business, isn’t only good for your reputation or reducing the impact you’re having on the environment. It can also be beneficial to your business in other ways. This can include improving efficiency across your business, reducing costs, and maintaining regulatory compliance.

How to include sustainable thought in your digital transformation

Take a holistic approach
Sustainability cannot be an afterthought in your business strategy, but it must factor into every consideration and change. Taking a holistic approach to sustainability ensures that you’re considering the environmental impact of every process. It isn’t enough to only consider how to reduce energy consumption; you must also consider the lifecycle of your equipment, the social impact of how your business operates and the economic sustainability of your organisation.

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Consider the overall business strategy
Digital transformation is meant to improve your business efficiency through better systems and processes. If sustainability is a business goal, modernising your technology can have a benefit, but it needs to fit into your overall business strategy. Implementing a sustainability strategy can only be successful if it complements your business goals. Forcing a strategy which doesn’t benefit your business will only lose time, money, and resources.  

Maintain the user experience
While focusing on and improving your sustainability can improve your business’ reputation, you cannot compromise the user experience. A good digital transformation process will put your customers at the forefront of the strategy. Developing an overly complex or poorly designed interface in the name of reducing energy will only contribute to more squandered time, energy, money, and resources. Ensuring you’re considering accessibility and the user experience when planning your digital transformation, alongside your sustainability considerations, will deliver the best balance for your strategy.

Improve your data practices
One way to reduce your energy consumption and improve efficiency within your business is by improving data practices. Your business has an ethical responsibility for the treatment data, which is a key component of a sustainable strategy. Ensuring your processes and systems are up-to-date, secure, and have the right privacy in place is essential for a sustainable and responsible business model. Not only can the mistreatment of data result in wasted energy consumption, but it can also lead to cyberattacks, regulatory fines, and damaged reputations.  

Encourage personal responsibility
A sustainability strategy in digital transformation can only work if everyone involved is in agreement. This involves all stakeholders including customers, suppliers, partners, and employees alike. Technology and sustainability requirements are ever-evolving, so a sustainable digital transformation requires regular feedback to continually improve the strategy, safety, and efficiency of your processes. This way everyone in the business has the same sustainability goals, which is essential for the success of your strategy.

Sustainability in business is a focus for many as climate change continues and governments look at sectors to reduce their carbon footprints. One way you can reduce your carbon emissions is by developing a digital transformation strategy around your sustainability goals – taking into account the user experience, business goals, and safety of data for a successful strategy.

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Image: Jonathan Ybema (top) / Niclas Illg (bottom)

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