Global enterprises have renewed their focus on resilience and anti-fragility as they start to accelerate future plans. Resilience is not a new concept. In years past it’s been synonymous with the word sustainable. Although sustainability has since taken on new meaning, it’s important to consider how the two words are related, how businesses can address them together, and how technology can play a role in both at a time when organizations are relying on digital innovations to drive new growth.
Tech professionals — being experts in complex and co-dependent relationships — have an acute understanding of the interrelated nature of platforms, value chains and ecosystems. Similarly, sustainability professionals have a holistic view of operations and supply chains as they seek to address the “triple bottom line” of people, planet and profit. It makes sense, then, to identify new and better ways companies can leverage their diverse technology investments to advance their equally diverse sustainability objectives for business outcomes.
Investing in People and Their Wellness
Modern enterprises understand the power of data and analytics. Facts and actionable insights are key to creative insights and enabling smart, timely decisions. Traditionally, companies analyze data to evaluate and improve conception, production, sales, marketing, customer experience or other “external” aspects of their business. Yet applying those same methodologies to innovation throughout their internal processes can enable enterprises to accelerate and sustain their teams’ wellness.
By investing in digital platforms and resources that focus on training and professional development, businesses can empower employees to carve out their own career paths based on personal goals, capabilities and interests. Using data generated by employee surveys and behaviors, companies can gain granular insights into their ambitions and situations, and provide them with pathways that align with their individual objectives and situations. By leveraging data for traditionally HR-related functions, employees — and their families — can enhance their ability to be professionally, emotionally and physically healthy.
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Committing to Environmental Sustainability
IT professionals know that every component of a networked system is connected and dependent upon another. Like digital networks, everything in our human lives is connected to the natural environment in critical ways. This reality is a call to arms for the tech industry, whose talents and platforms can play key roles in how people and businesses create sustainable value, communicate and improve their communities.
Much needs to be done to address the climate crisis. Digital technology can help in transformative and pragmatic ways. For example, AI can help plan and optimize delivery routes to reduce fossil-fuel consumption. Intelligent sensors predict and manage optimum lighting and power usage based on usage for efficient use of energy. Predictive analytics can scale-up or scale-down production lines based on known and anticipated trends.
Digital technology can play a substantial role in supply chain sustainability, which touches everything from product design and manufacturing to transportation and retail. While achieving a more sustainable supply chain can reduce labor costs by 50%, it can also trim material usage by 20%. It also helps in recovery and recycling, providing a great source of raw materials for new products. So, as many companies consider digital solutions for operational and fiscal benefits, those same solutions can deliver environmentally beneficial results as well.
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Ensuring Fiscal Responsibility
The third “p” in the triple bottom line — profit — sometimes has negative connotations, but fiscal responsibility is often overlooked as part of a company’s sustainability journey. If a corporate initiative is not financially viable, it will by definition be unsustainable and prone to failure or cancellation. Technology can help companies address the “people” and “planet” aspects as outlined above, yet one of its greatest strengths is helping organizations ensure their fiscal responsibility.
AI, for example, enables businesses to better manage and track inventory — a common bottleneck to cash flow and supply chains — which reduces costly warehousing and overhead expenditures and accelerates shipments and revenue streams. Companies can further leverage AI to use trusted data sets for predictive models and forecasts, allowing businesses to optimize processes, eliminate bottlenecks, and predictively mitigate the impact of disruptions.
Digital technologies also can connect isolated business process islands, empowering managers and decision-makers with actionable insights that imbue their decision-making with a new level of enterprise intelligence.
To become truly sustainable, companies must leverage digital innovations to advance all three pillars of sustainability: people, planet and profit. Ensuring the three pillars gain traction across geographies and economies requires an unprecedented level of collaboration among businesses, industries, nations and governments. However, with an inspired sense of purpose — propelled by effective leaders and innovative technologies — we can move sustainability forward, together, toward shared progress.