Sustainability has become a key concept and goal for many businesses, with customers, employees, and other stakeholders prioritizing a responsible and forward-thinking approach to the global environment. Technology also provides modern mechanisms to integrate sustainability throughout a business’s practices and operations. There are multiple practices and focal points embraced by companies focusing on integrated sustainability – both for 2023 and the future.
Environmental sustainability intends to address the climate crisis, meeting targets to protect life on Earth while also allowing businesses, technology, and humanity to thrive for many years and millennia. Integrated sustainability involves bringing sustainability into all aspects of life and society, with businesses and social institutions changing and refining their practices to meet development goals.
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Businesses’ role in achieving global goals
There is broad support for achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals — set by the UN General Assembly in 2015 — but many organizations and institutions may be unclear about how they can contribute to achieving those goals; this is especially true if there is not a significant national-level commitment to such endeavors.
However, a growing number of customers — both institutional and individual — value environmental stewardship and sustainability when selecting the right vendor. Indeed, many agencies and municipalities require meeting certain benchmarks of environmental sustainability when selecting a contractor for a particular account or service. Integrated sustainability does not need to impose a burden on economic growth. Recent studies estimate that taking action to protect the climate could add up to $3 trillion to the U.S. economy in the next 50 years.
Customers look toward environmental metrics
In recent decades, businesses have focused more on sustainability-oriented metrics and reporting. Last year, according to McKinsey, over 90 percent of S&P 500 companies published ESG reports in some form, as did approximately 70 percent of Russell 1000 companies – a considerable jump from past years. In addition, investors also look at integrated sustainability when choosing stocks to prioritize, while specialized funds have grown to seek out companies that actively pursue environmental, social, and governance issues.
Integrated sustainability is part of an overall approach to your business, bringing technology and sustainability together for the best results. As a growing number of business leaders say that climate change has impacted their initiatives, they are also facing demands and requests from customers to show that their approach is beneficial to the planet’s future.
Harnessing customer experience for improved results
By actively reaching out to customers to obtain feedback about the areas of environmental sustainability that are most important to them, businesses can help to identify key priorities for their own efforts. For businesses in B2B services, learning about the environmental and climate targets for customer businesses can impact their plans for sustainability. This kind of information can help companies to prioritize specific efforts that will have the greatest effect on customer satisfaction and their likelihood of selecting the company as a contractor or vendor.
Considering how a company’s mission fits into environmental and climate goals can be a key step to achieving integrated sustainability. After all, the mission itself of the company and its core work generally can also offer some kind of environmental benefit, especially in the tech sector, healthcare sector, and other key industries. Building longer-lasting, reliable products can reduce waste, for example, and improving efficiency can reduce unnecessary energy use; this means that core values for improving quality and ease of use can also provide net-positive climate benefits, helping the business to achieve its goals and providing important information for end-user and customers.
Integrating sustainability throughout development lifecycles
To this end, incorporating integrated sustainability into the development process for new products can play a major role in reaching a company’s environmental goals. Improving manufacturing processes, selecting climate-neutral options when choosing vendors, and improving efficiency are all important methods of enhancing sustainability and including it throughout the pipeline and culture of a business. A company’s design and development philosophy can include the impact on climate and a sustainable product. When compiling information as part of their development process, corporate leaders have the information they need to make the right decisions on the micro level as well as the macro level.
Many businesses continue to separate their earnings goals and technology visions from their sustainability goals; this can lead to environmental and climate initiatives siloed into their company sector rather than becoming integrated throughout a business’ overall vision. According to one accounting firm’s study, only 7 percent of businesses last year integrated their strategies for business, technology, and sustainability into one overall approach.
Technology leadership can be key to sustainability
Integrating technology as part of sustainability is particularly important, as technological advancements often offer routes to improved efficiency that can be key to achieving sustainability goals. Rather than compromising on business growth or technological advancement to meet sustainability goals, businesses can advance on all three levels simultaneously by pursuing an integrated strategic approach. While company leaders working on technology, such as Chief Information Officers (CIOs), have a great deal to bring to the conversation on sustainability, they are often not part of key task forces and initiatives. These individuals are usually not assessed on climate or environmental goals due to these misconceptions.
By keeping technology and tech leaders at any company in the loop for sustainability initiatives, businesses can help to ensure that sustainability is truly integrated into technological development; this includes harnessing technological advancements to reach net-zero climate targets, measuring climate footprint, and improving efficiency. Many organizations have found that artificial intelligence and advanced algorithms are key to improvements and achievement of goals in emissions reduction.
Energy efficiency is particularly important, from pursuing renewables to improving how advanced components use and process power. For some companies, a green software development approach has been key in achieving goals, one that integrates energy sources and efficiency into the development and production of software that is less of a burden on the environment and leads to fewer emissions.
Integrated sustainability is a collective challenge
Of course, even the most advanced companies cannot go it alone when it comes to achieving global goals for technology. Truly integrated sustainability can not only be integrated within one company but within an industry or a society for the best possible results. Industry collaborations and associations setting joint goals for climate targets working alongside public-private partnerships and government leadership and task forces can provide the combination of resources, commitment, and innovation necessary for a truly integrated approach to our planet’s future.