The Rise of the Sustainable Enterprise

Throughout the pandemic, there has still been space for progress and innovation.

Roxane points out that this is evident, for example, through the development of plastic banks to combat plastics in the ocean, finding that electric lighting can be contextualised as a service rather than a product, the development of traceability in fashion and the accountability for open resources in the industry in general.

Throughout the pandemic, there has still been space for progress and innovation. Roxane points out that this is evident, for example, through the development of plastic banks to combat plastics in the ocean, finding that electric lighting can be contextualised as a service rather than a product, the development of traceability in fashion and the accountability for open resources in the industry in general. These taught us two things: that the digital and technology industries share a common goal in sustainability, and that innovation happens thanks to finding the right ingredients through the process.

Jacob explains that sustainability isn't just a conversation topic about environmental and social responsibility, but a point of action and business strategy. Citing the World Economic Forum, the top 5 business risks in 2020 were related to environmental challenges. In this context, businesses are also pressured by investors to be held to a higher standard.

IBM's own research results suggest that 80% of consumers say sustainability is important to them, whilst Cone Communications says 64% of millennials consider a company's social and environmental commitment when deciding where they should work.

The Business and Sustainable Development Commission considers the fight for sustainability is a  $12T global market opportunity.

How do we act on this? How can we develop a successful business strategy that considers sustainability?

Jacob explains that tech companies use big data in order to provide analytical and operational insight. One such example is smarter cities and the impact they make for citizens through tracking air pollution, weather data and using AI to spread this information. This kind of information is being used by hotels, airports, the hospitality industry and is evolving alongside technology.

How does this apply to travel and transportation?

Roxane shares that in discussions with her clients, this conversation comes up frequently. There are quotes toting it as the future, when in fact the change starts now.

Roxane expresses that data is of course used for reference, but it can also be applied to actions in order to make a difference as you can understand assets, energy consumption and maintenance better. Transparency with stakeholders is important as it levels the playing field, allowing for an open mind in mitigating risks and finding solutions to problems that affect everybody involved. Here, one concept that works is circularity, a cycle underpinning the whole travel ecosystem.

How do we link the work around digital transformation to sustainability?

Jacob elaborates that what's important to understand is that these digital technologies can begin to shape the very nature of a business model. Any prospective objective is in fact created in parallel with digital transformation.

There are 3 pillars that support an organisation-wide transformation:

  1. Sustainable Business Platforms - digitally-enabled platforms that support co-creation.
  2. Green and Intelligent Workflows - thinking about how you harness capabilities, create morale and reach the value you want your product to have.
  3. Enterprise Experience, Humanity and the Environment - considering all stakeholders and broadening the idea of enhancing experiences.

Jacob highlights Signify as an example of a highly successful innovator when it comes to this approach. Signify are the world leader in lighting for professionals and consumer, using digital technologies, they were able to use light-points as nodes for data to transform buildings, urban areas, homes and food production in order to increase energy efficiency.

Signify believes that moving to a new business model – lighting as a service – allowed the company to move lighting into a more circular economy.

Roxane elaborates on this process of transition. It isn't easy or streamlined, but rather a journey where influence creates success as well as unpredictable pitfalls. Today is a call for innovation and moving to a digital strategy, summed up through these visuals.

How do we bring these building blocks together in order to push the initiative?

A successful framework is one that considers innovation and collaboration. Roxane elaborates on this, a successful framework involves co-operation, co-creation and co-execution which combines these aspects: culture, learning, discovering, envisioning, developing, operating, and reasoning. Considering all of these can create something that makes sense and works alongside the design thinking methodology.

Design thinking considers the users and value at its core, this is extremely present in the fight for sustainability. Design thinking is a creative process, allowing for open minds and suggestions on a smaller-scale reiterative basis.

Why do we need to use these tools more than ever before?

One argument is speed: the efficiency of the process in which innovation can take place, as well as quantity. Understanding what these tools and resulting frameworks can bring to your organisation and end-users is important – directly giving higher value as a metric for how you help the planet and its people.

With these in mind, it's important to keep the main prerogative in mind: how does this framework fit into your organisation so that everybody is on the same page? A unified approach will further improve production and naturally provide a good base before developing ideation.

Key Takeaways

1. Use big data in order to properly put objectives into perspective, then use this data in order to curate an aligned strategy amongst your team

2. Transitioning business plans and operations is a process, there will not be an instant change or result due to the nature of what it involves. Consider design thinking in order to have a guideline for this process

Published on:
December 2020
About the contributor

Jacob Dencik

Jacob is the Global Economic Research Leader in the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV). Jacob is responsible for leading the IBV’s research on topics related to technology and implications for the global economy.

Roxane Kaempf

With a background in the start-up world and sustainable tourism, Roxane currently works at IBM as a Strategy & Innovation Consultant. In this area of focus, she supports her clients - such as BSH, a leading Chemicals company, a Belgian Bank.