Digital transformation officially has a higher purpose: saving our planet. Yes, the technology movement we credit with improving customer experience and changing the face of the modern business landscape has an even bigger calling. And it’s becoming increasingly clear that if companies don’t actively seek to make sustainability an integral part of their digital strategy, not only will those companies die out—the whole planet will.
Sounds dramatic? Consider this—throughout history, our economic growth has been tied to an increase in emissions and a greater use of natural resources. That’s not surprising. Bigger factories and more products naturally lead to higher emissions and consumption. Thus far, we haven’t been able to reverse that trend. Current estimates show that by 2030, there will be an 8 billion metric ton gap between supply and demand of natural resources. That gap means both lost resources and lost opportunity. Clearly, we’re at a crossroads. We need to be more intentional with our environment if we want to continue growing our businesses.
What’s this got to do with technology? Everything. Through digital transformation, we’ve already improved some of the waste and pollution associated with the workplace of the last 50 years. Most major companies have made sustainability pledges or policies, with some even mentioning how digital can aid sustainability. But moving forward, sustainability won’t just be a corporate goal—it will be a necessity. Indeed, it will likely become the most important thing companies can do to sustain their businesses, and our planet.
Even if you aren’t into “sustainability” or “environmental awareness,” I urge you to read on. The good news is that digital transformation and sustainability complement one another. In fact, I believe they go hand-in-hand in building a successful business:
Embracing Digital Communication and Saving Trees
One of the most obvious benefits of digital transformation is the fact that we’re scaling back on the use of paper—books, files, magazines, contracts—in lieu of digital communication and digital file management. Cloud storage helps eliminate paper waste and the overhead costs of traditional storage and secure shredding. It also makes accessing documents from anywhere even easier. See? Corporate responsibility: not that hard.
Embracing Mobility and Reducing Energy and Emissions
Which brings me to my second point. Perhaps nothing has defined digital transformation in the past few years as much as mobility. With document clouds and an increase in as-a-Service providers, employees can access important work-related software and files from virtually anywhere. This in turn increases the move toward telecommuting—and decreases the waste typically associated with the modern workplace: overhead costs, energy consumption, commute-time emissions, etc. In fact, unified communications providers have developed so many tools for mobile collaboration that employees can skip more than the commute. They can skip regular flights to company field offices or vendor quality inspections. Which brings me to my third point.
Improving Transparency and Saving Emissions and Waste
Using blockchain and other IoT technologies to help manage your supply chain, you’ll be able to automatically track the quality of your vendors, suppliers, and end products without ever leaving your office—or couch. What’s more, you’ll be able to more efficiently plan your shipping and transport routes, production schedules, and maintenance routines. This allows you to proactively avoid wasted time, product, and resources.
Creating Higher Profit Margins and Energy Efficiencies
And that brings me to my fourth point. Thanks to smart buildings and the Internet of Things (IoT), companies can greatly reduce their costs, especially when it comes to energy consumption. Today’s smart sensors and monitors know when rooms and building are not in use, and can automatically adjust the use of electricity, heating, and cooling air as needed. Google was about to cut its data center cooling bill by 40 percent using machine learning and automation. Digital transformation doesn’t just save resources—it saves a tremendous amount of money.
Chances are good you’re already contributing in some way. The goal is to make that contribution an even more intentional one. Think about sustainability from the concept and design stage of every project, be it an app, service, or product. As I’ve shared here before, your customers want you to take a stand on the issues that matter to them. Taking a leadership role in the fight for sustainability won’t just save money and resources—it will create customer loyalty among those who want to protect our planet.
Additional Articles on This Topic
Top Digital Transformation Trends in Government
The App Generation: Driving Change in the Future of Work
Can You Make Your Smart Factory Smarter? IoT Takes Quality to a New Level
This article was first published on Forbes.