Digital sustainability is the use of technologies in everyday business applications to improve the environment. The recent movement has gained traction as individuals around the world seek to limit the effects that technology can impose on the environment.
To achieve digital sustainability, organizations use digitalization. Businesses adopting digital sustainability as a goal can use digital processes, tools, and forecasting models to measure potential gains against the impact that their success might have on the environment. These same businesses can then work to mitigate any potential environmental impact of their operations, while still pairing consumers with valuable goods and services.
Several forces are behind digital sustainability initiatives, including attention to rising populations and the increasing demand for remote IT support software solutions. Ultimately, digital sustainability allows companies to use technology that protects the environment without compromising corporate success.
How Digital Sustainability Is Changing Business
Digital sustainability is changing the way that companies operate. Businesses are becoming increasingly eco-minded, aware of the effect that digital processes can have on environmental sustainability. At the same time, companies are beginning to value contributions to the environment, enabling digital sustainability strategies that account for customer and environmental needs alike.
Appeal to Consumer Attitudes
Companies must pay close attention to customer attitudes. After all, consumer opinions will often determine how they spend their money. It’s no surprise that when customers prioritize environmental conservation, companies will work to publicly prioritize sustainability.
Appealing to consumer attitudes means demonstrating — as a company — that you care about the same causes your customers care about. Sometimes, the drive to please customers will see a company take a certain political approach, or maintain a social agenda. A modern focus on sustainability and reducing one’s environmental impact means companies are working overtime to prove that they have similar interests.
Digital sustainability allows companies to reflect consumer interests without injuring their long-term output. Implementing digital strategies that reduce their environmental impact can improve a company’s long-term outlook.
The same strategies that contribute to a net-positive approach for the environment can also help businesses expand their customer targeting. In this way, companies that deploy digital sustainability strategies can also achieve an expanded reach.
Sometimes, the digital sustainability strategy that expands customer reach is a large initiative. For example, many film content companies like Netflix transitioned away from lending physical copies of DVDs and videotapes, instead offering a digitized platform where films can be accessed at any time. Regardless of a user’s proximity to the film distribution center, they could now enjoy access to quality, online content.
Their replacement of physical film copies with digital film copies eliminated the environmental impact of physical film distribution. They achieved greater digital sustainability while reaching new audiences, through an online library of the same high-quality films.
In other instances, companies can leverage digital sustainability structures to benefit remote teams. Many employers with a successful history of managing remote teams will opt for virtual meetings over in-person gatherings whenever possible. Remote meetings eliminate the need for transportation costs, and mitigate any effects that physical transportation might impose on the environment.
In the same way, digitized workspaces vastly reduce the need for the use of paper, ink, staples, and other office supplies that often end up in the garbage after a single use. The use of digital resources also has a directly positive impact on business operations: coworkers can simultaneously collaborate using the same online resources, files can be shared instantly, and internal company communication is streamlined.
Strengthening Supply Chains
Companies that offer consumer products often rely on supply chains to create and distribute their goods to customers. Traditionally, companies prefer to deliver goods to customers as quickly as possible, even if this speed comes at the price of compromising the environment.
Fortunately, digital sustainability offers a middle ground: companies can leverage technology to improve their supply chain processes, without harming local and non-local environmental settings alike.
Digital sustainability initiatives for supply chains often involve the increased use of automation. Automated technology can contribute to more effective processes while improving supply chain speed and virtually eliminating human error. Businesses that migrate their online databases to the cloud can also use fewer servers to achieve the same goals, reducing carbon emissions in the process.
How Digital Sustainability Is Affecting the Environment
Digital sustainability is quickly revolutionizing the way that many companies operate. Widely regarded as the newest pillar of business operations, sustainability has led many companies to enact digital sustainability strategies that reduce their overall environmental impact.
Many companies have also begun voluntarily reporting progress in these sustainability measures, even including details in public shareholder meetings or by volunteering the information to the public through corporate newsletters or social media.
More Resources for Consumers
Several solutions born from digital sustainability offer improved options for consumers. Increased digitization means that customers have access to more resources at their fingertips, whether that’s bank information, entertainment, or energy-use reports.
Vulnerability to Technology Failures
It’s worth noting that digital sustainability does offer potentially negative repercussions, both to businesses that enact them and customers who encourage them. Increased use of technology can sometimes mean larger consequences when technology fails. Similarly, companies that now house a majority of their secure files and finances online are now subject to cybersecurity threats.
Digital sustainability can also yield negative effects for society. To practice digital sustainability, many companies are implementing technological solutions to the problems they face. These solutions automate certain processes, displacing the workers traditionally performing those same jobs.
Business owners should seek a balance between digital sustainability and output. The challenge for any business today is finding ways to enable digital sustainability initiatives without crippling their profitability. Before fully pursuing digital sustainability, companies should consider the social impact, environmental consequences, and corporate effects that their efforts might have.
Examples of Digital Sustainability
Digital sustainability efforts can be found in a wide variety of industries today, especially in companies that offer client-facing services. Many businesses are actively investing in remote monitoring and management software, allowing them to simultaneously prioritize corporate success and environmental sustainability by streamlining IT support with the help of managed service providers.
These companies can sustain remote workforces — saving the environment from the energy use effects of an in-person office — while addressing employee IT issues through advanced IT automation, scripting, and patch management.
Digital sustainability efforts can come to define nearly any industry:
- Land use analysis technology can prevent land overuse and reduce deforestation;
- Intelligent recycling processes reduce landfill contributions and improve product reuse;
- Improved local weather forecasting leads to enhanced yearly crop outputs;
- Smart electrical grids control and reduce overall energy use in a residential or corporate setting;
- Lighting and heating fixtures respond to touchless input;
- Enhanced traffic systems and parking structures can reduce fossil fuel use and increase on-road safety.
These and other digital sustainability strategies represent a small portion of the ways that businesses are working to improve the well-being of their company, their customers, and their climate.