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Sustainability: The Key To Future Business Growth

With enhanced globalization in recent times, the concept of Sustainability has graduated from being a support function to becoming the nucleus of a profitable enterprise.

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Businesses across the globe have recognized that embracing sustainability is no longer a choice. They realize that they need to be mindful of their operations in order to maintain overall profitability.  

Climate change is one of the most imminent threats that has unprecedented implications on how people live, work and play. Changes in temperature and weather patterns, and the rising sea levels are putting the existing ecosystem at risk. Corporates and the civil society need to be collectively aware of and own the changes immediately.  With enhanced globalization in recent times, the concept of Sustainability has graduated from being a support function to becoming the nucleus of a profitable enterprise.

Sustainable development is the need of the hour

Ever wondered as to what has led to this shift in businesses pursuing meaningful business profitability? What has transpired behind the scenes of this dynamic digital age that has forced the leaders to review their strategies and ensure that they do what they are doing in a more responsible way? Well, the answer is simple - “There is no business on a dead planet”.

The rise in population and the subsequent increase in the demand for energy resources and supplies has led to serious environment concerns. Waste creation and disposal have also become a major challenge for civilizations to survive. With the issue of climate change looming large and increased pressure on limited natural resources, more organizations are embracing sustainable business practices to maintain their overall long-term growth. 

Increased focus on people, planet, profit = New possibilities for the future 

With an astute focus on people, planet and profitability, sustainability is all about meeting the requirements of the current generation as well as facilitating the future for the upcoming ones. Going beyond purely financial conversations, this concept of Triple Bottom Line focuses on the development in the social and environmental value of a business, thus opening many possibilities to re-imagine the future. 

Embracing a circular economy

In a circular system, resource input and waste, emission, and energy leakage are minimized. 

Organizations and management have to look towards new ways of operations that focus on optimal inputs usage, energy and resource usage, recycle and reuse the waste that is generated. To achieve that, organizations will need the right skills in design, more dependence on IT and new business models. Cross-sector collaborations are also required to create dynamic usage of waste for one sector as inputs to other processes and sector. 

Digital sustainability:  New avenues 

With digital being at the core of every business today, there is immense opportunity for IT to make a positive impact across all industries. 

Digital revolution or evolution is adding more technological armaments in the hands of people, cities and organizations to look at creative ways to save energy and fuel consumption and waste management. People are adopting car sharing apps that are is reducing per capita fuel utilization. Organizations are adopting robotic process automation to make processes faster and paperless. 

New digital innovations like artificial Intelligence have the potential to save the planet. A new field of ‘climate informatics’ is coming up that uses the phenomenal power of AI to understand the impact of climate change and impact of human interventions on bio-diversity. It can be used to develop smart agriculture by apt crop selection, smart distribution of fertilizers and pesticides based on demand. 

Electric and autonomous vehicles will save our planet from excessive fuel consumption and carbon emissions. 

The new call-to-action for companies undergoing digital reinvention therefore is to consider environment and social welfare factors right at the strategy and planning stage and extend the scope of sustainability practices beyond traditional IT operations.

Green IT: Way towards sustainability

According to a recent report, information and communications technology (ICT) devices, such as IT-enabled smart grids and buildings have the potential to deliver a 20% reduction in global carbon emissions by 2030, and over $11 trillion in new economic benefits. 

Data centers globally are one of the biggest contributors to CO emissions. Companies today are thereby adopting ‘Green IT solutions’ like virtualizations, star rated equipments, and electronic waste management towards saving their carbon emissions. There is lot more that we can do: 

  • Buy energy efficient products, use sensors across the organization to measure consumption 
  • Change printer configurations to use less paper and ink
  • Encourage employees to use telecommuting, teleconferencing and video conferencing technologies 
  • Energy smart grids and power management software

Eco-entrepreneurship or ecopreneurship 

In the long run, entrepreneurs with a keen business sense and an intent for eco-innovation (inventions that help solve environment issues) will reap the rewards. As per an industry report, companies with a focus on eco-innovation are growing at an annual rate of 15% at a time when many competitors remain flat. 

Social Warriors or Entrepreneurs 

Social entrepreneurs are a common man’s advocates who leverage the power of market forces and business principles to solve social problems in ways that benefit the marginalized. Social warriors outline a compelling thought that businesses can be a suitable vehicle to create economic value as well as build a fair and equitable society.

It's time for all hands on the deck

Everyone has a role to play in shaping a sustainable future and each one of us needs to do their bit in securing our shared resources and solving the climate change puzzle. Increased collaboration between the government and the private and public sectors can help break down barriers to sustainable growth. 

What matters today is the way businesses build their successes in sustainable practices and initiatives to pursue similar improvements across new digitized processes and business models. This requires industry-wide collaborations with partners across the value chain.

Achieving inclusive growth at a global level calls for multi-pronged sustainable interventions and for that to happen organically, we need to cultivate a fresh-thinking approach.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Sandeep Chandna

The author isChief Sustainability Officer, Tech Mahindra

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