What is Digital Sustainability?
Our current landscape is both exciting and daunting. On one hand, the rise of digital technology has opened up our world. It continues to empower us to connect with ideas, cultures, and activities that seemed distant even a couple of decades ago. However, we’re also facing a severely damaged environment. If our society doesn’t make urgent, meaningful change now, we are facing catastrophic irreversible effects of climate change.
There is a point at which these two aspects of our contemporary world meet. Digital sustainability is becoming a discussion point in business spheres. In essence, it is about exploring how the tools of our digital age can be designed, adapted, and directed toward addressing local and global sustainability targets.
But what does this affect businesses from a practical standpoint? Let’s take a closer look.
Understanding the Need
To make an impact on the environment through digital sustainability, it’s helpful to understand what it entails. Not just the methods involved, but also why this should be an important priority for your business.
In simple terms, digital sustainability for entrepreneurs is about using technologies in your day-to-day business dealings that positively impact the environment. This is a particularly apt approach to your company because it jives with existing priorities in an increasingly digitally reliant marketplace. Using tech to demonstrably make a difference in the world is in line with what customers find appealing in companies.
Many of the digital tools supporting sustainability are already useful for also pushing your consumer reach through marketing, and even strengthening your supply chain through efficiency software. So, from a commercial perspective, digital sustainability isn’t about actions that make operations less convenient or more disruptive; it’s more about leaning into tech protocols to enhance the positive effects in every area.
But why is this approach to sustainability vital at the moment? There is of course a sense of urgency. But leaving this aside, the imperative is also one of commercial survival. It doesn’t help our economy if the changes made to save the environment also cause crashes and make it impractical to operate. Digital sustainability is about adopting and sharing methods of sustainability to empower everyone to flourish. It prioritizes tools that are good for the environment, and widespread usage helps these not just develop as technology but also raises the standards of practices across all industries. Digital sustainability is important right now because it recognizes both the need for environmental improvements and to adopt protocols to help entrepreneurs succeed.
A key element of making digital sustainability work for your business is having a vigilant attitude to your operations. You need to take time to regularly assess the current status of your activities, your needs, and areas of environmental concern. If you have a large organization, it can be worth setting up a committee to do this. Populate it with representatives of each department, as they will have unique insights into what aspects can be improved with technology and where current environmental failings are. Even if you have a small business, creating a committee with diverse members of your team can provide you with perspectives on digital processes you may not have previously considered.
If you’re currently in the midst of your digital transformation, this can be a good opportunity to speak with software-as-a-service (SaaS) and hardware suppliers. Talk to them about what your needs are and about what developments are currently occurring that are both geared toward productivity and sustainability. Indeed, as part of the mutual spirit of accountability at the core of digital sustainability, it’s also important to understand what measures they’re using in their own businesses. Make partnership decisions based on their commitment to change and improvement.
Your efforts should also extend to your recruitment. After all, staff not on board with digital sustainability practices are not going to be effective additions. The good news is many job seekers are looking for careers to align with their personal ethical values. Indeed, among the strategies they’ll use to find these roles, they’ll be performing research into how the industry’s and individual companies’ operations demonstrate a high standard of moral and social values matching their own. As such you need to put information about your digital sustainability efforts on your website and include your environmental values on job postings. Look for resumes that show skills in digital practices and commitment to eco-friendly activities. This can help you to engage with the right people for your ongoing development.
Addressing the Challenges
As with any developing movement in business, digital sustainability is not without its challenges. While digital tools in themselves will often be solutions to problems, you also need to be cognizant of where they might present additional hurdles and how you can overcome them.
Some issues here include:
Businesses' growing reliance on technology also makes them vulnerable. Yes, digital tools can help to address environmental risks, but this isn’t going to be entirely positive if the methods also lead to attacks. As such, you’ll need to be vigilant about what digital tools in your systems create weak points that are attractive to cybercriminals. If you can’t engage a full-time cybersecurity expert, it can be wise to bring in a consultant to assess protocols on an annual basis or whenever you make significant changes. Providing staff with training on cyber sanitary behavior is vital too.
- Energy Efficiency
Making operations primarily digital can seem naturally environmentally friendly. After all, some businesses like online casinos use fewer resources than their physical counterparts. This doesn’t mean to say they’re entirely sustainable. Digital tools still sometimes require vast amounts of energy to operate — particularly if your company utilizes server farms or digital ledgers. As such, your focus also needs to be on choosing tools designed for energy efficiency and partnering with utility providers that use renewable sources.
Digital sustainability is an opportunity for businesses to build an industrial ecosystem that uses tools both passively and actively beneficial to the environment. As an entrepreneur, your engagement in this can benefit from regular vigilance and a meaningful assessment of how your operations can leverage the digital landscape. However, it’s just as important to be aware of the challenges and commit to practices that help you overcome them.
Ainsley Lawrence is a freelance writer with an interest in balanced living through education and technology. She loves travelling to beautiful places and is frequently lost in a good book.