We’re often told that the key to driving sustainable thinking within a business is to gain a firm commitment from the CEO. In my experience, although the CEO’s commitment is a vital step, creating real change requires transforming this commitment into action. Looking at how business practices can be improved takes both innovation and the capabilities to make this a reality.
In a study by the UN Global Compact and Accenture, 91 percent of CEOs reported that their company would employ new technologies to help meet their sustainability goals. In an age where all of our lives have been touched by the use of information and communications technology, it makes sense that our instinct is to turn to technology for answers when it comes to business transformation. This means that businesses need to look at their IT departments as a function that can drive transformational and sustainable change, instead of adopting the all-too-common approach of treating it as a cost center and a consumer of energy.
IT and sustainability professionals share common characteristics and aspirations. Both are passionate about their field of work, and both want to make a genuine difference within the business. More often than they realize, both sets of goals are aligned – just the language used is very different. Sustainability professionals can be inconsistent in the way they express their aims (EMC’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Kathrin Winkler writes a great blog on this topic), and the IT industry is too often full of jargon, which can make it difficult to agree on – and align – strategies. In this situation, the simplest approach is to look at how IT can address three areas that are both an economic and environmental drain on a business: travel, energy and waste.
Providing technology is only part of the answer, however. To really make changes, a business must have a program in place to ensure that the technology is adopted, that any cultural change to the business is carefully managed and that savings are quantified. The lack of adoption or of a quantifiable business case can quickly eliminate any potential benefits.
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Driving organizational change is a both a challenge and a necessity − not only for sustainability professionals but also increasingly for a wide range of business leaders. It’s important to find common goals in order to do this. Talking to CIOs and IT departments about how they can help reduce travel, energy and waste is a great starting point. Chances are, they’re already thinking about ways to do this.
Colin Curtis leads Dimension Data’s global sustainability strategy, with a focus on improving sustainability for both Dimension Data and its clients. He has been with Dimension Data since 2006, during which time he has had responsibility for business and services development for convergence and visual communications, as well as leading a team of highly skilled convergence specialists. After several years of involvement with Dimension Data’s environmental initiatives, Colin now combines his professional focus on the use of ICT to increase business efficiency with his personal passion for minimizing environmental impact.
Images courtesy of Dimension Data.
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