Digitalisation is a process that is rapidly evolving and as it takes over the world, it has become a necessary requirement that allows us to evolve and adapt as we progress into the future. It does not only have the potential to massively impact businesses but also national economy and society at large.

By Saquib Ahmed, Managing Director, SAP Pakistan

Catalysed by the pandemic that disrupted the way of life world over and limited physical interaction, most organisations accelerated their digital transformation plans in 2020. But how many of them successfully created a sustainable digital enterprise? In other words, organisations that put people and the planet at the core of their digital transformation strategy.

Evidence suggests that improved resilience, better operational performance, and business success usually follow for companies that invest in sustainability. Soon the burgeoning digital shift will completely transform the traditional society and our lives. But as an element of substantial socio-economical change, digitalisation has to be inclusive, sustainable and adaptable. The concept of sustainable digital transformation looks at digitalising the organisation in a long-lasting, green, and organic way.

The most popular definition of sustainability describes it as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” Keeping in view the rapid modernisation and development of today, what better way is there than for technological advancement to link our present transformation to our future success. The fourth industrial, or the digital, revolution has the ability to drastically reduce resource use and pollution. Digitalisation can help improve process efficiency by using big data analytics or by simply replacing the physical supply chain altogether. If technologies and processes are designed responsibly in line with suitable criteria, the digital shift can result in a more flourished and sustainable society.

As the awareness grows about the fact that climate change will impact businesses as much as any other aspect of our lives, more and more corporations are realising the consequences of their actions and are trying to become more responsible as they evolve. Businesses now know that to steer a company’s impact and performance holistically, a business leader must put sustainability on the centre stage.

The journey to become a sustainable business needs three major steps. Step one is compliance – to ensure you can operate as you wish and access finance, you must comply with all sustainability regulations. Step two is efficiency – minimise the company’s footprint so that no resources are wasted and maximum efficiency is achieved. The third and last step is innovation – take advantage of one of the fastest-growing interest groups in the world, the green consumer.

Digital technologies proved to be a great aid during the time of pandemic. Not only did these technologies help us deliver our work efficiently as we adapted to a world of change and uncertainty, but also demonstrated how the digital shift can help overcome many sustainability challenges and can enable businesses, economies and societies to shape the path of a truly sustainable digitalisation. It showed how operational and organisational processes, if digitised, can result in consumption of less resources, reduction of carbon footprint, and creation of less waste.

Observing this success, several businesses and economies have set ambitious climate goals in line with the outlined United Nation’s SDGs. To achieve these goals, the digital sector has to truly embrace sustainability and work towards providing better and greener technologies. Apart from providing sustainable solutions for other businesses, digital solutions providing companies must also maintain sustainability and eco-friendliness in their own operations as well. By focusing on research and innovation, companies should create more environment-centric solutions and adapt to responsible practices of consumption and production.

Thus, to achieve complete digital sustainability, both, the solution providers and corporations need to shoulder the responsibility of maintaining and promoting sustainability in their products and operations by complying with sustainability regulations, efficiently using resources, and building innovative solutions through consumer insight. If done right, digitalisation can help tackle many of the unprecedented challenges our world is facing and pave way for a safe and viable future for all of us and our planet.

Companies must consider sustainability as a strategic imperative of the entire organisation to ensure that they remain resilient and competitive. This will provide them with the tools to leverage their digital transformation plans and prepare them for success in 2022 and long-term value creation.