Digitisation – a chance for reconciling business goals and the sustainable growth
- Sustainable growth brings not only the CSR touch to the company’s politics, but actually affects future revenue.
- From technology to retail, the net positive business approach grows as the market’s demand on actual action gets bigger
- New business models and solutions emerge, like Innovation Zone with its PoC allowing agile verification of an idea within the business environment
The discussions surrounding this year’s COP24 in Katowice reflect the business’ general view on the sustainable growth. We gladly talk about it (enthusiastically or critically), but only a few companies in Poland treat is as a crucial element in building their strategy. At best, it’s a part of CSR operations, often understood as charity, volunteer work or Arbor Day, something that happens in addition to a company’s business, rather than stems from it. Although such activities are needed and commendable, they are just a minor answer to the “Sustainability” challenge issued to the business by such companies like Global Compact, the UN and the European Commission. The world is facing changes that influence the natural environment and the society, and that process isn’t happening in isolation from the economy.
On the contrary – the pressure put on us, business people, is clearly increasing. Regulations and restrictions in this area are getting more severe, just like social pressure and awareness. Not only do we have to recognize the directions of that influence and possible consequences for our business. We also need ideas for solutions, here and now, ready for implementation as quickly as it’s possible.
Fight or flight?
People, just like animals, when threatened react in two ways: either run away, or attack. It is quite understandable that we treat the areas unknown to us as a threat and they induce our anxiety. It’s the same way with the mentioned social and environmental changes. They are so dynamic, that even the scientists find it hard to make long-term prognoses regarding their influence on our performance.
World organizations and the biggest global brands have started the attack. The UN used Agenda 2030 (which consists of 17 goals of sustainable growth established by 193 member states) to set a direction for the global growth.
The world’s biggest business players seriously engage in this vision: Nike strives for minimalization of waste and carbon footprint in their production; Pepsi and Coca Cola work on solutions that would protect the drinking water and enable its sustainability; companies involved in retail sale, like IKEA or H&M, are gradually introducing changes into their supply chains via better resource management, waste reduction and extensive relations with suppliers from local markets in order to change the labor markets’ state. Operational improvements are not everything. Let’s take a look at, for example, the car industry, which is steering into the direction of changing its business model from manufacturing cars for sale into a sharing economy.
And what about the rest? Many companies seem to be rejecting that trend, focusing on short-term needs. We think that we cannot afford to implement the sustainable growth into our organization’s strategy. But there’s a wrong presupposition in this approach. We tackle the issue from the aspect of cost, difficulties, excess. Meanwhile, we can still get into the moment when those actions create for us a chance to achieve a business advantage and fit our modus operandi into the new reality – before it’s too late.
The results of the annual survey conducted by EY amongst investors from around the world gives us an accurate image of the business megatrends, and thus – a compass to guide us into the future. In a survey from the year 2017, 68% of the respondents admitted that other aspects than a financial one influence their investment decisions. In view of the survey, the role of the non-financial aspects of businesses efficiency become a key factor in the investors’ decision-making process. We can observe a similar situation in the consumer market, where the customers more and more often treat their purchases as a manifesto of their worldview. People consciously use their wallets to express their support for the companies which operate in accordance to their own values, as well as boycott those that oppose those values. Although we are not used to associating those two things with one another, the sustained growth is followed by money. Ecology is profitable. The WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Program) initiative’s members estimated that striving for a circular economy can lead to an improvement of the trade balance at around 90 billion pound in the whole EU and an employment of another 160 thousands of people in the recovery of materials sector. Another example: Timberland in collaboration with Omni United manufacture tires, who are after use recycled into the soles of the popular shoes. Positive initiatives multiply in the blink of an eye.
A sustainable growth means more than reacting to the peer pressure. It’s a way of looking into the future, defining a new identity for our business, but also the processes that take place in companies. Implementation of the sustainable growth goals into one’s business strategy is a proof of an organizational maturity, as well as a way of entering our product or service into a new life cycle and avoiding regression. The business goals and the sustainable growth goals are not in opposition to each other. There is something that may integrate those two things into one, a powerful tool that will provide benefit both to a company’s interest and the world, too.
Digitisation – killing two birds with one stone
The technological development plays a crucial role in the global economy and sustainable growth. The 4th Industrial Revolution gives us a language used to talk about a deep evolution of business. The digital transformation has led to the most significant changes of this decade. 5G, Cloud services, cybersecurity and distributed computing (like AI, IOT, blockchain) are a fuel for the ever increasing growth, also in this decade.
The global goals of the sustainable growth are (maybe not in a broad sense, but still) a chance to accomplish an advantage in the market. The key is changing one’s approach from reactive to proactive search for innovation, in context of this area. This is what we do in Cybercom. We combine the customer’s business need and juxtapose it in relation to risks that threaten the sustainable growth in order to achieve more effective solutions that can open up new markets. It applies to the issue of transforming products into services (as in our collaboration with Husqvarna) and developing new business models, as well as helping the public sector in approaching its citizens. An example of the last one is the Suomi.fi app. It allows the citizens of Finland to access official documents from their mobile devices.
Thinking about such market successes as Netflix or Spotify, we do not associate them with the realization of the sustainable growth goals, even though they are great examples of that. In the last few years buying records and films on physical mediums has become almost outdated, since people started to subscribe digital services. It also meant a decrease in the amount of used resources.
A similar thing is happening in transport, construction and nutrition. Changes were also introduced into institutions, since it is the service that is crucial, and not how it was provided in the past. Many new solutions are infinitely more effective in using resources and turn out to be cheaper than traditional solutions (like, for example, in the case of substituting flights with virtual conferences). That’s how development of long-term benefits and positive influence on environment while simultaneously developing one’s business looks like in practice. Our experience tells us that such an added value can be designed for most projects that come to us. 88% of the solutions we developed for our key customers in 2017 complied with at least one of the Global Compact’s 17 goals.
A way to an agile adaptation
In order to make the sustained growth and business meet, a suitable approach is needed. We placed it in the Innovation Zone. It is one of Cybercom’s services – a highly though-out incubator for new business projects that require much innovation. It was created to help companies with digitization and integration of the sustainable growth as an element of their business strategy in controlled environment. It can also be described as an external R&D center for our customers.
Every project developed in the Innovation Zone undergoes a series of stages with a common denominator, which is an attentive partner collaboration. It begins with a specially designed workshop during which we together define goals and we search for a value suitable for the project which would comply with the sustainable growth.
What makes the later actions stand out is the opportunity to conduct a Proof of Concept (PoC). It’s a solution which goal is to as quickly as possible provide proof for the technical feasibility of the project’s targets. That mode of operation allows us not only to save resources, but (through an agile verification of the project’s legitimacy and its technological functionality) also time. As we know, it’s an invaluable currency from the business advantage point of view.
On every stage, from the briefing to implementation, we work to optimize the end result. Such an approach allows us to quantifiably help out in risk management that characterizes the projects from the area of new technologies, especially in the context of innovative solutions.
The technologies help in disenchanting the challenge that hides behind the issue of the sustainable growth. It’s possible to peel off its label of idealism that seems to be distant from the business requirements, or of being treated as just a tool that helps with the company’s image. A more attentive look into the issue may help us discover that it’s a win-win situation. We can take care of our environment (social and natural), but also take care of ourselves. The only thing we have to do is learn how to look.