Science and technology for sustainability: a look into the future for business leaders

July 20, 2022

Millennials’ demand for efficiency and immediacy, as well as their commitment to the environment, has turned business structures and consumption habits upside down, driving the digital transformation of organizations.

Millennials are much more demanding, non-conformist, and environmentally conscious as consumers. According to the Global Sustainability 2021 report by Simon Kucher & Partners, 42% of them would be willing to pay more for sustainable products. As employees, they are vital in guiding companies into the digital revolution and its consequent sustainable development.

Change must start with managers and the so-called C-levels to achieve business excellence.

They are not only responsible for efficiently organizing departments and maximizing profits: they are also tasked with constantly researching new ways of doing business that generate value and reduce pollution and the company’s carbon footprint.

To successfully implement a new business model, C-levels must be environmentally conscious and adopt or maintain technology responsibly and sustainably to gain a competitive advantage.

What kind of executive do companies need nowadays?

The economic, health, technological, and environmental situation has forced companies to change the game’s rules and rethink the type of management leadership they want for their organizations.

Nowadays, only 30% of Spanish leaders develop sustainable maturity, according to a study by EADA Business School and the agency Both People and Comms.

Today’s leaders need the help of management training experts who prepare C-levels for change and have developed new business leadership models aligned with sustainability and digital transformation.

This model requires a long-term vision that considers environmental issues or emerging technology and the business changes they might introduce.

Senior business leaders should educate themselves through courses or masters on sustainability, listen to podcasts, meet with external experts, and engage in activities that allow them to broaden their knowledge.

Likewise, they must listen to the different stakeholders without generating conflicts, taking into account all the advice, initiatives, and recommendations from experts in each field.

Finally, one of the most important tasks that managers and C-levels must undertake is ensuring that technology is integrated into the strategic structure of the company.

Technology and strategy must go hand in hand to achieve a digital transformation, and it’s essential for managers to be aware of the risks and opportunities this can present.

Sustainable trends for management

Companies have less than a decade left to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals the UN set for the 2030 Agenda. So, senior business leaders must act urgently.

In 2022, several business trends toward achieving the proposed SDGs have emerged.

  • Measures to address economic growth.

First, managers and C-levels should prepare for the potential economic growth expected for this year due to the coronavirus slowdown and the high global vaccination rates.

Senior managers will have to change the leadership approach where the manager was only concerned with maximizing company profits.

A good leader should think long-term, raise awareness among the entire workforce to create continued impact, foster dialogue with areas of the company with different ideas, and broaden horizons.

  • Assess how the company contributes to sustainable development.

It’s also necessary to determine how your company can contribute to sustainability. It’s essential to recognize the tools and resources you have and to be able to implement solutions accordingly.

  • Set realistic goals.

Leaders should set ambitious but realistic goals. Companies must reflect an honest image to suppliers and consumers as they have become more demanding and do not tolerate a lack of transparency.

  • Establish specific actions for sustainability.

Once they set the goals, leaders must establish a strategy across the company’s entire operation. Suppose they want to reduce pollution or the carbon footprint. In that case, they must study how the organization’s processes and departments can contribute to this goal, assessing the feasibility of each particular case.

  •  Adopt a circular economy.

C-levels must adopt a circular economy. It’s essential to control how waste is managed and create durable or reusable products. Leaders should sustainably handle obsolete products, refurbishing or recycling them.

  • Sustainability throughout the supply chain.

To look after the company’s sustainable image, managers must always know the suppliers they are working with, even in the most complex supply chains. Failure to recognize suppliers can cause gaps in the company’s sustainable strategy and damage transparency.

  •  Invest in innovation.

To achieve corporate sustainability, investing in innovation is crucial. Emerging technologies are the best ally of managers and C-levels to achieve sustainability goals.

The digital transformation has changed business models and communication, but not all potential technologies for the green transition have yet been developed.

  • Take the social factor into account.

Managers ensure that these new model changes do not hamper the fight for equal opportunities. Sustainability is focused on improving the quality of life of all citizens, so business changes must always consider vulnerable groups.

New technologies for a sustainable future

Technology and sustainability are two of the most talked-about concepts in the corporate setup. And they are both necessary to achieve sustainable development.

We have already seen some initiatives such as greener databases, cloud computing, and electric cars.

However, organizations will begin incorporating other innovative solutions to achieve greater eco-efficiency through technology. Here are some of them:

Digital twins for simulation and modeling

A digital twin is a tool that uses virtual reality to simulate the life cycle of a product. This technology makes it possible to go through all the product phases —from creation to recycling— without physically testing it.

Using a digital twin to simulate prototypes offers significant ecological advantages, as it optimizes resources and avoids the waste involved in the testing phases.

Using this technology, companies can significantly reduce the number of raw materials needed in their production chains.

In addition, organizations can use it for simulation, parameter measurement, and predictive maintenance to achieve real process automation.

Smart mechatronics and robotics

Mechatronics and robotics are essential on the road to sustainability.

Mechatronics enables the creation of sustainable alternatives for product development, the introduction of new technologies aligned with sustainable development, the automation and monitoring of projects, and the research of new clean energy sources.

One of the most outstanding outcomes of mechatronics has been robots. More and more companies are incorporating them into their day-to-day operation to cut costs, save time and space, lower downtime, achieve the most significant energy savings, and reduce waste.

Robots can fulfill numerous tasks, from performing repetitive processes to providing sustainable transportation solutions.

These robots have low energy consumption, are developed using environmentally friendly products, and are highly energy efficient. They also contribute to waste reduction and can be refurbished.

Digital platforms and cloud computing

Digital platforms and cloud computing are two sustainable trends that have leaped into the business world.

These tools allow companies to adapt to digitalization, gain financial and efficiency advantages, and reduce global carbon emissions.

The cloud enables companies to reduce their energy consumption, which benefits both the environment and the company’s economy.

Similarly, digital platforms and cloud computing can transform business models by allowing workers to access data centers via the Internet. This makes it possible to work at any time and place in the world, facilitates synchronization and teamwork, and offers greater data security.

The possibility of working from anywhere leads to adopting remote work, which reduces electricity consumption and the pollution caused by commute.

Adopting technology in production processes

Another sustainable alternative is the incorporation of 3D printers into production processes.

3D technology helps reduce energy consumption, carbon emissions, and the use of plastic. This results in more environmentally friendly and sustainable products that perform the same functions.

3D technology allows companies to experiment with new polymers, simulate the behavior of new biodegradable packaging, and reduce logistics costs. It also enables the simulation of products without needing to create physical prototypes and could boost manufacturing.

Conclusion

Our current environmental situation and consumers’ demand for sustainable solutions call for a change.

Companies must begin restructuring their organizational mindset and foster awareness among employees from the top down. That is why managers and C-level managers must train to become the leaders the 21st century needs.

Incorporating technology into all business processes is the key to achieving goals faster, benefiting the company economically and strategically.

Waiting any longer for change may be too late. Action must start now. Learn how our Sustainable Business Studio helps companies navigate the green economy and develop sustainable practices.

References

https://foretica.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/El_futuro_de_la_sostenibilidad_en_las_empresas_vulnerabilidades.pdf

https://www.corresponsables.com/actualidad/ods17-41-directivos-integracion-ods-estrategia-organizaciones

https://ruc.udc.es/dspace/bitstream/handle/2183/28370/2021_Orive_Dario_Desarrollo_de_gemelos_digitales_para_la_simulacion_e_integracion_de_activos_de_fabricacion.pdf?sequence=3

http://www.mecamex.net/anterior/cong10/trabajos/art01.pdf

https://www.eurobots.net/news/sostenibilidad-robotica/

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To be ready and stay relevant in the new green economy, companies need different rules, processes and expertise. The Sustainable Business Studio provides organizations and stakeholders with the tools and know-how to build their climate roadmap in favour of just transitions and climate actions. We support organizations embracing a problem-solving approach based on Agenda 2030 to achieve responsible business.