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Oct 11, 2023
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How Technology Can Pave the Way for a Sustainable Future for SMBs

How Technology Can Pave the Way for a Sustainable Future for SMBs

Sustainability is key for any modern business. Looking after our world is one of the key focuses of modern society, and so sustainability is a massive part of the continued success of any organisation — even small and medium enterprises.

The idea of sustainability can be overwhelming and confusing at first, but by learning how sustainability plays a key role in your business, you can ensure that you’re fully prepared to meet your organisation's goals.

Technology is key here, allowing you to both boost efficiency and improve sustainability.

In this article, we’ll explore how technology is a key player when it comes to sustainability, and discuss how to implement these solutions to increase the sustainability of your organisation.

The Role of Sustainability for SMBs

Sustainability, within the business world, is the consideration of environmental and social issues within a business’s operations and processes. This means that when a business looks towards sustainability, the key is to find a balance between environmental and social responsibility and economic viability.

Because of these wider responsibilities, sustainability is a vital consideration for any organisation — between the wider modern consciousness of the moral responsibility to look after the planet within society, consumers and governments alike are looking towards businesses to become sustainable to be successful.

For smaller businesses specifically, sustainability offers many different benefits that just cannot be ignored —

- Cost reduction:  Sustainability promotes using fewer resources and creating less waste, both of which also work towards reducing costs within your business.

- Consumer and Peer Reputation: As individuals and organisations become more conscious about sustainability, ensuring sustainability within your business will attract more conscious-minded individuals and companies to work with yours — creating more opportunities and making your organisation more reputable.

- Risk Mitigation: Introducing sustainable practices into your organisation can be vital to ensuring more resilience and less reliance. Sustainability promotes diversification and reduces dependence on finite resources, meaning that your business can further ensure independence and resilience against adversity.

These solutions are usually geared towards the goal of net zero (the goal that many organisations have — to reach a point where they are offsetting the carbon that they put into the environment enough that it’s calculated to zero) but can also drive further sustainable development and innovation within any organisation.

How technology can be used to meet sustainability goals

As the modern world has moved forward, so has the technology that forms its backbone. More advanced solutions to traditional problems have become commonplace and have led to organisations worldwide becoming more efficient and sustainable.

Modern technologies such as the cloud, automation, AI, and remote collaboration have led to more powerful and efficient ways for companies to innovate and move further towards their full potential — many of which inherently also help with sustainability goals due to the inherent link between efficiency and sustainability.

This can be seen in multiple industries. For example, in the retail and fashion industry, Empowered by Microsoft Azure, H&M has been using AI-driven data to be able to predict the popularity of their products to inform supply and demand — ultimately leading to less waste.

At a more holistic level, Natwest has been utilising the AI and cloud technologies provided within Microsoft Azure to find ways to boost sustainability within their organisation, ultimately looking to reduce their carbon emissions — specifically indirect emissions such as within the supply chain.

Next, we’ll go into some of these key technologies that are helping organisations worldwide boost sustainability — and how they can help drive sustainability and innovation within your organisation.

Key Areas of Impact: How Technology Drives Sustainability

Cloud Computing and Energy Efficiency

Cloud computing is one of the key ways that organisations can implement new technological solutions that help drive sustainability while also furthering their business’ potential to flourish.

Instead of using on-prem hardware to run your organisation, a cloud computing solution such as Microsoft Azure can help your organisation become up to 93% more energy efficient — due to not having to run expensive hardware and use power to keep your infrastructure running. Plus, unlike using an on-premise system, using a cloud-based infrastructure means that you never have to upgrade server hardware — reducing technological waste in the long run.

Microsoft has also made tons of innovations to ensure that Azure is as sustainable as possible, meaning that using their services will allow you to take advantage of more environmentally conscious hardware — ultimately meaning that your organisation will be sustainable in the future.

Remote Collaboration

Remote collaboration software such as Microsoft Teams is another way that organisations can drive sustainability while also helping their organisation prosper in new ways. With a worldwide boost in hybrid and remote working solutions, using remote communications software has become invaluable to any organisation wanting to look towards the future.

Due to these technologies, collaboration simply no longer requires people to meet up in person. When considering how much carbon is put into the atmosphere by travelling, any form of remote collaboration is far more sustainable than having to bring people into the office to work.

Data Analytics

Data analytics are useful throughout your organisation — but can also be used to help drive sustainability within your organisation. By using data to be able to better understand how to help your organisation become more sustainable, you can create realistic data-driven targets and ensure progress throughout your organisation.

There are many key ways that you can use data to improve sustainability —

- Energy Usage: Energy is a key contributor to emissions. By using data analytics to work out where excess energy is being used, you can work towards the goal of lowering energy usage throughout your organisation.

- Water Consumption: Just like energy, water consumption is a key environmental issue that needs to be addressed for a more sustainable future. Using data analytics to track water consumption — as well as the sustainability of water sources within your organisation — will help make your organisation more sustainable.

- Waste Generation: Every organisation generates waste, but this is also a key environmental issue that can be a massive enemy of sustainability. By tracking the waste generated within your organisation, you can work to reduce that number to its minimum.

- Emissions: Both carbon and greenhouse gas emissions are massive contributors to climate issues, and so by tracking your carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions throughout your organisation, you can set goals to ensure that emissions are decreased.

- Social and Community Impact: Your local community is also vital when it comes to sustainability. After all, by investing in hiring locally (which reduces the distance needed to travel to work) and working to fulfil your company’s social responsibilities, you can positively contribute to the wider community around your organisation.

Using data analytics, you can begin to tackle institution-wide sustainability issues — known as the four enemies of sustainability — to ensure that your organisation progresses forward —

- Structure and Governance: Siloed sustainability limits wider influence.

- Processes and Metrics: Unsustainable metrics are counterintuitive to progress.

- Culture and Leadership: Archaic mindsets clash with sustainability-focused thinking.

- Methods and Skills: Adapting your tools and skills to welcome change.

This isn’t just theoretical either, as organisations worldwide are using data analytics to help make their organisation more sustainable. For example, Unilever is using data analytics to help reach the goal of making all their products sustainable by 2030. By utilising data analytics throughout the supply chain, Unilever has been able to implement sustainable practices throughout the supply chain.

AI-Driven Insights and Machine Learning

Artificial intelligence is helping organisations become more powerful and informed about their future. By using AI-driven insights to consider sustainability, you can take advantage of one of the most powerful modern technologies to improve your organisation’s sustainability.

AI-driven insights can easily study patterns within your organisation regarding energy consumption, ways to reduce your organisation’s wider carbon footprint, and even specific aspects such as production and logistics to ensure that your organisation is doing whatever it can to be more sustainable.

For example, food waste company Winnow is leading the charge in the hospitality industry to reduce waste by using AI insights to track food waste and pinpoint where waste is created, letting them, cut costs and save time in those areas while not creating waste.

Machine learning has also helped organisations find new solutions to long-standing sustainability problems. For example, Google’s recent introduction of DeepMind into their organisation has helped them reduce the energy used in cooling their data centres by 40%.

How To Get Started

Sustainability is a key aspect of the modern world. As organisations look towards the future, ensuring that our planet remains healthy for future generations is vital — which is why it’s so important to reduce carbon footprints and improve resource efficiency.

As society progresses to a more sustainable future, technology offers the opportunity to innovate and bring new ways for organisations to drive sustainability and progressive, environmentally-conscious thinking.

With some of the biggest companies in the world — such as Microsoft — putting sustainability at the forefront, it’s easier than ever to make positive steps now.

If you’re looking to start your organisation’s shift towards sustainability, reach out to us today. Our experts will be able to help you get started and provide you with a helping hand along the way.

Get in touch with us now and see how we can help.