The digital transition is not automatically green
Major development trends, such as digitalisation and the fight against climate change, affect the operations of every company. Digitalisation can contribute to the green transition, but the two themes are not automatically linked in a sustainable way. When talking about a green transition, in addition to reducing the negative effects alone, we should move on to talking about an active handprint – what good is my organisation doing around it?
Digitalisation and the green transition are often linked, but digitalisation does not automatically promote a green transition. In fact, there is quite a bit of talk about emissions from digitalisation, given that its emissions even exceed those from aviation.
For us to talk about a truly digital and green transition together, sustainability must be a cross-cutting theme in digital development. This requires active consideration of three perspectives:
- whether digital solutions are produced sustainably, and
- whether they are used sustainably, and
- whether they are used to achieve a more sustainable world.
In the Finnish Artificial Intelligence 4.0 program initiated by The Ministry of Employment and the Economy, we talk about nature smart digitalisation, where these aspects are considered. Indeed, many companies may be facing the need to innovate and re-engineer digital processes in a nature smart way.
Looking at the carbon footprint is no longer enough – What kind of handprint is your business leaving in the world?
Reducing the carbon footprint has been tackled with a firm grip in states, cities, businesses, and the individual level. Next, it is important for us to move on to think about the positive effects that our actions can have on ecosystems and the environment – that is, our handprint on the environment.
Carbon handprint refers for example to the positive effect of helping others reduce their own carbon footprint. Many companies may have only a small portion of their total carbon footprint in the value chain, and most may come from the supply chain or customers. If a company can develop its product so that customers can reduce its carbon footprint, the company has made a positive impact, a handprint.
The handprint is not a new idea, but now that the world is passionately looking for solutions to rapidly accelerating climate change, it has risen high in the value scale of solutions. Finland is an international pioneer in the development and implementation of the handprint concept.
Finnish companies have here the famous thousand dollars opportunity to create new markets, and to become a part of new global value chains. There is a huge demand for solutions that enable customers to improve their position in a market that is increasingly determined by the principles of sustainable development.
Financing, whether in the form of loans, investments, or public support, is becoming more limited if there is no or only little evidence of sustainable action. The handprint will take sustainability to a new level and within a couple of years we will see that it is also taken into account in the book of international sustainability criteria.
In addition to the climate, social responsibility must be considered
As we have seen with carbon neutrality goals, ambitious goals drive us to good results. Therefore, our ambition with our handprint must not be limited to the carbon handprint alone, but we must see our impact on society and the world more broadly.
Climate action cannot be taken at the expense of social sustainability, such as human rights. If climate action creates a by-pass for human rights, we may end up in a society that does not serve people as it should – equally and creating opportunities for everyone. A question for you reader: what could the social sustainability handprint mean for your organization?
For companies, financial sustainability is also invaluable, without profitability and productivity it is impossible to operate. We are facing a major systemic change. We need to bring many things and aspects together and work out the optimal solutions. But if there is a will, there is a way. What is needed now is leadership and the will to act and make sustainability happen!
This article was originally posted at Ministry of Employment and The Economy’ website.
Cristina Andersson, Airawise Oy
Member of the Artificial Intelligence 4.0 Steering Group and Chair of the Green Transition Subgroup
The Artificial Intelligence 4.0 column series publishes the writings of those involved in the program on current topics related to artificial intelligence and digitization. Read more about Artificial Intelligence 4.0 on the Ministry of Employment and the Economy’s website.