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Sustainability and The Next Generation CIO
Sustainability is a ‘hot topic’ which is here to stay, simply because the world is finite and we are currently consuming like we have infinite resources. Like ‘productivity’ and ‘quality’ before it, it has far-reaching connotations sparing no part of the business model. Make no mistake, it is the transformative business issue of our times.
So what has all this got to do with IT?
There is a simple equation. I = C x P x T.
Impact = Consumption x Population x Technology.
In other words, the Impact of business (and humanity) on our planet boils down to the amount we Consume on average per person, factored by the amount of people there are, factored by our ability to apply Technology to innovate and do things differently. As we know, global population is rising fast, average consumption rates are rising fast (even in the face of our global economic slowdown). Bear in mind (according to leading world scientists) we are already in ecological overshoot (using more natural resources than our Earth can naturally replace), it does not take much to figure out that our current global behaviour places a significant bet on technology and innovation getting us out of this current conundrum.
So every single organisation (for-profit, non-profit, public sector, shareholder-owned, privately funded, etc.) has two options facing them:
1) Ignore reality and play for the short-term, hoping the conundrum will sort itself out somehow. Continue with ‘business as usual’.
2) Become fully aware of the environment the organisation is now operating in, adapt accordingly by transforming to a business model that is fit-for-purpose for the present and future. This requires innovating; transforming whilst keeping the wheels on the road in very challenging economic conditions. In the words of Richard Branson ‘screw business as usual’. An option not for the faint-hearted.
All context-aware global organisations are following Option 2 by taking sustainability very seriously – embedding it into all aspects of what they do. Any business that wants to be viable in five to ten years time has to be redesigning for resilience now (not in three years time, but now). Sure certain sectors like manufacturing, retail, energy and utilities are ahead of the pack, yet you can find sustainability leaders in all sectors (any business that has forward-thinking, strong, innovative leadership). Here are some examples: Unilever, General Electric, Rhodia, Akzo Nobel, Vodafone, Danone, Virgin, Tata, Google, Procter & Gamble, GDF Suez, HSBC, SAP, SNCF, Rabobank, Cisco, Siemens – to name a few brands using sustainability to redesign for resilience.
Fundamental to sustainable business transformation is IT-enabled transformation. Enter the CIO.
Over the last few years the CIO has witnessed the rise of ‘Green IT’. Green IT is essentially the greening of the IT function; making the IT function of an organisation more energy efficient whilst lowering its carbon footprint. For example, applying server virtualisation to reduce energy use. Yet, as all CIO’s know, IT has a far wider role to play in sustainable business transformation than simply Green IT, as important as it is.
Once the CIO has got his own operations in order (through an all-encompassing Green IT programme) IT can be applied to enabling the business to measure and manage economic, environmental and social aspects of the organisation’s sustainability transformation. Hence the CIO becomes a vital player in enabling the successful future-proofing of the organisation.
And the CIO’s role does not stop there. As businesses embark on their sustainable business transformational journey, they soon realise that collaborative activities with suppliers, customers, partners up and down their values chain (across their business ecosystem) is essential in enabling effective transformation. Such collaborative activities too can unleash unforeseen synergies along the way, helping drive innovation and new ways of operating. These collaborative activities thrive on data sharing and alignment on measuring and managing. Hence, the CIO helps spearhead effective sustainable IT-enabled business transformation.
CIOs who have insight and system-thinking to catalyse the systemic changes required across the enterprise and business ecosystem are the ‘next generation CIOs’ in helping drive sustainable business transformation in these volatile times.Tweet