The Sustainable Enterprise

Share this post:

The Sustainable Enterprise

Environmental sustainability is no longer just a corporate social responsibility issue — it’s a business imperative. In fact, environmental strategy choices, as a subset of a broader sustainability agenda and purpose, increasingly define a company’s competitiveness.

Customers and employees have become much more environmentally conscious. A recent study by IBM found that nearly 80 percent of consumers indicate sustainability is important to them and 60 percent are willing to change their shopping habits to reduce environmental impact.  And 70% would even pay a premium of on average 35% if they can be sure, that the brand is sustainable and environmentally responsible.

This is shaping a new corporate agenda, with 62 percent of executives considering a sustainability strategy as essential in order to be competitive.  22 percent think it will be a requirement in the future. The environmental imperative has rightly planted itself in the heart of boardroom and operational management conversations.

The environmental agenda: Converging forces make it a central feature of corporate strategy

However, talk is one thing. Finding a path to successful action another. Digital transformation will help make the difference. Exponential technology innovations such as artificial intelligence (AI), 5G, Internet of Things (IoT), cloud, blockchain and others, will accelerate this progress in three ways. They capitalize on data to reveal new insights and solutions to existing problems. They can change business practices and drive the emergence of the “Sustainable Enterprise.” And they support greater public, private, and not-for-profit collaboration to forge a new governance model for the environmental imperative.

More data, more insight—more progress  

Data and information underpin the ability of economic actors to drive change in business priorities and practices. Greater transparency and insight allow consumers, companies, investors, and governments to change the way they buy, produce, sell, transport, consume, and govern, which, in turn, has the potential to transform the way economies operate. Moreover, data can be infused into business processes and decision making and drive improved environmental outcomes.

The same exponential technologies that are bringing data and insight to bear on the environmental imperative are also reshaping the very nature of a company’s operations and business model. Businesses are not just becoming “digital.” They are applying AI, in particular, and other exponential technology to create new business platforms on which to compete and collaborate, and intelligent workflows to drastically improve their operations and customer experiences. They’re also using these technologies to improve the employee and customer experiences of their organizations.

Plus, digital technologies make possible many market-based mechanisms that drive change and innovation. In particular, they can support incentive mechanisms for action at a scale and speed that would be impossible through the traditional means of regulation and government intervention. Not only are digital technologies critical for the monitoring, verification, and reporting, but emerging technologies, such as blockchain, make it easier to share data and manage transactions that support, among other things, more efficient climate markets.

Combining data with exponential technologies, therefore, creates immense opportunities to generate insight  and apply it to new busines  models, activities, processes and decision making (see figure)

For example, Plastic Bank is using digital technologies to reveal and capture the value of plastic waste in collaboration with well-known brands, such as Aldi. Highlighting this potential “lost” value, in turn, can incent resource recovery systems that interrupt the flow of plastic waste to the ocean and instead make it available for companies to use in new products. Plastic Bank uses blockchain technology to track the entire journey of recycled plastic from collection, credit and compensation through delivery to companies for re-use.

Digital transformation will help make the difference. Exponential technology innovations unavailable to previous generations—artificial intelligence (AI), 5G, Internet of Things (IoT), cloud, blockchain and others—will accelerate this progress in three ways:

  1. Capitalize on data to reveal new insights and underpin new solutions to existing problems right now;
  2. Help change business practices and drive the emergence of the “Sustainable Enterprise;”
  3. Support a new level of public, private, and not-for-profit collaboration to forge a new governance model for the environmental imperative.

The sustainable enterprise framework

Case in point: The Norwegian company Yara, a leading provider fertilizers and agro-chemicals.  has launched a global digital farming platform that applies artificial intelligence, machine learning, in-field data and weather data to unlock new insights for farmers to improve crop yields in a sustainable way. The platform will help link farms to the full food chain and support the development of holistic food production from farm to plate.

So – what is the roadmap to a sustainable enterprise?

Take action now to meet the environmental imperative

The report from IBM Institute for Business Value in collaboration with Yale University and IBM Institute for The Business of Government recommends 3 overall actions:

  1. Integrate your digital transformation and environmental sustainability strategies and efforts.
  2. Transform business processes into green intelligent workflows.
  3. Infuse environmental sustainability into your enterprise experiences and culture.

The digital and sustainable enterprise

You can find the detailed recommendations and steps in the report “The rise of the Sustainable enterprise”, which you can find and download HERE.

Furthermore, feel free to contact me and discuss for more information at

Research & Innovation Executive, IBM Research - IBM Watson

More Business stories

Data Democratization – making data available

One of the trending buzzwords of the last years in my world is “Data Democratization”. Which this year seems to have been complemented by “Data Fabric” and “Data Mesh”. What it is really about the long-standing challenge of making data available. It is another one of these topics that often gets the reaction “How hard […]

Continue reading

How to act in the new regulation of financial sector

Our world is changing. Because of that regulators around the world are taking ambitious steps to improve the sustainability of the financial sector and guide capital towards sustainable economic activity. Especially in EU we are seeing a high level of regulations. These regulatory interventions present complex and sensitive legal challenges for financial sector firms, which […]

Continue reading

Private cloud or public cloud? New server technology offers more choice

In September, we launched the new IBM Power E1080 high-end server, for corporate use based on the  new Power10 architecture, the Power E1080. The server can – among many other things – handle a large number of applications and workloads securely, at scale and with highest availability. Going into the spring of 2022, we will […]

Continue reading