Justin Marcucci, Chief Digital Officer at Endava

The importance of leading with sustainability

Justin Marcucci, Chief Digital Officer at Endava explores the role of digital acceleration in driving more sustainable tech practices.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting challenges in 2020 forced all kinds of well-documented shift-changes, with businesses across sectors having to fundamentally rethink operations to meet the demands of an entirely digital customer interaction model. For the most part, these short-term changes addressed the strains IT teams faced, but as we continue to move away from a state of crisis, businesses are turning focus to the next challenge: climate change, sustainability, and how they can drive more responsible technology without accruing added cost or resource.

Tackling this requires me to address the bigger picture – the cause rather than the symptom – of these ongoing internal battles; organisations seeking to move from ‘surviving’ to ‘thriving’. Because in order for companies to succeed in today’s economy, they need to focus more intently on leading with sustainability, not just for employee and shareholder satisfaction, but to maximise continued digital acceleration and business outcomes.

We as technology leaders need to stop viewing technology as the be-all-end-all – the goal of any business effort – and start seeing it for what it really is: a catalyst and a vehicle for what we can achieve.

As people begin to focus more acutely on the climate crisis, sustainability will become a non-negotiable focal point within business as employees, partners, and consumers look to work with or buy from brands that make efforts to give back in some way. Sustainability as a driver of talent acquisition and retention is hugely overlooked, but so unbelievably critical.

It’s no secret that end consumers are more often looking for brands that align with their values, but now that same mentality is extending to employees, whether they’re already with a company or looking to make a change. Younger generations are particularly vocal about their preference for working for more environmentally friendly businesses, even if it means earning less. As companies recognise the importance of these values, they’re stepping up to the plate to put their money where their mouth is.

Microsoft recently started holding their internal departments responsible for emissions, while other global brands like Unilever have implemented a network of global partnerships to address environmental impacts across a number of key issues, from deforestation to ocean conservation, and the elimination of food waste. Whether investing into sustainability initiatives or giving employees more flexible options to work and give back as they want, what’s clear from these changes is that it’s an employee’s market. As they look for companies, which showcase moral values and ways of working, and as more businesses catch onto this growing trend, sustainability will become a key recruitment tool for tech talent in short supply globally.

Self-funding sustainability
It is my firm belief that technology has no agenda – it is simply an enabler of human drivers. Therefore, my goal – and the goal of everyone at Endava – is to drive sustainable technology across our customers’ business lines. Now, we are realists – this doesn’t mean that every program we undertake is based on a sustainability goal – but it does mean that we can go the extra mile when possible, and drive positive sustainability outcomes with our solution and product design. Taking a thoughtful approach to technology development and implementation is key to delivering solutions that yield positive business outcomes.

For a lot of companies, it’s not necessarily a lack of desire for more sustainable projects that’s holding them back, but rather concerns over where the budget will come from, or what the end result will be on the wider business. There’s certainly a notable trend toward sustainability-driven projects that boost both cost savings, drive operational efficiencies, and give back in some way, whether that’s cost-cutting, CO2 emissions, reduction of paper usage and waste through digitisation, etc.

We’ve actually started to see investment into these types of projects, as customers are coming to us asking how they can leverage technology as that enabler, while also driving results. In fact, we’ve even seen a number of projects go on to be fully self-funded.

In conclusion, while sustainability initiatives may seem daunting to take on from an outside perspective, the benefits they create for businesses are well worth the investment. Attracting forward-thinking, ethically minded talent, who will in turn continue actioning projects around the responsible use and application of technology, is enough for many businesses to seriously conserving leading with a sustainability mindset. When you combine that with the reality that many of these projects pay for themselves, as illustrated above, there’s little reason not to invest company time and resource.

Because technology is an enabler of our own human motivations, it is ultimately down to decision makers and technologists to take the reins and implement a thoughtful approach that not only drives positive business outcomes, but also finds long-term, responsible solutions to problems. All we require is a little additional creativity, and a desire to drive progress as much as profit.

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