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Bhushan Patil: An era of sustainable digital transformations

By Bhushan Patil, SVP EMEA, Tech Mahindra

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital transformation on an unprecedented scale across most industries. To put it into perspective, it’s predicted that by 2022, 70% of all organisations globally will have upgraded their use of digital technologies, transforming existing processes to drive employee productivity, improve business resilience, boost business output, and create new revenue streams.

The pandemic pushed many businesses to embrace emerging technologies, and as economies start to open up, businesses have a huge opportunity to build on this transformation and move towards more sustainable business models.

As sustainability credentials increasingly become a critical decision-making criterion for both investors and tender processes, the organisations that succeed in years to come will be those that make sustainability a very core tenet of their operations.

Driving a twin revolution

The adoption of new technologies like AI, cloudification and 5G can enormously streamline operations at every level of an organisation. As well as reaping the commercial benefits of these new technologies, there are also many benefits from an ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) perspective, both for businesses and the wider society.

Take AI in healthcare. During the initial outbreak of COVID-19, the virus’ characteristics were unknown and medical professionals received huge amounts of data in a short amount of time. By implementing AI solutions, doctors and physicians were able to speed up the process of managing and analysing data, allowing for a quick turn-around in aspects such as diagnosis and, most recently, vaccinations. AI will also play an important role in dealing with mental health, with at least one start-up from London Business School’s Incubator Programme building algorithms to help people deal with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and anxiety.

5G will also see accelerated growth in the health sector use cases due to the increase in remote and real-time patient care. The UK government is already investing in projects to identify real-life use cases, such as the £3.2 million funding received by Edinburgh Napier University to leverage 5G to develop hearing aids.

Leading telecoms companies are finding investment opportunities and new business models in multiple industries with 5G use cases. O2, for example, is working on a ‘Smart Ambulance’ trial which aims to revolutionise patient treatment and reduce hospital numbers by leveraging 5G. The technology’s ability to support new services and cutting-edge applications with its low latency and ultrafast connectivity will enable access to expert care whenever and wherever the patient needs it – making healthcare more efficient and accessible to those that need it most.

From personalised, fast medical treatment to cutting edge research on a global virus, new and emerging technologies have already started to transform the healthcare sector for the better – and will continue to do so.

Leading the way to a sustainable future

The introduction of new technologies has huge implications for environmental sustainability. To continue with the healthcare example, an O2 report, A Greener Connected Future, found that the application of 5G to healthcare could result in a 20% reduction in hospital admissions and a 14% reduction in resources for patient bed days. The accumulated impact of this is estimated to be equivalent to the removal of six megatonnes of carbon emissions by 2035.

For businesses to embrace this approach, pressure needs to be placed on industry leaders to combine digital transformation with sustainability initiatives. This is, in part, being driven by consumers, who are increasingly showing that they want the companies they use to take a stand on sustainable issues. The same can be said of employees and other stakeholders.

A combination of social media and heightened public scrutiny have added further pressure on organisations to take action – sustainability is no longer just a ‘nice to have’ for businesses. In fact, research conducted by Totaljobs revealed that 26% of British workers would be willing to take a pay cut in exchange for working with a business that acted environmentally responsibly. We also see examples of employee activism in global giants like Google, where there is pressure put on leadership to seek more active involvement in ESG policies.

It is in the best interest of business leaders to align their organisation with the wishes of their consumers and employees. To this end, they should integrate sustainability initiatives as a strategic imperative throughout their organisations. Companies that can use new technologies to drive sustainability will not only see an increase in customer and employee satisfaction but also an improvement in operational efficiency and profitability.

Investing in a greener future

As organisations across the globe look to digital transformations as a means of driving revenue and success in years to come, they must consider using technology to build a more sustainable business model.

As we look to the future, it’s critical that every business takes responsibility and makes the important changes needed to drive positive change. It’s time for business leaders to capitalise on the digital transformation opportunity and bring sustainability efforts to life.