Information Systems for Environmental Sustainability

IT, Resource Productivity, Environmental Preservation, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Deloitte: IT for Sustainability is “Key Capability” to Integrate Sustainability into Core Business Strategies, Designs, and Operations

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In “If You Can’t Measure It, You Can’t Manage It,” (sound familiar?), Deloitte principal Lee Ditmar states that:

Businesses must align and integrate their sustainability strategies with their corporate objectives, business strategies, and operating models.

Making sustainability a central tenet in strategy and operations, rather than something bolted on top of current business processes, will require several capabilities for

  • developing a sustainability strategy,
  • running sustainable operations and supply chain processes,
  • reporting and assurance measures,
  • energy and resource management,
  • governance and risk management, and
  • human capital engagement.

But all of these capabilities depend on another key capability: what we call IT for Sustainability (ITFS).

Article goes on to explain that:

The first priority for your business’s IT initiatives and  investments should be to automate enterprise sustainability reporting processes to improve transparency, repeatability, efficiency, and timeliness. To have reporting processes that can be repeated efficiently, a business needs automated data collection that supports sustainability data.

Leading organizations should develop and maintain a sustainability performance intelligence framework that enables early recognition of, and timely response to, opportunities and risks that affect sustainability goals.

Key question according to the article is:

What information do we need to support improved business performance and good governance, risk management, and regulatory compliance?

My take is consistent with the article, with the difference being that I emphasize both the upside potential as well as what can go wrong with large scale innovative IS initiatives, including unanticipated outcomes (adopted but not used widely across the firm) and failure to achieve goals (adopted for goal X, but did not achieve it, see this example).


Author: nigelpm

Associate Professor of Information Systems, Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan - Helping organizations to navigate digital transformation.

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