Blog

The future of sustainability: CSR in the age of technology, part 1

June 13, 2016

Supriya Singh   

Deputy General Manager, Corporate Social Responsibility

In 2012, I was lucky enough to accompany Robert Swan to Antarctica – the windiest, driest and coldest place on earth – as part of the International Antarctic Expedition (IAE). We were 72 people from diverse fields and dozens of different countries. The purpose was to witness first-hand the impact of human actions on the fragile ecosystem of Antarctica.

The barrenness of landscape and severity of the weather contrasted with the liveliness of the penguins and seals. I was awestruck. It made me consider the importance of our own actions in safeguarding the fragile world that we inhabit.

When I look at our lives, I am amazed at how much the world has changed in the last decade or so. We work faster, travel faster, shop faster, communicate faster, design faster, build and farm faster. What is enabling this new normal is information technology, and it is here to stay.

Rapidly growing interconnectivity and the Internet of Things is creating a world which is more ‘connected’ than ever before. Real-time, mobility, ease, speed and efficiency are some of the words that define our existence. The question is whether the growth and use of information technology continue to improve the lives of people and the planet. In short, how can it help us create a more sustainable present and future? How can this hyper-connectivity improve the life chances of the most vulnerable, whilst balancing the interest of people, planet, and profit?

This may look overwhelming and can lead to action paralysis. But seen from another perspective, it is an unprecedented opportunity to create a better world.

Sustainable development is no longer just ‘a nice thing to talk about’. It is what will ensure the well-being of the future generation. 2015 was a great year for sustainability. It witnessed two landmark global agreements – firstly the adoption of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and secondly the adoption of the Paris Agreement for climate action.

It is interesting to note that the business sector was at the forefront of the deliberations on both the SDGs and the Paris Agreement, and significantly influenced the two.  It is not surprising that when the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke at the Global Economic Forum in Davos in January 2016, he called on the business community to help achieve the SDGs and use its enormous power to create decent jobs, enhance access to education, unlock energy solutions and end discrimination.

How the world of business can work to deliver on these goals is a major challenge, and one that I will address in the second part of my blog. Keep an eye out for it in the coming weeks.

How do you see communications technology shaping sustainability actions? Let us know in the comments below.