Do CIOs hold the key to unlocking sustainable innovation?

United Kingdom, Jun 16, 2022

Toby Alock, Chief Technology Officer at Logicalis Group

Business leaders are overwhelmed. According to Verizon, 66% of leaders suffered from burnout last year. This unfortunately is not surprising. Many leaders are constantly adapting to evolving customer expectations, the pressure to compete in the digital economy, and the variety of protracted risks facing their organisations. Leaders are learning how to empower digital-first organisations and consider the above factors to ensure the business can thrive. These factors are also fuelling the pressure to continuously innovate to stay ahead of the curve, and their competitors.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, digitalisation processes have “sped up a great deal” according to 65% of businesses, across sectors from Finance to Healthcare. For many, this rate of innovation can quickly come at the cost of another key business priority: sustainability.

In an environmental crisis, meeting the urgent societal need for sustainable evolution while innovating to become digital-first and meeting commercial expectations, is a delicate balancing act.

The sustainable innovation gap in today’s digital marketplace

The pandemic caused a digital boom moving us online, and businesses have raced to increase their innovation capabilities to bridge the gap, so much so that over 75% of CIOs state they’ve increased the amount of time they spend on innovation. Despite this, many have entered forced experiments in digital transformation in a risky attempt to scale their services at the pace consumer trends demand.

Customer expectations have pivoted towards profound concern for the environment, in fact, 85% of global consumers have shifted their behaviour towards more environmentally conscious practices. In turn, business leaders are being pushed to evaluate their impact on the planet. Sustainability has become a boardroom issue, and with attention on action, leaders must become more transparent about whether their technology is offsetting carbon emissions or, in fact, contributing to them.

This shift in attitude is becoming clearer with the majority of CIOs reprioritising to increase the importance of innovation and sustainability. We need to switch this attitude to action, making conscious strides to reduce business’ impact on the environment.

A delicate balance: where innovation and sustainability meet

So, how do CIOs and businesses ensure they are innovating strategically to prepare for the digital first world, where innovation is a constant, but sustainability is a must?

Forgoing innovation in the name of sustainability is simply not an option. However, businesses that fail to take serious measures towards sustainable transformation stand to lose existing and prospective partners, customers and even employees. This is supported by PWC, who found that 84% of employees state that they are more likely to work for companies that prioritise environmental issues.

Business leaders need to find the balance of innovation and sustainability that lands well with all stakeholders. With many leaders (35%) now prioritising these goals above business continuity and resilience, reducing costs and data governance, we can finally see how seriously the issue is being taken. However, executing on these priorities requires an outcome-orientated approach.

Making a statement isn’t going far enough, businesses need to make an impact. They need an integrated strategy, weaving sustainability into the fabric of the business operations and making innovations sustainable from inception. This includes curating products and solutions with the environment at their core, educating employees on the importance of sustainable innovation, and frequent reviews into results, to ensure a difference is being made.

Collaboration, Innovation and Outcomes: the new sustainable CIO

At the heart of putting intent into action is revamping modern responsible business practices at scale; working across industry networks to break down barriers stopping progression. Executives have cited balancing ESG with growth targets (40%) and regulatory complexity (37%) as their top challenge in driving the furtherment of ESG initiatives. But by leveraging partners and customers, they can collaborate, and innovate to deliver outcomes that optimises their customer experience.

Through this collaboration comes solutions like prioritising digitalisation and dematerialisation of central IT solutions through cloud infrastructure, to measurably reduce carbon footprint as well as mitigating risks and optimising costs. With CIOs now dedicating 30% of their time to innovation, solutions can be found more quickly, reducing the environmental impact of legacy systems that aren’t being switched out.

Harnessing tools which measure their sustainable impact grants business leaders the expertise and freedom to take more strategic action, and combats one of the top obstacles to driving sustainability initiatives. One of the ways businesses can do this effectively is through modern managed services that provide business outcomes as a service, so organisations have the freedom to focus on strategic collaboration and innovation.

Employing intelligent data insights gives credibility to sustainable innovations and shows tangible progress. Businesses should therefore look to collaborate with an expert partner, native to these tools and services, to transform and manage sustainable business development. 

We need action, and we need it now.

Businesses need robust plans to lower emissions and reduce their impact on the environment. Leaders risk losing customers and employees, and even business collapse if their sustainable practices do not keep up with their strides for innovation.

To this end, businesses not only require sustainable innovation but efficient innovation through taking a data-driven approach and managing IT to outcomes, not uptime. In turn, this will free up IT and strategy teams to focus on putting plans into action. Thinking digital-first will unearth the path to sustainable innovation. And by leveraging innovation service providers, CIOs can scale up their business’ ability to meet both revenue and environmental targets, whilst retaining valued customers and employees.

To learn more about the road to sustainable innovation and digital-first leadership, and to hear from industry-leading experts, sign up to our CIO Summit:

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