5 Strategies to Deliver Sustainable Outcomes through Digital Transformation - Part 1 of 2

5 Strategies to Deliver Sustainable Outcomes through Digital Transformation - Part 1 of 2
Photo by Joshua Sortino / Unsplash

According to a recent report from BCG, a staggering 48% of board of directors members do not regularly incorporate sustainability competencies into their board selection.

According to the same BCG survey, only 29% of board of directors possess the knowledge to challenge and monitor sustainability action.

To bridge the gap between business-as-usual and sustainable value creation, company leadership can turn to digital innovation and transformation programs. These programs embed sustainability within strategic and operational workstreams, aligning it with objectives and KPIs.

Proof has partnered with Human Kind, a digital and sustainability consultancy, to support investors and enterprises in executing successful digital and sustainable transformations.

Here are our top 5 tips to get started with embedding sustainability into your business model:

Strategy 1: Build the Business Case

From responding to new regulations such as SFDR and CSRD in the European Union to enhancing efficiency and expanding to new markets, data-driven sustainability can propel your business objectives forward.

To convince your company leadership of the importance of investing in sustainability, begin by examining your business goals for the next 1-5 years. With these goals in mind, identify how sustainability will meaningfully contribute, for example:

  • Manage Risk: Anticipate ESG-related changes and comply with existing and emerging regulations.
  • Raise Capital: Attract new investment capital through financial outperformance and meet existing investor expectations.
  • Boost Sales: Attract sustainability conscious customers and build new revenue streams with sustainable products and services.
  • Enhance Brand and Reputation: Cultivate trust on a large scale through genuine data reporting and attract and retain top talent.
  • Streamline Operations and Improve Performance: Reduce manual reporting burden and identify opportunities to improve sustainability performance.
For a comprehensive guide to building the business case for sustainability, refer to this guide "Unlocking Sustainable Value" in the Proof Sustainability Community. Not a member of the Proof Sustainability Community of investors and enterprises yet? Create a free account here.

Adopting a digital-first approach ensures that your sustainability strategy will scale as your company grows, taking advantage of technology to minimize manual processes and enhance efficiency.

Strategy 2: Conduct Robust Strategic Planning

Often overlooked, strategic planning is a critical step to ensure that digital transformation produces sustainable outcomes.

To embark on a successful digital transformation journey, it's crucial to conduct a comprehensive assessment of current operations, pinpointing areas ripe for improvement through digital solutions while aligning these efforts with your sustainability objectives. Rather that implementing sustainability as a standalone initiative, integrate sustainability into your overarching business strategy.

To encourage cross-team buy-in, be sure to engage stakeholders at every stage, leveraging their insights to prioritize initiatives and anticipate challenges. Continuously monitor progress through established KPIs, remaining agile to adapt strategies based on performance data and evolving sustainability criteria.

Human Kind Strategic Planning Guide

Strategy 3: Incorporate Design Thinking to Improve Success

Design thinking is a structured approach to problem-solving that prioritizes human needs and involves understanding your customers' and stakeholders' challenges. This human-centered approach encourages creative thinking, collaboration, and rapid learning, ultimately leading to solutions with a higher likelihood of success.

1. Engage with Stakeholders: Utilize design thinking to grasp the needs and perspectives of all stakeholders impacted by your digital and sustainability initiatives. Conduct interviews, surveys, and workshops to gather insights into their experiences and expectations.

2. Define Challenges and Opportunities: Use insights gathered to define the key challenges and opportunities in achieving sustainable outcomes through digital transformation. Ensure that feedback is clear and focused to effectively guide the ideation process.

3. Create Innovative Solutions: Foster creative thinking to generate a wide range of ideas for digital solutions that can positively impact your business. Facilitate sessions and workshops to explore different avenues for integrating sustainability into digital initiatives.

4. Prototype and Test Solutions: Develop prototypes of digital solutions aimed at sustainability and test them in real-world scenarios. Gather feedback on these prototypes to understand their efficacy and impact on sustainability goals.

5. Implement and Iterate: Implement the most promising solutions, continuously monitoring their impact. Based on ongoing feedback and data, be prepared to iterate and refine these solutions.

Where to Go from Here

Successfully integrating sustainability into business strategies requires strategic planning and ongoing management. Start by aligning your sustainability strategy to your organization's business goals, and use a digital-first approach to ensure scalability and efficiency gains. Conduct strategic planning to integrate sustainability into digital transformation initiatives, and incorporate design thinking to address complex challenges through stakeholder engagement and iteration based on feedback.

In the next article in the series, we will feature two more lessons on successfully implementing a digital transformation strategy, including best practices for measuring and managing performance and practical case studies to demonstrate how digital-first sustainability can transform your company's products and services.

About Proof: Proof provides access to the world’s largest consolidated set of reliable, material and high-quality ESG & impact data for private markets. Proof's driving vision is to serve as the largest force multiplier for creating positive, meaningful change through business. 

About Human Kind: Human Kind is a digital and sustainability consultancy that uses data, design, and technology to drive innovation and transformation programmes that deliver both sustainable and commercial outcomes.