Do digital adopters endorse sustainable development?

These last years I worked mainly on digital transformation issues: researching how change happens, what resistance hinders progress, strategy pitfalls to avoid. I published on how middle management copes with this trend, I did consulting, coaching and speeches about it. I am now reverting to another leading-edge area in organizational change: corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability.

I just launched with partners at New Angles a new research entitled “Is CSR Changing Business?”.

Is this a split from what I was doing before? Not really, rather a return to my roots. I am an organizational change practitioner who takes a chance to work on her passions: digital transformation and sustainability. I do consider these issues related: to me, they are both about reinventing organizations.

Faith in a better organization

Those interested in digital transformation and those interested in corporate sustainability have something in common: they think organizations can be improved, and can be changed into something better.

In an ideal world, digital transformation allows collaboration, which fosters collective intelligence, which in turn makes the organization agile and innovative. In an ideal world, CSR & sustainability allow organizations to care about people and the environment, to focus on creating value other than just financial and to make the future more livable.

Transparency and ethics are intertwined concepts: digital transformation increases transparency, which is good for ethics, and vice versa. Both domains are also testing new business models: circular economy, collaborative economy. Last but not least, for both domains, thinking is holistic and global, not linear or hierarchical.

A continuous challenge

Those interested in digital transformation and those interested in corporate sustainability have something else in common: they are conscious of the hazards of a difficult economy. Their organizations may decide to protect short-term profit, and expose themselves to downstream depleting effects: loss of agility, and negative impacts on sustainability. “Consolidate achievements” is a watchword for both communities.

Another mantra is “rejuvenate motivation”, as efforts have already been heavy, and we are not yet in sight of the journey’s end. Digital transformation brings uncertainty in the future of some professions, and technology evolves at light speed. Transformation toward sustainability may question business basics. Because discoveries are made, innovation is needed and new markets must be invested in, we must constantly reinvent ourselves.

Is there a synergy between both domains?

Many organizations reached a milestone on sustainability, as they enabled reporting and complied with regulations. They wonder, “What’s next?” If they decide for pushing beyond legal requirements, how can they generate enough creativity and innovation, other than through relying on collaboration?

One of the questions of the survey “Is CSR Changing Business?” pertains to digital maturity, and I hope to find what kind of correlation, if any, exists between digital adoption stage and CSR maturity. Another work I am doing is to look for structured communities inside multinational corporations – communities of practice (CoP) on sustainability – and research how they are using digital tools and enterprise social network to ameliorate their actions toward sustainability.

I would happily read your comments – whether you are from the digital transformation community, or from the CSR and sustainability family, or having interest in both worlds like me -, do digital adopters endorse sustainable development?


(this post was originally published in LinkedIn here)