What's next for sustainable business in the technology sector?
In this follow up to our most recent edition of the SustainAbility Institute by ERM's annual Sustainability Trends Report, we explore the sustainability issues and trends shaping the business agenda in 2022 from the perspective of the technology sector.
The supplement focuses on the five environmental, social, and governance (ESG) related trends we anticipate will most impact the industry:
- Technology’s climate impact
- Supply chain sustainability
- The circularity gap
- Nature-related impacts
- Digital ethics
The ESG risks and opportunities facing the tech sector are striking. While for many sectors COVID-19 has posed significant challenges, for technology it has also opened numerous new opportunities. During the pandemic, the sector has experienced significant growth as people and businesses were forced to go online and rapidly embrace digital solutions to continue economic, social, educational, and welfare activities when lockdowns were introduced across the world. Pandemic-initiated growth is likely to continue, as remote working and many other uses of technology to connect people in more innovative ways are likely to stick long term.
The pervasiveness and ubiquitous nature of technology also means it faces regulatory and civil society scrutiny in areas like data ethics. Edelman’s 2021 Trust Barometer shows that public trust in the sector is waning; in fact, while trust in business overall is growing, trust in the technology sector has consistently declined over the past decade.2 The sector has high-profile environmental challenges as well, including e-waste management, the sustainable sourcing of critical minerals, and data center sustainability.
The technology sector has great potential to help society and other industries manage the transition to a sustainable economy. To do so, it must manage its own ESG related risks, especially considering the sector’s exponential growth. Tech companies already provide technological solutions to other sectors to support their transitions to sustainable operations. If the sector can build and maintain public trust regarding data privacy and digital innovation – so that more digitally enabled solutions can be embraced in everyday lives – then the low-carbon transition can be a digitally enabled one.
Learn more about these five sustainability trends, their relevance to the technology sector, and what companies might expect to result from the trend as the decade advances.