How technology can pave the way for a sustainable future for SMEs

Sustainability is key for any modern business. Looking after our world is one of the key focuses of modern society, and so sustainability is a massive part of the continued success of any organisation – even small and medium enterprises (SMEs). 

The idea of sustainability can be overwhelming and confusing at first, but learning how sustainability plays a key role in your business can ensure you’re fully prepared to meet your organisation’s goals.

Technology is key and will allow you to both boost efficiency and improve sustainability. In this article, Extech Cloud explores why it is so important and how to use technology to increase sustainability in your organisation.

The role of sustainability for SMEs 

To find sustainable solutions, SMEs need to consider the environmental and social impact of their activities to find a balance between environmental and social responsibility, and economic viability.

For smaller businesses specifically, sustainability can offer significant benefits that cannot be ignored:

  • Cost reduction:  Sustainability promotes using fewer resources and creating less waste, both of which also work towards reducing costs within your business.
  • Consumer and peer reputation: As individuals and organisations become more conscious about sustainability, implementing sustainable policy with your business will help attract more conscious-minded individuals and companies – creating opportunities and making your organisation more reputable.
  • Risk Mitigation: Sustainability promotes diversification and reduces dependence on finite resources, therefore, introducing sustainable practices can make your business more resilient.

These solutions are usually geared towards the goal of net zero (the goal that many organisations have — to reach a point where they are offsetting the carbon that they put into the environment enough that it’s calculated to zero) but can also drive further sustainable development and innovation within any organisation.

How technology can be used to meet sustainability goals 

As the modern world has moved forward, so has the technology that forms its backbone. More advanced solutions to traditional problems have become commonplace and have led to organisations worldwide becoming more efficient and sustainable.

Modern technologies (such as the cloud, automation, AI, and remote collaboration) are helping businesses achieve their sustainability goals through increased innovation, allowing them to meet their full potential and improve overall efficiency.

This can be seen in multiple industries. For example, in the retail and fashion industry, Empowered by Microsoft Azure, H&M has been using AI-driven data to help predict the popularity of their products to inform supply and demand, leading to less waste.

At a more holistic level, Natwest has been utilising Microsoft Azure AI and cloud technologies to boost sustainability within their organisation to reduce carbon emissions – and specifically indirect emissions within the supply chain.

Below are some of the key technologies helping global organisations boost sustainability and innovation.

Key technology driving sustainability 

Cloud computing and energy efficiency 

Cloud computing is a technological solution that businesses can apply to help drive sustainability and boost business potential.

Instead of using on-premises hardware to run your organisation, a cloud computing solution such as Microsoft Azure can help your organisation become up to 93% more energy efficient,  due to not having to run expensive hardware and use power to keep your infrastructure running. Plus, unlike on-prem systems, a cloud-based infrastructure means you never have to upgrade server hardware, which reduces technological waste in the long term.

Microsoft has developed tons of innovations to ensure that Azure is as sustainable as possible, enabling your business to take advantage of the environmentally conscious hardware and become more sustainable in the future.

Remote Collaboration 

With a worldwide boost in hybrid and remote working solutions, using remote communications software has become invaluable to any organisation wanting to look towards the future.

Due to these technologies, collaboration no longer requires people to meet up in person. When considering how much carbon is put into the atmosphere by travelling, any form of remote collaboration is far more sustainable than having to bring people into the office to work.

Data Analytics 

Data analytics are useful throughout your organisation and can be used to help drive sustainability within your organisation. Using data to better understand how to help your organisation become more sustainable, you can create realistic data-driven targets and ensure progress.

There are many ways you can use data to improve sustainability:

  • Energy usage: Energy is a key contributor to emissions. By using data analytics to work out where excess energy is being used, you can work towards the goal of lowering energy usage.
  • Water consumption: Just like energy, water consumption is a major environmental issue that needs to be addressed for a more sustainable future. Using data analytics, you can track water consumption and sustainability of the water source within your organisation.
  • Waste Generation: Every organisation generates waste but is a key environmental issue. By tracking waste generation within your organisation, you can take steps to reduce the negative impact.
  • Emissions: Both carbon and greenhouse gas emissions are massive contributors to climate issues, and so by tracking your carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions throughout your organisation, you can set goals to ensure that emissions are decreased.
  • Social and community impact: Your local community is also vital when it comes to sustainability. After all, by investing in hiring locally (which reduces the distance needed to travel to work) and working to fulfil your company’s social responsibilities, you can positively contribute to the wider community around your organisation.

Using data analytics, you can begin to tackle institution-wide sustainability issues (known as the four enemies of sustainability):

  • Structure and governance: Siloed sustainability limits wider influence.
  • Processes and metrics: Unsustainable metrics are counterintuitive to progress.
  • Culture and leadership: Archaic mindsets clash with sustainability-focused thinking.
  • Methods and skills: Adapting your tools and skills to welcome change.

This isn’t just theoretical either, as organisations worldwide use data to help make their organisation more sustainable. For example, Unilever is using data analytics to help reach the goal of making all their products sustainable by 2030 and enabled it to implement sustainable practices throughout the supply chain.

AI-Driven insights and machine learning 

Artificial intelligence is helping organisations become more powerful and informed about their future. By using AI-driven insights, you can take advantage of one of the most powerful modern technologies to improve your organisation’s sustainability.

AI-driven insights can study patterns within your organisation regarding energy consumption, ways to reduce your organisation’s wider carbon footprint, and even specific aspects, such as production and logistics, to ensure your organisation is doing whatever it can to be more sustainable.

Food waste company Winnow is leading the charge in the hospitality industry, using AI insights to track food waste and pinpoint where it is created to reduce waste, which allows for cost savings and saves time.

Machine learning has also helped organisations find new solutions to long-standing sustainability problems. For example, Google’s recent introduction of DeepMind  has helped them reduce the energy used to cool data centres by 40%.

How to get started  

Sustainability is a key aspect of the modern world. As organisations look towards the future, ensuring that our planet remains healthy for future generations is vital, which is why it’s so important to reduce carbon footprints and improve resource efficiency.

As society progresses to a more sustainable future, technology offers the opportunity to innovate and bring new ways for organisations to drive sustainability and progressive, environmentally conscious thinking.

With some of the biggest companies in the world, such as Microsoft, putting sustainability at the forefront, it’s easier than ever to make positive steps now.

If you’re looking to start your organisation’s shift towards sustainability, reach out to us today. Our experts will be able to help you get started and provide you with a helping hand along the way.

Get in touch with Extech Cloud and see how we can help.


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