IST04 Sustainable Society

Resolving global issues fosters open collaboration within society. Collective business strategies together with this transformation will encourage the expansion of global opportunities and resolve uneven resource allocations. A more sustainable society and business environment will be created.

Recognition of Sustainable Growth Concerns

Technology has provided countless advantages to people and enterprises, but also it has raised ethical issues and created a burden on the global environment. Seeking only an affluent life and convenient services may lead to the imposition of disadvantages on some communities and increase environmental pollution. People and companies are now recognizing these environmental concerns, and are incorporating these limitations within their activities and plans.

Solving Global Issues

Issues ranging from population movement, to climate change, food crisis, differences in values, diffusion of authority and internet governance are challenging society. Against this global backdrop, the United Nations established the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs1) in 2015. These goals include the securement of a healthy and safe life and environment, the elimination of social disadvantages and the improvement of quality of life for individuals. The SDGs created a major trend where nations, regions, companies and even individuals cooperate. Management based on environmental, social and governance (ESG2) factors is also impacting corporate strategy. The rationale for ESG is to bring corporate activity in line with global social and environmental issues, leading to increased organizational flexibility and sustainable growth. The ability to foresee and collaborate on such global issues will be the source of future corporate value.

1Adopted by world leaders at the United Nations Summit in September 2015, these 17 international goals are aimed at building an inclusive society by 2030.

2The United Nation’s April, 2006 announcement of the Principles for Responsible Investment suggested that companies incorporate environmental, social and governance factors into business investment strategies.

Rebuilding Strategy from a Circular Point of View

How should organizations respond to the SDGs and ESG? The answer is simple. Reevaluate the essence of a company from a sustainability-based, circular viewpoint. The Circular Economy Package3 announced by the EU in 2015 and implemented in 2018, aims to protect businesses from the depletion of resources and price fluctuations, enhance corporate ability for international competition and produce sustainable development and job growth.

Efforts are underway to incorporate this circular business model into corporate strategy to promote responsible and sustainable business growth. For example, a Danish electric power company incrementally abolished its fossil fuel thermal power generation, converting it to offshore wind and biomass. This effort restructured a declining business while contributing to the environment. Another instance of such efforts is a food manufacturing company that invested in technological developments in satellite sensing to monitor and reduce its own marine plastic pollution. Sustainability  marine resources, which constituted the core business activity of the organization, improved the company’s own sustainability.

Reevaluating corporate activity from the circular economy perspective may not be sufficient to solve all of issues that exist in a business’ value chain. What is required is open collaboration between competitors, industries, venture companies, governments and even individuals.

3Adopted by the European Commission in December 2015, this is an action plan to convert Europe into a circular economy to increase international competitiveness, enhance sustainable economic growth and create jobs. Implemented in 2018 as one of its specific strategies, the European strategy for plastics also garnered worldwide attention.

The Role of Technology

From the circular economy perspective, usable resources, energy sources, aging infrastructures and excess urban functions still exist. However, by using technology to identify, share and utilize resources in new ways, the sharing economy can be considered a circular platform. Examples of this approach include a startup company in Australia that uses block chain technology to let individuals freely buy and sell electric power generated from solar panels. This creates economic and environmental advantages for both the sellers and buyers of electric power. In addition, a British university is developing a system that stores energy in a liquified form. Implementation of this technology may enable the charging of electric cars in the same way gasoline is used in conventional cars, possibly repurposing the existing infrastructure of gasoline stations.

The Realization of a Sustainable Society

A technology-based information society has the potential to overcome challenges. To accomplish this, the world must reexamine the social, business and living environments under which we are placed from a circular economy perspective. If individuals and businesses use technology to connect resources, the environment and social systems, and coordinate partnerships in a circular way, a sustainable society may yet be achieved.

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