Companies that know and understand their purpose do better. Study after study shows that having a strong vision, well-defined values and a varied culture leads to improved financial results and a happier workforce.
While the idea of stakeholder capitalism isn’t new, it’s rapidly taking hold. Chief executives from 180 US companies say social responsibility should come before profit, and the World Economic Forum’s new Davos Manifesto seeks to ensure corporate leaders are taking their pledges seriously.
With corporate purpose and values in the spotlight, business leaders must take responsibility for ensuring the ideas are authentic, clearly communicated and accurately benchmarked. Defining and measuring success lies at the heart of this, with artificial intelligence, machine learning and data mining offering new ways to evaluate progress.
Done right, this could underpin a shift away from traditional metrics, such as profit and the bottom line, toward a holistic and dynamic overview of what’s being achieved.
Here are three areas in which we can all use technology to better understand our impact, regardless of industry or sector.
Reducing your carbon footprint
Putting climate change and the environment at the heart of policy is a good first step for any corporation. It’s not just about reducing your own environmental impact, but also helping others to reduce theirs.
Harnessing ICT products and services can help lower everyone’s carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 20%. BT Group has pledged to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2045 and has already set and reached some rigorous science-based targets.
Investing in renewable energy sources, cutting emissions from buildings, and moving toward electric vehicles are just some of the steps to hitting these targets.
Technology can not only assist in setting and measuring these goals – it can help us achieve them too. For example, in cutting business travel. Where in the past employees might have jumped on a flight, constantly improving collaboration tools, not to mention augmented and virtual reality, now reduce the need for face-to-face meetings.
In a similar way, technology such as robotics or 3D printing can also help improve product and factory efficiencies, meaning fewer materials and resources are used to get the same, or even better, results. And artificial intelligence is already being used for the predictive maintenance of equipment.
The Internet of Things offers ways to utilize data to reduce carbon footprints. For example, Auto Mate – an IoT-enabled vehicle-monitoring system – collects fuel economy and carbon data and suggests ways drivers and fleet managers can act to improve their environmental impact.
Improving access to technology for all
While using technology in this way can only be positive, we must also be mindful of those at risk of being left behind.
About half the world’s population doesn’t have access to the internet, cutting them off from opportunities and limiting their potential to build the skills they need to thrive. Improving this can bring benefits like mobile banking and access to financing to remote areas, while access to social media can give a voice to communities that may otherwise feel isolated.
It’s not just an issue for developing countries. In the UK, almost 12 million people lack the digital skills they need for everyday life. BT’s Skills for Tomorrow initiative aims to reach and help reskill 10 million people by 2025. By targeting teachers, young people, older citizens, small-business owners and families, the program has a wide and ambitious scope. It’s also gone global, with a three-year partnership with the British Asian Trust in India to enable girls to access information, skills and opportunities – improving their understanding of equality, supporting their employability, and informing them about support for good health.
Programs like these are vital to ensuring the proliferation of technology doesn’t create a two-tier society.
Treading the ethical tightrope
In a similar way, making sure the spread of technology is also ethical should be central to any measure of success. While we’ve focused on the benefits these advances can bring, corporations must also guard against the potential for them to be misused, either intentionally or unintentionally.
Corporate leaders should work with their stakeholders to help people feel safe online and instill confidence that their transactions and data are secure, while also protecting privacy and freedom of expression.
For example, when we harness the power of artificial intelligence, we need to make sure we understand how it is making choices and that those decisions don’t include an inbuilt bias caused by the data.
Regulation alone is not the answer. All corporate leaders need to step up to gain trust and ensure their data is not misused.
As technology reshapes our world, corporations can take advantage of new and innovative approaches to benchmarking success. We have discussed a few ways it can enhance the power of communications while also creating a meaningful impact, as well as some alternative metrics that can underpin corporate benchmarking and help plot a course for the future.
Understanding corporate purpose and measuring its results is a task that’s constantly evolving. In 2020, business leaders must ensure all stakeholders are included and served, ensuring people remain the focus as technology marches on.
Authored by Jennifer Artley, Managing director, Technology, Life Science & Business Services, British Telecom
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