Sustainability is a business imperative

Sustainability is a business imperative
25 March, 2021 Guest Writer

Sustainability is a business imperative

Why do businesses invest in software that can detect child sexual abuse material? What are the drivers that encourage organisations of all sizes to ensure that their IT environment is clean, and what drives them to engage with a complex societal problem?

For the The NetClean Report – COVID-19 Impact 2020, we interviewed several businesses to learn what drives them to detect child sexual abuse material in their IT environment, and we asked Elaine Weidman Grunewald, Sustainability Executive Tech Sector, Author and Board member, to comment more widely on why businesses are engaging with serious sustainability issues outside of their core business objectives. Read on for the whole interview.

By Elaine Weidman Grunewald, Sustainability Executive Tech Sector, Author and Board member

Businesses have committed to ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) criteria for decades, but this commitment is now more than crucial as SDG (the Sustainable Development Goals) challenges are coming to a head. We are rapidly approaching the target date for the SDGs, while facing acute problems such as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. Digitalisation is accelerating both challenges and opportunities. As a result, sustainability must be at the core of business strategy and development.

Sustainability starts with a moral imperative, but even more so a business imperative, and a leadership vision that is based on wanting to change the world and the company to be a force for good. This sustainability thinking must penetrate all levels of the organisation, and it must be reliably informed by the challenges we face today.

Protecting human rights

As complex global problems continue to grow, we need more education, more innovation and more action. The climate crisis is at the forefront of the challenges we face today, but the scope of sustainability is much wider than this. Protecting human rights and the rights of the child are a prime example of what we must work towards. This becomes increasingly complex in a digitalised world, and requires stakeholders from all sectors to play an integral part.

The impact of the private sector

I recently co-wrote a book, Sustainability leadership: A Swedish approach to transforming your company, your industry and your world, together with Henrik Henriksson, CEO of Scania, because I feel strongly that the private sector needs to step up; with technology, market solutions, and resources. The sheer scale of the private sector, and its ability to respond more quickly than governments, means that it must take a proportionate, if not bigger, share of the responsibility to solve the crises that we are facing today. Today more than two-thirds of the hundred richest entities on the planet are corporations – if we don’t engage the private sector and its resources, it is a huge miss.

Innovation and technology

Key to sustainability is technology. You can’t innovate without technology, whether you’re looking at biodegradable plastics, ethical risks of AI, or to reduce emissions of truck fleets – it’s all about tech and good engineering. To be successful we also need to look at how we get multi-stakeholder solutions together, and how we truly ensure that technology is used for good, and not for exploitative purposes.

Innovation in the area of sustainability is a huge opportunity to develop businesses that are profitable. It attracts top-level employees, who often want to connect to purpose driven businesses, it also attracts customers who want to interact with ethical and purpose driven companies, and investors focusing on ESG issues. The end result is ethically driven businesses who provide resources and opportunities for the communities in which they operate.

“The sheer scale of the private sector, and its ability to respond more quickly than governments, means that it must take a proportionate, if not bigger, share of the responsibility to solve the crises that we are facing today.”

Getting the foundation right

Underlining the importance of responsible business practices is especially true when we discuss online child sexual abuse crime. Working to prevent child sexual abuse is about putting a stake in the ground, refusing to be part of a problem, and getting the foundation right. Big tech companies, for example, could do much more on their platforms, by creating technical solutions, and by working towards ensuring, with certainty, that they are not contributing to the problem. This goes for all businesses and organisations.

Transformational tools need to be developed in all areas to accelerate the pace towards a sustainable future. Where they are available, they should be used. Software that detects child sexual abuse material in an IT environment is one such transformational tool. It protects the IT environment and employees, but it also provides a solution to a societal problem.

Sustainability in the private sector needs to be about proactively addressing what a business can do to improve the world, and how it can be a force for good. It’s about embracing sustainability as part of the core strategy, and asking all employees: What can we do? And what should we not do? From a business perspective once you start to contextualise your impacts, and minimise your risks, it starts to make perfect sense. Acting ethically and for a sustainable future will increasingly be key to business success.

Elaine Weidman Grunewald, Sustainability Executive Tech Sector, Author and Board member, is an expert on global sustainability and development. She has worked with the private sector for two decades, with a focus on digitalisation and sustainable development challenges, and pioneered the concept of Technology for Good. She has recently published a book entitled Sustainability leadership: A Swedish approach to transforming your company, your industry and your world, which was co-authored with Henrik Henriksson, CEO of Scania.