Technology may be a key missing piece for companies in their efforts to accomplish their sustainability goals, according to the results of a survey released by global professional services firm Accenture. While the executives surveyed were unanimous in their views on the importance of technology to the achievement of their businesses’ sustainability goals, the study indicated that only 7% of companies have fully integrated their business, technology and sustainability strategies.

For the report, “Uniting Technology and Sustainability,” Accenture surveyed 560 executives from companies with revenues over $1 billion, including Chief Information Officers (CIOs), Chief Technology Officers (CTOs), and Chief Sustainability Officers, and directors and VPs directly reporting to them. Respondents spanned several countries, industries and sectors.

The companies surveyed for the report have set ambitious sustainability goals, with 92% setting 2030 net zero targets, and that technology is seen as a key tool in ESG efforts, with all respondents ranking technology as “important” or “very important” for achieving their organization’s sustainability goals. The executives cited several perceived sustainability-related benefits for technology use, with nearly half reporting that tech-led sustainability efforts lead to increased revenues from better products, and 49% saying that a commitment to sustainability helps in the recruitment of software engineers and tech talent.

Sanjay Podder, Technology Sustainability Innovation lead at Accenture, and report co-author, said:

“Every business must be a sustainable business and technology is a critical and fundamental enabler –from improving transparency and traceability in global supply chains, to helping measure and reduce carbon emissions.”

Despite the awareness of the benefits of integrating technology into their sustainability strategies, the executives highlighted several barriers to further integration. Theses include a lack of ready solutions, cited by 40% of respondents as the top barrier, complexity associated with adopting these solutions (33%), and a lack of awareness of unintended consequences of technology (20%).

The study also indicated that key tech-focused executives have yet to be fully engaged in sustainability efforts. Fewer than half of CIOs surveyed were found to be on the leadership team at their companies setting sustainability goals, and only 45% are assessed on achieving these goals.

The report also examined technology categories that contribute to the achievement of sustainability goals. On the climate front, artificial intelligence (AI) was found to be particularly useful, with 70% of companies that have successfully reduced emissions in production and operations, and 75% who have increased transparency in the measurement and disclosure of carbon footprint reporting using AI to achieve their targets.

The study also examined the integration of sustainability into companies’ technology strategy and processes. According to Accenture, this consideration is becoming increasingly vital, as the information and communications technology sector, which only accounted for 1.5% of CO2 emissions in 2007, now accounts for 4%, and may grow to 14% by 2040. The report indicated that significant room for improvement in this area, with very few respondents, for example, taking key steps to embed sustainability principles in their software development activities.

Podder added:

“It is no longer simply optional to put sustainability at the core of how organizations operate. A sustainable technology strategy – one that embeds sustainability in technology, drives sustainability by technology, and scales sustainability by engaging the ecosystem – will help companies deliver 360° value and contribute to the achievement of their broader sustainability goals.”

Click here to access the Accenture report.

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