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Future Retail View: Sustainable practices for disruption

By Miya Knights, Publisher | Monday October 31 2022 | UPDATED 28.10.22

Retail Technology takes a look at the latest best practices emerging to promote sustainability as a way of better coping with disruption, as discussed at a recent Thoughtworks Live event

Retailers are coping with the impact of globally disruptive events and economic uncertainty on their operations and customer demand. But they also cannot neglect sustainability.

Sustainable practices and selling sustainable products topped a recent global poll as the most influential factors in choosing to visit a store. So, it pays to maintain focus on this trend.

As the topic of an event hosted by systems integrator ThoughtWorks in London recently, it was clear sustainability practices must be technology-led. It is also a business imperative.

Nurturing sustainable leaders

“Sustainability is the leadership challenge of our time,” said Göran Carstedt, former president of Volvo Sweden, IKEA and member of the Volvo and IKEA management boards.

“Our economic reality must align with climate change’s ecological and anthropological reality,” he told event attendees. “You must ask: ‘what is the company good for?’”

Carstedt, who is also a senior director in the Clinton Climate Change Initiative, called on business leaders to seek meaningful purpose beyond their shareholders.

New ways of thinking

“We face two main challenges: creating a sustainable future and enabling transformational change,” added Carstedt, where circular, not linear, value chains are central to solving both.

He urged: “Don’t start with the question, ‘will this work?’ But, rather, ask, ‘is it important?’” Asking why will be vital for leaders in taking a more holistic, strategic approach to innovation.

Leaders will have to adopt these shared values, circular value chains and holistic practices into future development plans, using technology to manage and measure success.

Measuring success

The event also focused on how technology is playing a central role in the move from digital to sustainable transformation. Thoughtworks executives were on hand to explain how.

Marcelo De Santis, Thoughtworks chief digital officer, highlighted recent BCG research findings. It found companies putting sustainability at the centre of any digital transformation efforts are twice as successful as those that don’t.

But Lisa McNally, Thoughtworks head of cleantech and sustainability, added that only 33% of companies committing to tackle Scope 3 emissions actually had tangible reduction plans.

Tracking tech emissions

“Technology is a double-edged sword,” she said, pointing to high data centre energy consumption levels. “And Scope 3 is one of the hardest emission groups to track.”

McNally introduced Thoughtworks’ free cloud computing carbon footprint tool in response. The tool can help organisations manage emissions by server, region and workload.

“As more of our interactions get digitised, using tools like this is essential to work at the intersection of digital and sustainable transformation,” she added.

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