Editor’s note: This post was sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise; opinions are the author’s own.
In December, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), in partnership with Globescan, hosted its third Living Progress Exchange. The LPX has become an incubator of both ideas and collaboration, examining how businesses can improve sustainability and how communication and partnership can make a better product that increases customer engagement. The LPX concept is a natural progression for HPE, which has had a longstanding history of seeking and enhancing collaboration with other companies and industries.
In this online forum, HPE asked information communication and technology (ICT) professionals what it takes to elevate their businesses to maximum potential. What is needed to accelerate efficiency in their marketplace? And what generates opportunity?
Participants included a wide array of businesses from environmental, technology, automotive, energy and other sectors and had wide range of points of view. Globescan published two reports on the key findings from the Living Progress Exchange events: Accelerating Efficiency and Accelerating Opportunity. Here’s our summary of key takeaways.
Environment, transparency and incentivizing recyclable options
In terms of accelerating efficiency in the ICT sector, environmental costs and remedies were a major consideration for many stakeholders. Hidden environmental costs, participants noted, have the potential to get in the way of productivity. “Several participants noted that environmental inputs and outputs from operations are often unrecognized costs to business,” HPE noted. “Building tracking and sensor technology into existing systems to monitor resources can identify inefficiencies.”
“Valuation should be a lever — environmental inputs and consequences have been traditionally ‘off the books,’” Jacqueline Jackson, the account director for TruCost, explained. “The reality is these impacts and dependencies have costs, and applying a cost in monetary terms to these externalities can have a meaningful effect on decision-making, encouraging more sustainable models and brands.”
Transparency is key both in consumer relations as well as the industry as a whole, said Casandra Garber, 3M‘s sustainability platform manager. “Our customers are expecting our transparency and continued advancement in sustainability in our operations, as well as in how we help them meet their sustainability goals.”
Incentivizing and facilitating the renewables option was another area that participants felt the ICT sectors could help improve. “For ICT companies, using renewable sources to power their own operations raises awareness of alternative energy sources and connects the customer with sustainable technology,” HPE said. Tech companies can help energize this interest through a number of ways, including:
- Providing infrastructure for smart grids that use renewable resources when available
- Automatically gathering and applying data insights to energy management
- Helping to manage distributed energy and connect customers to renewable generation
Resources and smart use options in ICT Companies
Tracking and accountability was an important issue for some stakeholders. Developing better ways to track and resolve the loss of natural resources like water in piping and cooling systems and Scope 3 and 4 emissions are areas that the tech industry has been developing and is needed. So is technology that helps the building industry reduce waste and improve reuse, said Alex Zimmerman, president of Applied Green Consulting. “Invest in data solutions that support other industries in reducing their footprint, as well as focusing directly on the tech sector,” Zimmerman advised.
Not surprisingly, with today’s focus on sustainable options, energy efficiency was another key topic of the forum. More use of sensor technology and smart-metering systems, both which have been shown to reduce drain and unneeded expenditure help improve efficiency, as does “smarter” use of data centers to reduce energy use and land requirements.
HPE added to this last point that energy usage in data centers has been a well-known challenge in the ICT sectors. “It’s estimated that in 2015 data centers will have used more electricity than the entire United Kingdom, and that figure that could triple by 2020.
“As the participants in the LPX rightly pointed out, there is an opportunity for the ICT industry to reduce the energy use of its products, even as demand for computing increases.”
Increasing opportunities in ICT through inclusion and education
The forum also looked at ways to increase opportunities and access in the ICT sectors — a topic that has received a fair amount of focus in recent years. The discussion highlighted the fact that “more marginalized (or least connected) countries are becoming more excluded,” said David Souter of ICT Development Associates, even though at least 75 percent of the world’s population now have cell phones. Bringing less developed countries up to par with current technology advancements will help improve disparity in opportunities and services.
Education access is a hot topic these days when it comes to the ICT sectors, and these stakeholders zeroed-in on the advantages that education provides to the community as well as the industries themselves. Susan McPherson, CEO of McPherson Strategies, said local access is important to improving education in the ICT fields. “Putting a computer in a classroom or passing along smart phones to youth in a developing village is not enough. Whether it’s in a classroom or at a place of work, we must partner with local teachers/employees/organizations to deploy training programs that give people the skills and knowledge they need to use technology to its full potential and do so in a sustainable way.”
Building ICT solutions “for the bottom — as well as the top” strata of consumers is also vital, participants said.
“As we think about deployment, I think we have to be thoughtful about mindsets. Often we design for the top 5 to 10 percent. To create inclusive growth, we need to think and design for the other 90 percent,” said Lindsay Clinton, director of SustainAbility.
Driving inclusive opportunities, the stakeholders noted, is a multi-factorial process because it is a multi-factorial challenge. Homelessness, unemployment, inequality, lack of access and even job inflexibility play into accessibility issues as much as physical mobility issues and exist in every country. Identifying challenges first, working locally, leveraging big data and working toward new business models, and new technology that harnesses opportunities in the Internet of Things are all part of the process of making ICT more inclusive.
“We are living at a time of unprecedented opportunity. Tools that enable disruption, such as cloud computing, mobile technology and big data analytics, are so accessible and affordable, it’s never been easier to turn an idea into a solution,” HPE said. “ICT enables us to connect in ways never possible before, to unite people from all backgrounds, cultures, geographies, experiences and capabilities to identify the needs, develop the solutions, break down barriers and drive inclusion. In the Idea Economy, virtually any idea is possible.”