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Tech for good: Three tips for becoming a more sustainable business

  • Written by Vincent Kruse, Managing Director of Neptune Software for the UK and Ireland

    Every company, be it tech or otherwise, should be aware of the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria against which businesses can be evaluated by stakeholders.

    In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly set out 17 global goals designed to guide humanity towards a more sustainable future. These were termed the Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) and are intended to be met by the year 2030.

    When talking about sustainability, it can be difficult for many tech companies to see the value in their environmentally conscious contribution to reaching these goals. So, we must then turn to the ‘Social’ of ESG as the primary lens through which we can strive to make a positive impact on our biosphere.

    I am certain that if each person within an organisation does something small with the good of society in mind, huge things can be achieved.

    It must be noted, however, that whilst the SDGs are a good place to start, the 17 goals themselves and underlying targets are vague.

    Detailed work should be undertaken to understand the targets behind each goal and to determine the relevant metrics by which the selected targets (and resulting goals) will be measured.

    Every sustainability project will also always be preceded by a large data project. Many of the data sources are non-traditional and organisations will need to create the relevant interfaces to connect to these data sources. Additionally, data mapping and data cleansing activities should be carried out to ensure the data is relevant and usable.

    And in most cases, the ambition to deliver a positive impact against one target/goal, will result in a negative impact against another target/goal. Organisations should always take this into account when defining the metrics to better understand their true impact.

    For companies that are struggling to know where to start on their mission to create lasting societal impact, below are my top three tips when delivering against the SDGs or ESGs.

    1.      Make changes to company policy

    The 17 global SDGs aligned to ‘Social’ are led by the aim to create good health and wellbeing, gender equality, decent work and economic growth, responsible consumption and production, and reduced inequality. To me, there is no doubt that small changes to internal policies by tech companies in the UK can make a difference in one, if not all, of these areas.

    If your business has already drawn up policies to align with global sustainability goals, then check in with your team about their successes or failings. Is your team aware of the business requirements to meet these goals? Is the company working towards delivering a positive impact? Do things need to change?

    The tech industry is often accused of lacking gender diversity and the fifth global SDG is focused on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls. UK tech companies could lead the way to eliminate the stigma surrounding women in STEM and, as a result, create a better social environment in which diversity can thrive.

    At Neptune Software, we have long focused on creating a diverse workforce across all positions within the company. We continually push female empowerment and advancement, and currently, 25% of our employees are women.

    By doing the hard work of ensuring the policies set in place work for the good of a diverse and inclusive team, tech companies can make a huge difference in the lives of the underrepresented, marginalised, and stigmatised. Making sure these policies are adhered to, will not only increase staff wellbeing on a microcosm level, but set a standard for society at large. It can be done, and it must be done. 

    2.      Design tech that’s used for good

    Low-code/no-code platforms encourage citizen developers to create technological solutions to real world problems. At a recent Neptune Software hackathon, some of the most innovative minds in tech created apps that solved their own neighbourhood’s environmental problems, in just a few hours.

    One app allowed members of a community to adopt a tree and report back on the health of that tree to the local council. Others focused on beach clean ups and green space wellbeing, but the common theme that tied many of the apps together was a socially driven desire to create a positive impact.

    I encourage tech companies in the UK to build on this creativity and champion the passion of their people. If your team can see a better way to conduct business, build products, or offer solutions to clients that meet real societal needs, then let them implement these ideas.

    If the tech you provide has the potential to be delivered differently to facilitate the meeting of ESGs or drive a healthier community, then don’t overlook the impact that your actions could have on the planet. Work as a team to find the best solutions possible and start small to create lasting change.

    3.      Make time for community contribution

    Any company can create space in its team’s calendar for community contribution. Whether it’s one Friday off per month to dedicate to litter picking, volunteering initiatives that encourage employees to visit the elderly, spend time at a foodbank, or incentives for creating an impact socially. Every act of community service we do contributes to a more sustainable, cleaner, and happier society.

    Roles in tech can require long periods of sitting and a monstrous amount of time spent in front of a screen, but business leaders can encourage employees to look beyond themselves - and even beyond the company they work for. As a result, I believe that society will benefit.

    If you cannot implement change at policy level or adapt your product offerings to have a more sustainable purpose, then you can turn your attention to giving your team time to be more socially responsible.

    At Neptune Software, we are currently reviewing policies company-wide to ensure that they meet and support the relevant SDGs possible. As a business in the UK, myself and my colleagues are also seeking to cultivate a culture of giving back, and we’re currently looking for a way to create time for our teams to do socially driven acts.

    By doing small things that matter, we believe that tech companies in the UK can become an overwhelming force for good as humanity strives to deliver a positive impact.

    What does ‘good’ look like for you and your business? Start there. 

    About the author

    Aoife is a Sync NI writer with a previous background working in print, online and broadcast media. She has a keen interest in all things tech related. To connect with Aoife feel free to send her an email or connect on LinkedIn.

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