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From Digital Transformation to Sustainable Transformation

Friday, August 5, 2022

We’ve been talking about digital transformation for nearly 15 years and we’ve been following developments up close through our Learning Expeditions that take us—and you!—into the heart of Silicon Valley. It’s now time to go beyond just talking about digital transformation. Oh, it’s far from being over, for sure, but it’s worth keeping in mind that while there’s a starting point, there’s no finishing line. Technologies, trends and needs are constantly evolving and they certainly do with the COVID-19 pandemic acting as an accelerant. 


But at RealChange, we believe that digital transformation only makes sense if a sustainable transformation is initiated as well. This is where we can make a difference—together.

What’s a sustainable transformation?

Humans have always tried to control nature, to shape it the way they wanted it to be—even if it meant destroying the environment. Massive deforestation, fracking and water pollution are just a few examples. Disaster mongering is pointless. However, we must confront the situation to find a simple solution to a complex issue: where is the balance between economic prosperity, societal change and environmental protection for a sustainable future?


An “internal software” update and a paradigm shift is necessary to tackle this challenge. It’s no longer possible to support a global economy based on infinite growth in a world with finite resources. Besides, sustainable transformation goes beyond mere environmental considerations, it’s a systemic change in worldview:


●      How can we find meaning and value in work and missions?

●      How can we work effectively in a multidisciplinary team?

●      How can we reduce gender, racial, disability or educational inequalities to design organizations that truly reflect our society?

●      How can we talk about diversity and inclusiveness in a meaningful and respectful way?

●      How can we promote circular and regenerative economies?

●      How can we build a fair, responsible and equitable economy?


These questions are all part of a sustainable (and digital) transformation.

How to integrate sustainable transformation into organizations

Initiating change in any organization is challenging if executives are not on board. Besides, changing a culture and a mindset requires effort, whether it’s working towards digital or sustainable transformation. Training, education, advocacy work and collaboration are needed. Transformation shouldn’t be enforced but discussed. A willing commitment is needed.  


●      What are the threats, opportunities and pressures to make sustainability a key issue for the future of your organization?

●      How could operations be reconfigured to accelerate sustainable transformation?

●      How could the ecosystem move towards a digital and sustainable transformation?


Companies that effectively tackle this issue and demonstrate engagement tend to be viewed in a positive light and fare better in terms of retention. Digital transformation brings efficiency, productivity and high performance. Sustainable transformation equals efficiency, relevance and meaningfulness.

How to Boost Digital and Sustainable Transformation

It’s important to keep in mind that unlike “greenwashing” and other marketing spins, this trend is here to stay. All major companies are currently moving forward with plans for both digital and sustainable transformation. For instance, B Corp combines social and environmental responsibility with economic success—just look at Patagonia, Triodos Bank, Natura, Veeva, The Guardian, Ben & Jerry’s, The Body Shop, Allbirds, WeTransfer, Kickstarter, etc.


So, how can you keep up with the trend? You could start by looking at your carbon footprint, not only as an individual, but also as an organization. If everyone lived like you do, how many planets would it take to sustain this lifestyle? Calculate your impact on the Global Footprint Network and learn more about the topic.  


To move forward, you could also share these four key questions at your next executive committee:


  • How can your organization grow in the current environmental framework?  
  • How can it leverage UN research to set its own CO2 emission reduction targets?
  • How can it use the 17 sustainable development goals to make a difference and stand out as an organization? 
  • How could this ambitious, necessary, and engaging paradigm shift be a source of professional development and fulfillment for you as a leader?


Much like with digital transformation, early adopters will get a head start on sustainable transformation. The question is not whether you should embrace it but when. So, are you ready to change the world?