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The future of the planet lies in digital enterprises building sustainable operations

By Rajesh Ganesan

Across Singapore, businesses are embracing the use of digital innovations to deliver convenient and engaging user experiences. In particular, accounting software makes it easy for users to manage their transaction data whilst offering suggestions that enable decision-makers to optimise their expenses effectively. By having this solution at their disposal, employees do not have to rely on ledgers, which makes tracking account activity difficult.

Furthermore, by integrating digital technologies into their business operations, organisations can allow more users to leverage digital innovations for their benefit. E-kiosks, for example, allow customers to order food or check themselves into hospitals without having to own a device themselves. 

Whilst digital technologies can be a force for societal good, they also increase greenhouse gas emissions and e-waste. However, there is an opportunity for enterprises to play a bigger role in communities by prioritising sustainability in their digital transformation initiatives. Adopting sustainability practices should not be overlooked.

Managing digital product usage

In 2021, Singapore launched the Green Plan to advance a nationwide approach to sustainable development. This plan outlines six key pillars crucial to achieving zero carbon and zero waste in all economic sectors by 2030: the Energy Reset, the Green Economy, Sustainable Living, City in Nature, Resilient Future, and Green Government.

Organisations can take the reins here by integrating sustainable practices into their business operations. For instance, the increased purchase of laptops, phones, and printers, coupled with employees' failure to comply with environmental guidelines, feeds energy consumption and worsens the climate crisis. Organisations can curb their energy use by installing AI-driven endpoint power management solutions that can either put devices to sleep or shut them down when not in use.

There are other practices that organisations can adopt. One of them is regularly updating devices to maximise their life cycle, which, in turn, reduces e-waste. Simultaneously, employees can be encouraged to use only equipment relevant to their roles and responsibilities, as well as recycle unused devices. By conducting these measures, organisations will be well on their way to lowering their carbon footprint. Also, it is important for businesses to operate their technology within the framework of compliance, laws, and sustainability.

Building sustainability into the nation's infrastructure

As the regional tech hub for Southeast Asia, Singapore continues to invest in ICT infrastructure, encourage innovation, and adopt new technologies to support people's livelihoods and economic activities. Moreover, the country is home to 80 of the top 100 global software companies that offer platforms and digital transformation services for local companies.

However, the increasing reliance on technologies can lead to increased power demands which, in turn, fuel climate change dangers that can affect every facet of people's lives. In particular, Singapore, being a low-lying island, is at risk of sinking, with around 30% of the country's landmass just five metres above the average sea level. Furthermore, the increase in mean temperatures can alter natural ecosystems, which can endanger plants, animals, and even humans.

Singapore created the Digital Connectivity Blueprint (DCB) to ensure that its digital infrastructure can continue to meet the needs of its citizens without causing harm to the environment. The DCB outlines five key areas crucial to staying ahead of future trends. One of these areas is designing for sustainability, which organisations can do by renovating their physical spaces.

In particular, whilst eliminating their dependence on fossil fuels is near-impossible for now, organisations can reduce their consumption by installing energy-efficient lights and appliances in their workplaces. By implementing food composting and greywater recycling, organisations can minimise the amount of waste they produce. These initiatives can be monitored by a sustainability committee to ensure that they are achieving the desired outcomes.

Data centres are also another area of concern as they rely on advanced cooling systems, which eat up a significant amount of energy, especially in a tropical country like Singapore. In fact, according to the Minister of State for Trade and Industry, Alvin Tan, cooling systems typically account for more than 40% of a data centre's total energy use. 

To start, organisations can switch to using renewable energy sources, like solar, that allow them to meet their energy needs without polluting the environment. Also, tech experts can work with researchers and industry partners to develop and test new technologies that can benefit users whilst using fewer natural resources. Finally, IT administrators can transfer workloads from on-premises servers to the cloud, which has fewer hardware requirements and uses shared resources. This way, organisations will be able to save on both IT costs and power.

Building sustainable digital operations and practices is about more than just attracting eco-conscious customers and maintaining business continuity. It is about fulfilling a shared responsibility to minimise society's impacts on the environment. Organisations that embrace this fact will be able to create valuable interactions with their customers and, more importantly, ensure that current and future generations can continue to thrive on the planet we call home.

The first step towards adopting environmental sustainability is awareness of how much is being emitted into the environment. The second is to have a good monitoring system in place, followed by initiatives to apply green practices by investing in green energy and solar energy. By starting with a mindset change, organisations can then bring one sustainability aspect at a time into their business practices. 

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