Eike Wenzel is the head of ITZ, a German institute that researches trends and the future, as well as a member of the Sustainability Council of the State Government of Baden-Wuerttemberg.
Can doing business more sustainably make companies better prepared for future crises?
Sustainability has almost become a bit of a vague term. But it actually just means that we should only use the resources we have. And when important resources become scarce, we have to look for intelligent ways to create or substitute those resources. This kind of approach would help us a great deal in the years to come and also if we are ever faced with similar crises.
We have to accept that we can no longer generate growth beyond the planet’s limits. However, I am optimistic, since many companies now understand this, and consumers are also willing to change. The political sphere must now follow suit because it is ultimately responsible for setting the course for this radical transformation.
What can digital companies already do to lower their carbon footprint?
It is obvious that digitalization can contribute enormously to climate neutrality. From my experience, I would even go as far as saying that a process like the energy revolution would be impossible to imagine without digitalization. And in our everyday lives, we have also seen that digitalization can even help us get though a sudden crisis like the current pandemic, for example by switching to working from home. After all, eight percent of global CO2 emissions are caused by commuting to and from work.
The bottom line is that the digitalization megatrend will play a decisive role in the coming years if we want to increasingly replace the use of non-renewable resources with technology. Whether digitally-controlled and autonomous mobility without combustion engines in the form of electric cars, or growing vegetables without using land (vertical farming), digitalization (Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, P2P) is essential in all these areas.
What approach should Germany take in 2021 when it comes to sustainable business management?
We want to work toward a digitally sustainable society by 2030. This transformation also involves moving away from the old economy of coal and oil (both of which have now already been written offby the financial markets). This shift is a big gamble but promises a massive leap in development for all industries. Our society will get a new operating system. Businesses and associations are currently calling for politicians to finally define the guidelines for this “new deal”. Everyone has grasped the idea, we just need to finally put it into action now.