The year 2023 will officially be the hottest year on record, as recently reported by CNN. The global temperature this year will be more than 1.4 degrees Celsius warmer than pre-industrial levels, according to analysis from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service. This is close to the 1.5-degree threshold in the Paris Climate Agreement, beyond which scientists predict that ecosystems and humans will find it difficult to adapt.
That’s’ why business leaders and decision-makers have an urgent role to play in tackling the climate emergency; and we are seeing vigorous conversations on this matter. Of late, we have seen the emergence of the ‘twin transition’ concept – an approach recognizes that there is a huge and largely untapped opportunity for technology and data to drive sustainability goals.
By adopting the ‘twin transition’, leaders can bring the digital and sustainability agendas together to improve digital function, drive sustainability goals and future-proof their organizations. This represents a dual evolution, where digitalization and sustainability efforts synergize to propel societies towards a future characterized by economic prosperity, social well-being, and environmental harmony. But first, let’s explore the individual concepts behind twin transition.
The first component is digital transition, a transformative process driven by technological advancements that permeate every facet of society, from business and education to healthcare and governance. The rapid proliferation of digital technologies, such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and the Internet of Things, has revolutionized the way we live and work. For instance, smart cities leverage digital solutions to enhance urban living, optimizing resource utilization, and improving overall efficiency. Digitalization not only increases productivity but also fosters innovation, creating new economic opportunities and reshaping traditional industries.
Simultaneously, there is a growing recognition of the urgent need for a sustainability transition to address the environmental challenges that threaten the planet. This transition involves a fundamental shift towards practices that promote ecological balance, social equity, and economic resilience. Initiatives like the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) embody the global commitment to fostering sustainability, emphasizing the interconnectedness of economic, social, and environmental dimensions.
The twin transition thrives on the symbiotic relationship between digital and sustainability transitions. Digital technologies serve as powerful enablers for sustainability initiatives, offering tools to monitor, manage, and optimize resource use. Precision agriculture, for instance, employs sensors and data analytics to enhance crop yields while minimizing environmental impact. Similarly, the integration of renewable energy sources with smart grids exemplifies how digital solutions can facilitate a transition to a sustainable energy paradigm. Digitalization amplifies the efficiency and impact of sustainability efforts, creating a harmonious interplay between the two transitions.
There are several reasons why the twin transition is key to sustainable growth. One is that the marriage of digital and sustainability transitions enhances efficiency across sectors. Smart manufacturing processes, powered by data analytics and automation, reduce waste and energy consumption. This not only improves the bottom line for businesses but also lessens their environmental footprint, contributing to sustainable growth, according to a 2019 report of the World Economic Forum.
The twin transition also fosters innovation, giving rise to new business models that prioritize environmental and social responsibility. Companies that embrace sustainability through digital solutions often gain a competitive edge. Tesla’s success in the electric vehicle market, driven by both technological innovation and a commitment to sustainability, serves as a prime example.
In addition, digitalization enhances the resilience of societies in the face of environmental challenges. For instance, predictive analytics and early warning systems powered by digital technologies help communities prepare for and mitigate the impact of natural disasters, as reported by UNDP. The ability to adapt to changing circumstances is crucial for sustainable growth in a world marked by uncertainty.
The twin transition likewise facilitates global collaboration by breaking down geographical barriers. Digital platforms enable the sharing of knowledge, best practices, and resources, fostering a collective approach to sustainability. Initiatives like the Paris Agreement leverage digital communication and data sharing to coordinate international efforts in addressing climate change.
Lastly, digital technologies can play a pivotal role in ensuring that the benefits of sustainable growth are inclusive. Mobile banking, for example, allows financial inclusion for underserved populations, contributing to poverty reduction and social equity. The twin transition promotes a holistic approach to development that considers the well-being of all stakeholders, as reported by the World Bank.
In conclusion, the twin transition, encompassing both digital and sustainability transitions, represents a paradigm shift in how societies approach development. As digital technologies continue to evolve, their integration with sustainability initiatives becomes increasingly imperative for achieving long-term, equitable, and environmentally responsible growth. The twin transition is not merely a concept but a dynamic force driving the transformation of economies and societies towards a future where technological prowess and ecological harmony coexist. Embracing this duality is key to navigating the complex challenges of the 21st century and fostering a sustainable and prosperous world for generations to come.
The author is the Founder and CEO of Hungry Workhorse Consulting, a digital, culture, and customer experience transformation consulting firm. He is a Fellow at the US-based Institute for Digital Transformation. He teaches strategic management and digital transformation in the MBA Program of De La Salle University. The author may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org