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Sustainability and inclusion first


We are facing huge transitions as a society, where everything we considered ‘normal’ is going to change. This will obviously have a major impact on us and on the world we live in. New technologies play a decisive role in this, as they make those transitions possible. A precondition, however, is that it is used responsibly, with an emphasis on sustainability and inclusiveness.

The rapid development of new technologies has greatly enriched and improved our lives in many ways. By automating tasks, being able to access, edit and share information anywhere. And above all, at a time that suits us best. In recent decades, the ‘usefulness’ of new technologies has been at the forefront. That has to change. In the future, new technologies should be responsible and contribute greatly to sustainability and inclusiveness.

Encouraging good behaviour
Fortunately, we increasingly realise that things have to change. For instance, all kinds of initiatives have been devised to encourage ‘good behaviour’ (read: taking responsibility). As a result, we are increasingly using technologies that provide us with sustainable solar and wind energy, for instance. This helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contributes to a cleaner environment. Some technology companies are also already taking a step forward by making ‘sustainability by design’ central to their product development. This gives their technology an intrinsically sustainable basis. In addition, we have mutually agreed on the Sustainable Development Goals. These have the main goal of ensuring that the world becomes fairer and offers equal opportunities and possibilities for everyone, regardless of age, origin or income.

Sustainability and inclusiveness
So some things are already happening, but not enough. Especially in the field of sustainability, there is a lot of room for improvement. Although many parties claim that they operate more sustainably, if you look a little closer, you will see that it is often about ‘compensatory sustainability’. In fact, only the environmental burden is compensated, for instance by planting trees or buying green electricity. So this does not change the sustainability of the technology used. Indeed, many new AI and ML solutions actually use an awful lot of computing power. And that takes a lot of energy and it produces a lot of heat.

Inclusiveness is also becoming increasingly important in organisations. Everyone should be able to benefit from new technology. And unfortunately, this is not always the case. Recent research by the DNB shows that as many as 2.6 million Dutch people have difficulty managing their banking affairs digitally. And that figure is probably much higher if you draw it more broadly to the use of apps, websites and other digital means. This includes people with disabilities, digital illiterates and the elderly. And that group is growing if you assume that the Netherlands is still ageing and the digitalisation of society will only accelerate in the coming years. A new technology should therefore actually be less environmentally damaging and accessible to more people by default.

Taking responsibility strengthens reputation
Businesses enjoy the greatest trust from people worldwide as “ethical and competent” in a changing world, according to recent research by a leading US communications agency. The greatest responsibility lies with technology companies, which also enjoy the greatest trust (75%) within that group. If technology companies take that responsibility and prove it by showing how and to what extent they promote sustainability and inclusiveness, for example, they will also reap great rewards. A truly responsible reputation is likely to become the deciding factor for consumers to choose a particular brand in the future. You can already see that companies hanging on the other side of the scale are affected. And it could just happen that companies that do not take their responsibility will soon be banned from advertising, for example. If, as a company, you regularly present hard figures that conclusively show how and where improvements in taking responsibility have been made, especially around sustainability and inclusiveness, this will strengthen the brand enormously. Moreover, it will attract employees who care about these aspects. And they, in turn, will contribute to spreading this thinking further.

Better and fairer future
We are facing huge transitions. That is a fact. And we need all available resources to make those transitions happen. Technology companies are pivotal in those transitions. If technology companies take responsibility, then organisations and consumers using these technologies are also able to operate more responsibly. And that is not only good for the environment, but also for our society as a whole. It contributes to a better and more just future for all of us.