Leading corporate sustainability – by IBM’s Jonathan Adashek

by Jonathan Adashek, IBM’s chief communications officer and senior VP of marketing and communications

As a leader at a B2B tech company, I am lucky enough to talk to peers at of some of the world’s most influential organisations and governments on a regular basis. We talk about our companies and communities – our goals and objectives – and what keeps us up at night when it comes to achieving them, and technology’s role in getting to desired outcomes.

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Sustainability is a topic we discuss often. In our most recent CEO study, IBM found that the number of CEOs citing sustainability as one of their greatest challenges increased nearly 60 per cent in just one year.

It is not new for us. In fact, IBM’s corporate environmental programs date back to the 1960s when we first issued a formal directive on pollution control, disposal of liquid wastes, and wastewater treatment.

Over the years, in my own career, I have watched climate action take many different shapes as it made its way from small scientific circles into mass consumer trends. I was in Kyoto as governments from around the world negotiated the Kyoto Protocol, in the room when Walmart decided to reduce packaging by five percent and worked with leaders from the UAE as they launched Masdar. My wife and I, like so many others, worked together to make lifestyle changes that would reduce our family’s carbon footprint.

But consumers are no longer willing to carry the burden of climate change. And they will no longer accept the bare minimum from companies and governments. As part of this, the term “greenwashing” has made its way into the global conversation. Greenwashing is a relatively new term, defined as the act or practice of making a product, policy, activity, etc. appear to be more environmentally friendly or less environmentally damaging than it really is. It is a thin green veil applied to a product, initiative, or mission that lacks meaningful impact.

Being accused of greenwashing, especially on the global stage that is social media, is a stain that is hard to get out. In response, organisations are striving to do more – some better than others. And it’s not for lack of trying. I see it all too often – organisations that want to do the right thing but lack the technology and expertise to turn baby steps into bold steps. For many, the finish line is clear – they want to create a more sustainable company with a positive impact on the world – but they don’t know how to get there.

They need technology to act as the catalyst for scaling solutions across industries, including oil and gas. IBM helps our clients put their sustainability goals into action through data-driven innovation with industry leading consulting and technology capabilities.

In the Middle East, countries are aggressively working to achieve their goals in clean energy, water savings, renewable energy and power savings by 2040 (in GCC emirates), in getting to Net Zero by 2060 (Saudi’s 2030 vision) – not to mention the Museum of The Future in Dubai.

IBM’s sustainability offerings in the region go beyond buildings and construction. With integrated products like Envizi, we make it possible for companies to operationalise sustainability. We are delivering strong sustainability strategies, roadmaps and architecture for clients, including an initial workshop session and MVP using the Envizi tool in the oil and gas industry. IBM is on the journey from start to finish, beginning with consulting and ending with the technology that makes it real.

One of the ways this is coming to life: Earlier this year, Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) and IBM announced the signing of a strategic agreement to drive adoption of artificial intelligence in the carbon capture and industrial domains across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

What is happening today is clear: A vast majority of companies believe that their sustainability investments will produce improved business results. A lack of insights into their data however, is holding them back. Technology can help overcome these hurdles and is no longer perceived as a cost of doing business. . It has become the fundamental source of competitive advantage, and how businesses scale and create differentiating experiences.