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Chapter 4

Digital responsibility accelerators

It’s not just growing ecological awareness that is encouraging companies to move towards greater digital responsibility. Other factors are pushing them in this direction, starting with the growing pressure of the financial markets.

While consumers and employees are putting significant pressure on companies, we can see that legislation and the financial markets are now placing the strongest pressure on them to transform.

Regulatory pressure

Since the late 2000s, under pressure from increasingly environmentally aware citizens, laws and standards to further protect the environment and mitigate climate change have continued to multiply at both national and global levels (see diagram below). Companies are being encouraged to take action to comply with these policies, and are also becoming more aware and better equipped to do so. This legal framework is gradually being extended to the digital sector, which is currently the subject of much debate.

Financial markets push

Is there a genuine awareness of the need to build a better future or is it simply aversion to risk? Whatever the case, the world of finance has undeniably evolved in recent years. Since 2017, European companies’ CSR reports have been subject to regulatory publication and are therefore auditable. Stock market indices based on ecological commitment have been created and their stocks are included in specialised investment portfolios. The capitalisation of companies with CSR commitments increases, while those perceived as polluting are heavily discounted. A study by Oxford University1 even established a strong correlation between sustainability and long-term financial performance. Leaders, whose performance is assessed against their company’s financial health, can no longer ignore this pressure, which makes them major advocates for transforming the company and its activities towards a more sustainable business.

Branding and best practice

In the age of social media, a brand’s public image – whether viewed by its customers, investors, partners or the talent it hopes to recruit – has never been more strategically important for companies. The growing environmental concern demonstrated by consumers is a potential opportunity for companies that not only know how to transform themselves but understand the importance of communicating the positive steps they’ve taken. However, it’s also a potential risk area for those who may be accused of “greenwashing”.

The economic benefits of environmental performance

The best carbon footprint is the one you do not create, so implementing ecoresponsible policies automatically impacts a company’s spending and therefore its financial performance. When it comes to IT, the rationalisation of employee equipment plus the development of more efficient uses and more considered digital consumption all help generate cost savings. Yet this financial correlation is still too often considered afterwards as a welcome consequence (and certainly a significant one) rather than an initial incentive.

Pressure on the whole value chain

Last but not least, pressure is increasing on companies to assert more control over their Scope 3 impact, i.e. emissions associated with their suppliers. Purchasing departments increasingly require their suppliers to commit to more responsible practices and provide evidence of this. This domino effect starts with public procurement and will ultimately have a significant impact across the entire network.