How can different industries take on sustainable digital transformation?

4 Apr


Written by

Marvellous Aham-adi




 How can different industries take on sustainable digital transformation?
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Sustainable digital transformation is a holistic approach that integrates digital innovation with sustainability principles to ensure that technological progress contributes positively to the well-being of society and the planet.

As businesses across industries embrace technological advancements to drive growth and innovation, it is imperative to prioritize sustainability in these digital initiatives.

One of the key drivers behind the call for sustainable digital transformation is the escalating environmental challenges facing our planet. 

Climate change, resource depletion, and environmental degradation are pressing issues that require urgent action. By integrating sustainable practices into digital transformation efforts, businesses can significantly reduce their carbon footprint, minimize waste generation, and contribute to a healthier planet.

Moreover, sustainable digital transformation aligns with the shifting expectations of consumers, investors, and stakeholders. Today's eco-conscious consumers increasingly favor brands that demonstrate a commitment to environmental sustainability. According to a study by Harvard Business Review, 65% of consumers expressed a desire to buy from brands advocating for sustainability. 

66% of all respondents and 75% of millennial respondents in a McKinsey and Co. survey also say that they consider sustainability when making a purchase.  This shift is driven by consumers aligning themselves with brands that share their values and priorities, particularly in relation to environmental stability.

By embracing sustainable digital practices, businesses can enhance their brand reputation, attract a socially responsible customer base, and differentiate themselves in a competitive market.

From a business perspective, the benefits of sustainable digital transformation are also numerous. According to a survey by PTC on corporate leaders and executives, respondents say that the top benefits of digital transformation include meeting changing customer expectations (34%), improved operational efficiency (40%), and faster time to market (36%). 

Source: PTC
Source: PTC

By implementing eco-friendly technologies, and optimizing resource use, organizations can drive cost savings, improve operational efficiency, and foster innovation. Sustainable digital initiatives also promote regulatory compliance, reduce risks associated with environmental disruptions, and enhance long-term resilience in the face of changing market dynamics.

Embracing sustainable digital transformation is not just a choice—it is a necessity for building a better world for generations to come.

So in this article, we will see strategies that industries can use to take on sustainable digital transformation. We will also look at common challenges organizations may face as well as case studies to follow.

Let’s get started. 

Strategies for Sustainable Digital Transformation Across Industries

Let’s look at innovative approaches and best practices that different industries can adopt to navigate the path toward sustainable digital transformation.


1. Distribution and Retail

  • Transition to multi-functional digital devices: Retailers can replace traditional hardware with digital devices like smartphones, which are more energy-efficient and have a smaller carbon footprint.

  • Energy and resource efficiency: Adoption of energy-efficient devices such as LED lighting and smart HVAC systems can lower the carbon footprint of retail operations.

  • Supply chain management: One of the critical steps in achieving sustainability in distribution and retail is optimizing supply chains. By utilizing advanced data analytics and machine learning algorithms, companies can gain valuable insights into consumer behavior and market trends. This allows for more accurate demand forecasting, reducing excess inventory and minimizing waste in the process.

  • Enhanced customer experience: Technologies like AR and VR can improve the shopping experience and potentially reduce product returns, thus decreasing waste.

  • IoT Integration: Smart devices and sensors enable real-time energy consumption monitoring and predictive maintenance. IoT technology allows retailers to manage energy consumption efficiently by using smart systems to control lighting, heating, and cooling in stores. This ultimately reduces the carbon footprint of retail operations.

  • Blockchain for transparency: Blockchain technology can enhance supply chain transparency and risk management. Smart contracts programmed on the blockchain can enforce sustainability standards throughout the supply chain. For example, contracts can ensure that suppliers adhere to eco-friendly practices, use recyclable packaging, or meet specific environmental targets. Non-compliance can trigger alerts or automatic penalties, incentivizing adherence to sustainable practices

💡Blockchain technology is a digital record-keeping technology that enables the secure sharing of information. It is a type of distributed database or ledger that is used to record transactions across many computers so that the record cannot be altered retroactively without altering all subsequent blocks. Blockchain technology can be used to make data in any industry immutable.

Blockchain technology can also enable consumers to access detailed information about the environmental impact of products they purchase. By scanning a QR code or tapping an NFC tag, consumers can view data on the product's carbon footprint, origins of raw materials, and eco-friendly certifications. This will empower them to make informed and environmentally conscious purchasing decisions.

Source: Interline
Source: Interline

The distribution and retail industry can embrace sustainable digital transformation by integrating these strategies into their core operations. This not only meets the growing consumer demand for environmentally conscious businesses but also contributes to the long-term viability and competitiveness of the industry.

💡Case Study: How Decathlon manages over 8.5 million assets with Wedia

2. Manufacturing

To practice sustainable digital transformation in the manufacturing industry, companies can follow these strategies:

  • Embrace digital transformation trends: Decentralized energy systems, blockchain-powered transactions, and the use of technologies like Microsoft's Azure Cloud Platform for optimizing logistics can significantly reduce carbon footprints and enhance energy efficiency. These innovations not only improve fuel supply but also lead to a more resilient and responsive energy network.

💡A decentralized energy system refers to a model where energy resources are distributed and managed locally, close to where the energy is needed, rather than relying on a centralized grid network.

  • Use digital alternatives: Transitioning to digital alternatives, such as eBooks in the case of publishers, can significantly decrease carbon footprints by eliminating the energy, material, and waste associated with traditional methods. 

  • Energy Management Systems (EMS): EMS are software tools that monitor, control, and optimize energy consumption in real time. They provide insights into energy usage patterns and help implement energy-saving measures. 

  • Quality control: Machine learning and artificial intelligence can enhance product quality by identifying defects early in the production process. The fewer the defects, the less waste you have after production. 

  • Improve product design and development: Computer-aided design software allows for virtual prototypes. This will enable manufacturers to refine designs before production; hence reducing waste and improving efficiency.

  • Invest in technology infrastructure: Manufacturers should invest in the right technology and data infrastructure to support digital transformation effectively. For example, manufacturers can use digital twins to understand and predict their energy consumption and emissions.

💡Digital twin technology is a virtual model of a physical object, system, or process that spans its lifecycle and uses real-time data from sensors to simulate behavior and monitor performance. It allows for predictive maintenance and remote monitoring across various industries, including manufacturing, energy, automotive, healthcare, and construction. 

Unilever is an example of a manufacturer that has employed sustainable digital transformation to reduce its carbon footprint in various ways. The company has focused on reducing emissions from the use of its products, including advocating for the decarbonization of energy grids and communicating the carbon footprint of its products to consumers. They have also integrated digital technology into all aspects of its business. Unilever uses IoT, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and digital twin technology to automate and optimize production processes, enhance operational efficiency, and gain better visibility and insights into its operations.

These measures show how manufacturers can reduce their environmental impact.

💡 Case Study: How Super Vac uses Wedia to find and share assets across its complex dealer network

3. Financial services and Insurance 

Here are ways these two industries can take on sustainable digital transformation:

Use cloud computing for sustainability: Cloud computing is efficient in enhancing operational efficiency and sustainability. Migrating to the cloud can significantly reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions. For example, organizations that move to the cloud can cut their energy use by 65 percent and carbon emissions by 84 percent or more, depending on their level of cloud integration 

Fully embrace digitization: One of the key steps towards sustainable digital transformation in the financial and insurance industry is the digitization of all processes. By reducing paper usage and promoting electronic documentation, companies can significantly reduce their environmental footprint and carbon emissions. Embracing digital signatures, online transactions, digital asset management systems, and electronic reporting not only improves efficiency but also contributes to a more sustainable business model.

Fund green initiatives: In addition to internal practices, the financial services and insurance industries should fund sustainability initiatives that rely on digital technologies. By prioritizing environmentally friendly projects, impact investing, and sustainable finance initiatives, companies can contribute to the transition towards a more sustainable economy. 

💡Case Study: How Covea Insurance and its brands use Wedia to comply with regulatory obligations

4. Life Sciences

The life sciences industry includes companies involved in pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, medical devices, biomedical technologies, nutraceuticals, cosmeceuticals, food processing, and other fields aimed at improving the lives of organisms. Here are ways this industry can be more digitally sustainable:

  • Embrace digital health solutions: The adoption of digital health solutions is crucial for sustainable transformation in the life sciences industry. By implementing telemedicine, remote patient monitoring, and virtual care platforms, companies can enhance patient outcomes while reducing the environmental impact associated with traditional healthcare practices. Digital technologies enable greater access to healthcare services, improve treatment adherence, and minimize the carbon footprint of healthcare delivery.

  • Utilize cloud computing for energy efficiency: By migrating data storage, processing, and analytics to the cloud, companies and research labs can reduce energy consumption and lower carbon emissions. Cloud-based solutions enable life sciences organizations to innovate more efficiently while reducing their environmental footprint. 

  • Use sustainable lab solutions: Embracing digital inventory and data management solutions can optimize data sharing and in the process reduce energy consumption. Digitalization allows for remote access to data. This will enable efficient data analysis from anywhere and potentially reduce the need for extensive on-site staff, leading to energy savings. Companies can also use energy-efficient equipment and eco-friendly materials to minimize waste and reduce their environmental impact. 

  • Leverage AI and machine learning: The life sciences industry can use AI and machine learning to be more sustainable. These technologies can be employed to improve drug discovery, clinical trials, and patient engagement. For instance, AI can analyze vast amounts of biological data to identify new drug targets more quickly and efficiently, reducing the number of tests needed to be made in the lab. 

💡Case Study: How GW Cosmetics upgraded their existing Web2print solution to a powerful platform for all marketing and communication materials.

5. Automotive

To reduce its carbon footprint through sustainable digital transformation, the automotive industry can implement these strategies:

  • Create a long-term sustainability strategy: Developing a corporate sustainability strategy with net-zero targets that align with internal investors, customers, suppliers, and government regulations is crucial and also a long-term project. This strategy should focus on sustainability across the entire value chain, including design, engineering, production, logistics, and services.

  • Utilizing digital technologies: Leveraging digital technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning, Internet of Things (IoT), and cloud platforms can optimize maintenance schedules, fleet management, delivery routes, warehouse management, and also perform real-time tracking to manage carbon emissions effectively.

  • Implementing additive manufacturing: Incorporating additive manufacturing techniques like 3D printing to design critical spare parts supports the circular economy by reducing waste and promoting sustainable practices in manufacturing.

💡In a circular economy, the emphasis is on maximizing the use of existing materials and products through practices such as leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing, and recycling. It aims to prolong the lifespan of products as much as possible.

  • Enhance resource efficiency: Efficiently using natural resources such as water, green energy, and gas while monitoring them in real-time can lead to improved resource efficiency. So implementing IoT-based digital apps to monitor water consumption and track energy usage can significantly reduce the auto industry’s carbon footprint.

💡Case Study: How Volkswagen commercial vehicles rely on Wedia to manage a centralized brand portal.

6. Energy

The energy industry can practice sustainable digital transformation in several ways:

  • Utilize smart grid technologies: Using smart grid technologies helps optimize energy distribution, monitor energy usage in real time, and reduce energy wastage.

  • Engage in green IT practices: Implementing energy-efficient IT infrastructure, data centers, and cloud computing solutions can help reduce energy consumption in the digital operations of energy companies.

  • Consumer engagement: Encouraging consumers to adopt more sustainable digital behavior is essential. Energy companies can provide consumers with digital tools that help them measure their energy usage and carbon footprints. This will promote eco-conscious choices and drive sustainability.

By embracing these sustainable practices and technologies, the energy industry can lead the way in achieving a greener and more sustainable future while continuing to meet the growing global energy demand.

💡Case Study: How ENGIE and its subsidiaries use Wedia to centralize all of its assets onto a single platform.

DAM Systems and Sustainability

Digital Asset Management (DAM) systems like Wedia are key to sustainable digital transformation. Here are several ways DAM systems can help various industries be more sustainable. 

  • Centralized storage: Storing all digital assets in one centralized location reduces the need for multiple storage devices thereby conserving energy. DAM systems also encourage paperless operations and reduce environmental impact by cutting down on paper usage.
  • Cloud-based systems: Cloud-based DAM systems eliminate the need for physical servers which will significantly reduce an organization's energy consumption. 
  • Automated processes: Automating routine tasks like resizing images saves time and reduces manual labor, promoting efficiency and sustainability
  • Generative AI: Wedia even offers a generative AI feature called Wedia AI that is designed to scale content creation and inspire marketing content with unique images. The AI image generator tool allows users to create custom images quickly instead of having to carry out photoshoots. 

Along with offering these features, Wedia as a company follows an eco-design approach to its DAM solution. 

In the dashboard, users receive a sustainability score and practical tips to improve environmental efficiency. For example, they can boost their score by deleting unused, duplicate, or expired assets. 

Wedia DAM dashboard

When users click on 'Unused assets', Wedia scans the system and displays a list of assets that have not been accessed recently. These files can then be deleted. When files are deleted, the cloud storage no longer needs to allocate space for them, which means less energy is consumed by the servers. 

So not only is a DAM system essential for storing, organizing, and distributing digital assets in large enterprises, it is also effective in helping these organizations be more sustainable in their processes.  If you want to learn more about Wedia DAM and how it can help your organization be more sustainable, book a demo with our experts

Overcoming Challenges and Barriers to Sustainable Digital Transformation

In this section, we will look at the common obstacles organizations should look out for as well as how to overcome them. 

A. Common obstacles to sustainable digital transformation

The common obstacles to sustainable digital transformation include:

  • Skills gap: There is often a shortage of skilled professionals with the expertise required to drive digital transformation efforts.

  • Legacy systems: Outdated infrastructure and systems can hinder the adoption of modern technologies, leading to technical debt and difficulties in transitioning to new digital solutions.

  • Security concerns: Ensuring data protection and compliance with privacy regulations is a critical aspect of digital transformation, but it can be difficult to manage and maintain.

  • Budget constraints: Digital transformation often requires significant investment in technology, skills, and resources, which may be limited for some organizations, particularly small and medium-sized businesses.

  • Risk-averse organizational culture: Resistance to the adoption of new technologies from C-level executives to employees can impede digital transformation.

These obstacles can impede the successful implementation of digital transformation initiatives and need to be carefully addressed to ensure sustainable progress.

B. Strategies for overcoming resistance to sustainability

 These strategies include:

  • Transparent communication: Initiate change with transparent and ongoing communication. Explain the reasons for change, its tangible benefits, and how it aligns with the company’s long-term objectives.

  • Education and training: Provide comprehensive training and educational resources to help employees acquire the necessary skills to adapt to new practices. This reduces anxiety and empowers them to embrace change confidently.

  • Gradual implementation: Implement changes incrementally rather than all at once to minimize disruptions to workflow and reduce the sense of upheaval.

  • Leadership alignment and role modeling: Leadership should lead by example, actively supporting and participating in the change process. Their commitment and visible support help set the tone for the entire organization.

By implementing these strategies, organizations can effectively address resistance and facilitate a smooth transition to sustainable business practices.

Call to Action

Businesses are increasingly being called upon to prioritize sustainability in their digital transformation efforts. According to a Deloitte study, 67% of customers are happy to pay more for sustainable products. 

This call to action is driven by the urgent need to address climate change and its environmental impact. 

By integrating social, environmental, and economic factors into their decision-making, organizations can ensure a holistic approach to sustainability. 

Embracing the triple bottom line—people, the planet, and profit—is essential, and setting clear and measurable sustainability goals is a fundamental step in driving change within an organization. 

Furthermore, fostering a culture of sustainability, leveraging partnerships and collaborations, and integrating sustainability into day-to-day decision-making is crucial for achieving sustainable innovation. The integration of digital technologies and sustainability not only improves a company's bottom line but also contributes to a brighter future for society at large. 

In conclusion, industries and organizations are urged to prioritize sustainability in their digital transformation efforts to not only mitigate environmental impact but also to secure long-term success in today's dynamic and competitive business landscape. 

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