Call for Collaboration – Digital Responsibility as Part of Corporate Strategy

Digitalisation fundamentally alters the way we do business and how we interact with one another and with our environment. This challenges all of us to shape this new playing field to enable a good life for everyone. There are great opportunities for organisations as well as for sustainability, but with them, we also face new responsibilities.

More than just products supply chains now also produce data

Take the supply chain of a morning smoothie, for example. Without a doubt, you still need the pineapple farmer in Costa Rica to grow the fruit, they still need to be processed, packaged, shipped, distributed and filled into recyclable cups for you to have your smoothie. Working conditions, pesticide use, shipping emissions, and other issues are still concerns today, but there is also a lot of data generated in any given supply chain. This holds great opportunities: farmers could be paid contingent on their environmental and social practices. Digital labels could communicate product information in real time to consumers and account for individual preferences. New services based on personalised nutrition using real-time health data are feasible.

The changes digitalisation creates are not confined to products and services. They permeate every aspect of organisations, people’s work lives and lifestyles.

Now organisations are feeling a great need to better understand what kind of responsibilities they will be facing in the fast-changing digitalised world. We invite you to discuss with us the opportunities and responsibilities that digitalisation holds.

Get in touch – contact Michael Kuhndt with your ideas and enquiries and enjoy reading the rest of the article!

More than an individual every person produces data

Imagine your customer “John” entering his kitchen in the not so distant future – but not to rummage around in the fridge—instead, his home healthcare system has registered a pending drop in his blood sugar level about an hour ago. Luckily, the same system also has access to his personalised nutrition info, such as DNA details and full blood screen. When the low blood sugar was registered, it directed the automatic cooking-system to calculate the perfect menu for him at this time, the fridge to scan the items he has at home and to order everything that was missing.

This scenario might sound like a utopian world to some, where everything is connected and personalised, where people are healthier and freed of daily chores. Or it might feel a bit dystopian to your customers, and perhaps to yourself. Whether the effects of digitalisation swing in one or the other direction, is up to us to actively shape where and how digitalisation is implemented and how associated data is protected and handled, who owns it and what can be done with it.

More than consumption digialisation can lead to sustainability

Digitalisation can be a great lever for more sustainability worldwide but can also lead to rebound effects: consumption rises as efficiency increases, diminishing the sustainability effect. Personalised nutrition could lead to a primary focus on eating the right foods for oneself without concern about their sourcing and footprint. When done right, on the other hand, information about a farmer’s environmental and social impact could directly influence their pay and therefore provide incentives to adhere to better standards. A virtual supermarket experience or digital labels can be pre-configured to direct the customer to products produced according to their preference.

New business models that tap into the opportunities that digitalisation and data generation hold can only become permanent successes on the basis of credibility and standards. On the one hand, customers will be looking for such reassurances. On the other hand, recent development like the EU’s GDPR show policy measures regulating the use of data will start inhibiting unchecked use of data. Instead of merely reacting to such developments, organisations should be pro-active in entering into a dialogue with civil society and policy makers.

Shaping digital responsibility a task for all of us

Shaping this future together may take the form of trusted civil society associations sitting at the table with corporations and policy-makers to develop new standards. These then guide how personal data can be used to enable new business models, sustainability and services to citizens – while ensuring privacy and security. The realisation of those standards can empower us as citizens and consumers, and give us as organisations direction and credibility. A first step is for organisations to recognise this new digital responsibility and firmly establish it as part of their overall corporate strategy as well as integrate it in their business development.

We recognise the need for a society-wide discourse on how to shape digitalisation in a way that enables a good life for all (read our previous Call for Collaboration on this), and call on orgnisations to take up the issue of digital responsibility as a first step towards that goal.

Get in touch – contact Michael Kuhndt with your ideas and enquiries.


*Photo by Fabian Grohs on Unsplash