Thought leadership transcends individual goals and embraces global priorities. One technology firm is showing the way with its inclusive sustainability ideas.

In 2015, the United Nations has set 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for achievement by the year 2030. The COVID-19 pandemic has in no small way affected how the world can achieve these hitherto elusive goals.

On the bright side of things, the pandemic has woken peoples up to the fragility of nature and economies, and this may even have highlighted the urgency and relevancy of the SDGs.

Digital transformation (DX) has been a powerful force in helping the world to adapt, pivot and even profit from the crisis. With DX now a mainstay, the hope is that the extended global crisis is a blessing in disguise: breaking down incredibly ingrained mental barriers and biases that had previously hampered SDG efforts.

One Japanese tech conglomerate has seen the writing on the wall and it has even embarked on a new mission to help Asia emerge stronger and more resilient on its journey towards sustainability in 2030.

At its recent global ActivateNow event, Fujitsu laid its cards on the table: the organization will prioritize sustainability over all other business considerations, and use this to galvanize its partners and beneficiaries into the same altruistic mindset.

Five trends impacting 2030 SDG goals

According to the firm’s head of Asia, Koji Masuda, it is essential for companies “not only to pursue profits but also to consider how much they can contribute to solving social issues. Connecting people, communities, organizations, things, and data, is necessary to build a sustainable society when no one is left behind. It is also vital to provide value that is centered on people, and to create innovations that solve social issues. There are limits to what we can do alone; however I’m confident that we can make significant contribution together with our customers.”  

In line with his vision are five key strategies for the world to achieve SDGs:

  1. Put sustainability first
    In the firm’s surveys, 78% business leaders polled believe the pandemic has increased the importance of providing value to society. In addition, 71% plan to strengthen their activities to contribute to society in line with the UN’s SDGs. Stakeholders are increasingly demanding that companies demonstrate spotless ethical behavior and help overcome environment and social challenges.
  2. Build native resilience and trust
    Resilience to change is an essential factor for the future. Self-change and disruptive change lead to flexibility and self-reliance. Until now, industries have pushed for operational efficiencies to achieve maximum results at the lowest cost. However, for a sustainable future, it will be necessary to embrace the ability to respond to change rather than simply focusing on efficiency.

    Resilience and flexible adaptability are two sides of the same coin. Organizations that have successfully responded to the turmoil of the pandemic often cite three major success secrets. First, the ability to change; second—digitalization; and the third is giving top priority to employee well-being. In this era of uncertainty, it is important to build organizational capabilities on a bedrock culture of human-centered management.
  3. Break boundaries and create seamless touchpoints
    The boundaries between office and homes, countries and regions are blurring—and the connections initiated by people will expand. Results from a survey of the ratio of employees who work remotely have shown that many organizations expect their remote-working ratio will not be significantly reduced even in 2025 when the pandemic is expected to ease. Management should be looking for more flexible hybrid ways of working.
  4. Businesses must be co-creators of social solutions
    In the fourth era of industrialization, companies have built supply-centered value chains within vertical industries and provided uniform products. However, digitalization has broken down industry barriers and is transforming into an ecosystem-type business model that co-creates service and the experience value that are important to everyone.

    As industries focus on providing more personalized value and solving complex challenges through innovation—organizations, governments, academia, and communities must have a common purpose and connect at different levels based on the value provided to the people and society.
  5. Data and DX can accelerate and support all the above priorities
    Utilizing new technologies to analyze and act on vast amount of data, automation, and the efficiency will be key to attaining and fine-tuning the aforementioned strategies. The firm’s studies have shown 83% of business leaders believed that data-based management is essential to make a company more competitive, and 82% of business leaders indicated they will increase their investment in business process automation. Furthermore, 44% of business leaders surveyed predicted that more than 50% of currently non-automated businesses process will be automated in 2025, and this automation is expected to continue.

According to Masuda, in Asia, some challenges are unique to an individual countries in Asia: “One example is a challenge of urban population, which is increasing rapidly across Asia. We are also facing an increased risk of natural disasters, such as extreme storms and floods, combined with the effect of rising sea levels and climate change leading to more intense typhoons. Then, there are problems such as developing social infrastructure and public services, air pollution, waste disposal, and traffic congestion. And we face the reality that while some countries make big investments in training and developing people, in others, people may not receive an education. In addition, the digital divide has widened.”

Here are some sobering figures he cited: The pandemic has reduced Asia’s average GDP growth in 2020 to 1.8% in East Asia, and negative 4% in Southeast Asia. However, Asia’s total GDP has reached 40% of world GDP and is expected to reach 44% in 2026.

Fujitsu believes that Asia has the potential to bounce back from the pandemic and accelerate its momentum to grow, at the same time as global value changes. The firm believes that this can be achieved by four ways of tackling social issues and three more areas that leverage digital technologies.

Seven social and digital pathways to a better world

According to Megumi Shimazu, Head, Global solutions, Fujitsu, the world can attain SDG goals by advancing an “issue-driven approach” towards four cross-industry social priorities and three horizontal data-driven pathways supporting these priorities:

  1. Sustainable manufacturing
    Through green procurement, industries can achieve circular manufacturing, reduction of unnecessary transportation, and the promotion of recycling. A vital part of this is demand and forecasting, visualizing the manufacturing supply chain and getting the bigger picture related to raw material production and material transportation. Realizing circular manufacturing can help solve issues such as air pollution and waste problems, visualization also enables us to build supply chains’ decision to change.

    Recycling-orientated manufacturing paradigms will contribute to global sustainability for people’s lifestyles no matter where they live. For example, by using blockchain to visualize the entire supply chain from production to consumption, and by improving the efficiency of energy use. We will be able to bring about change in manufacturing that takes a global environment into consideration.
  2. Customer experience
    Industries need to build rich ecosystems with other related industries to provide seamless and excellent customer experience that combines physical and digital to predict potential needs and meet the diverse aspirations of Asians.

    The pandemic has reminded us of the importance of health, so the combination of medical and personal health data with digital technologies will play an important role in improving the well-being of all people in every aspect of life.
  3. Regaining trust
    Amid a great trust gap, sustainability is nothing without trust. Not just in terms of being punctual in providing products and services, but also in terms of integrity, traceability and accountability. This is where the digital transformation of public service has to openly incorporate offline and online communication channels to understand trust levels, public needs and grouses, and ensure prompt accountability for failures.

    Industries must develop in a way that solves social problems, brings about a sustainable world and promote well-being on a global scale.

    At the technology level, trust levels can be raised through the assurance of data privacy, data protection, system redundancy and resilience to malicious actors.
  4. Data-driven health
    The year 2030 will ideally be one where everyone can maximize their life experience and continue to expand their personal potential through the help of quantum computing technology to drive innovations in drug discovery, and cutting-edge technologies such as AI, XR and robotics to aid in data collaboration and utilization in the medical field and local governments.

    The visualization of supply chains that enable better management of manufacturing resources, enabling the introduction of unmanned convenience stores and cashless payments can provide new experience and value to customers. Asia can lead in combining personal and medical data with digital technologies to improve the well-being of its peoples and build smart nations collectively.
  5. Digital Shifts
    This is one of the three horizontal areas to support the transformation through flexible management, creating value for stakeholders and responding swiftly to change in uncertain environments. The concept of Digital Shifts enables both top-down and bottom-up approaches to change. By utilizing data, we can enhance digital processes from management down to the field level, and improve organizational performance by driving a work-life shift for all employees. With work-life shift solutions, organizations can help reimagine the office based on hybrid remote-working arrangements.
  6. Business applications
    These apps must aim to improve resilience and enable business continuity by boosting flexibility and responses to changes while maintaining efficiency. The world will need leading edge apps that adapt to rapidly changing market environments while maintaining business efficiency and resilience.
  7. Hybrid IT
    This paradigm safeguards the security of society, creates new value by connecting people, data, and services, and supports the construction of flexible digital infrastructure. Cybersecurity and data protection will be a central focus to ensure secure digital infrastructure that can reliably connect people, data, and services to create new value.

    Looking towards 2030, the world needs ultra-secure platforms to manage ever-accumulating data, in order to integrate real and digital data into the deep insights needed for steady progress towards sustainability and social cohesiveness.

According to Shimazu, in 2030, everything will ideally be connected, to facilitate quick solutions to social issues and to generate innovation. “In manufacturing, data and production will come together, continuously meeting the diversifying needs of customers. In retail, the physical store and digital store will be connected constantly to deliver personalized services for consumers. In healthcare, technology will accelerate drug discovery research. AI will reduce the time to diagnose life-threatening illnesses, ensuring more people receive the medical care they need. Cities will be smart. Everything that moves will be connected by data. Energy will be used more efficiently and our communities will be safe and secure.”

In short, Shimazu feels that people need to keep their minds on issues from the viewpoint of social problems and “make our world more sustainable through innovations that will solve those issues. Addressing business areas that will solve social problems is our purpose.”