Early in my career, I focused on helping businesses become more efficient and effective through the use of technology. I worked with companies at various levels of technological proficiency. With certain clients, I spent more time discussing the value of technology as a performance and profitability driver, while other clients wanted to use it more as a catalyst for innovation.

Later, I aligned my profession with my passion, and shifted my career to sustainability. I quickly recognized the similarities between implementing a new technology application and implementing a sustainability strategy. Each forces a foundational shift in the way business is done. Once sustainability becomes a core value, or a new piece of technology becomes a part of our daily work, it is nearly impossible to go back.

At its core, technology’s role is to increase operational efficiency and has succeeded in extending a business’s reach. Sustainability, on the other hand, recalibrates the way we work to ensure the success of future generations. It focuses a company’s efforts on more than just financial gains, but triple bottom line. Sustainability and technology are both used to improve business operations and drive product innovation.

Recognizing the following key similarities between sustainability and technology provide insights that can result in a successful implementation:

  • Relatively new concept. Both sustainability and emerging technologies are progressive ideas. This means a lot of uncertainty. Any time a business is presented with a new idea or tool that is unproven or superfluous, questions get raised. Be ready to address those issues head on, and with value.
  • Education is critical. With newer ideas or practices, educating end-users on the value of these strategies is essential. They need to understand and feel the value that sustainability and technology can provide to them personally.
  • Clear return. If done right, both technology and sustainability have proven financial returns. Be clear to address why this chosen strategy or implementation is not another tire-kicker.
  • Needs executive buy-in. Too often during my days in software would I see an implementation fail because executive leadership was not fully engaged. Sustainability faces the same threat. If lower-level employees do not see that executives are on board, progress will be stifled. Make sure to have an executive champion involved from the beginning.
  • A change in behavior is necessary. Both adoption of a new technology and the implementation of a sustainability strategy require process or procedural changes which can face resistance among employees. Making this shift easy, valuable, and engaging is paramount in achieving long-term success.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to fail.  Tackling a new initiative is hard work and inevitably you will make mistakes.  But if you’re passionate and you stick with it, you will succeed.

–Sara Kennedy