Sustainability with Strategy and Intelligence

The Third Wave of Transformation

After globalization and digitization, companies are facing a third wave of transformation within a few decades: the one towards sustainable business transformation. In the face of the urgent need for action, and the resulting dynamics or requirement and reporting obligations, sustainability has the potential to be a gamechanger for organizations of all sizes and from all sectors.

Ahead lie new regulatory obligations, legal requirements, and a massive change of processes, technologies, and mindset – but also countless opportunities for companies. Leaders who act strategically meet these challenges decisively and proactively, while seeing the potential for themselves and their organization. The winners are those who take advantage of the opportunities that arise, and with this, create the foundation of their future success.

  • New, sustainable products and services
  • Increased customer loyalty and new target audiences
  • New partnerships and networks
  • Increasingly appealing for investors with easier procurement of external capital due to the good sustainability rating
  • Improved employee motivation due to a good reputation as a decent employer
  • Easier access to government funding
  • Immediate savings and cost reduction
  • Stable supplier relationships
  • New business and cooperation models with new stakeholders, new processes, and new value chains

Towards sustainability with strategy and consistency

For many companies, sustainable business transformation begins with compliance: from compliance with requirements, laws and standards, to reporting obligations and sustainability reports. Companies must compile basic figures, data, and facts, create an information basis for sustainability, and introduce suitable tools for data analysis.

Internal and external transparency and communication and effective change management are essential for the success and acceptance of a company’s sustainability strategy. The mindset of the people involved, but also the organization and processes, must be geared towards sustainability. Required skills, e.g., in complex data analysis (data science, artificial intelligence, machine learning), must be developed.

With the increasing maturity of organization and information management, the understanding of relationships and underlying factors grows. This results in ideas and approaches that, in addition to reporting, actively bring about changes to products and processes. In this way, the company gradually develops into a sustainable organization. Agile project management and creative innovation techniques (such as Design Thinking and Future Design) accelerate this development.

Drivers for Sustainability

Legislation (e.g. CSRD, EU taxonomy)

Investor requirements (ESG)

Customer demand / preferences for sustainable product

Competitive pressure

International (even global) standards

Sector and market standards

Partner and network requirements

Expectations by employees, friends, and families

Public pressure (media, NGOs)

Technical progress (digital technologies)

Scarcity of resources and raw materials

Cost of non-sustainable management

Components of a sustainability strategy

Clear targets on all levels


Change management

Data-driven organization

Sustainability mindset

Fact-based sustainability management

Digital fitness

Process  and IT governance

Components for FBSM

Precise requirements engineering for key figures and mappings

Clean processes and interfaces in data management 

Tools and skills for unstructured data

Data Science, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning

Natural Language Processing (NLP)

Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

Comprehensive sensor technology

Data Quality Management (DQM) & Data Governance

Fact-Based Sustainability Management (FBSM)

Successful (i.e., effective and efficient) sustainability management is based on facts – data and information. These facts help with the reporting of sustainability indicators in the past and present, but also enable patterns and interdependencies to be identified. This helps you to identify potential areas for optimization and improvements.

On this foundation, you can determine and prioritize measures, estimate investment needs, and create a roadmap of incremental optimizations and projects, which helps to steer the organization towards sustainability.

  • Development of sustainable products and services

  • Adaptation of existing products and services

  • Optimization of resource efficiency in production processes

  • Measures to promote gender equality

  • Improvements in occupational health and safety

  • Resource efficiency in internal business processes

  • Closing information gaps (e.g., the interface to suppliers)

To collect high-quality data and information, companies need not only expert knowledge of business, production, and operational processes, but also professional data and information management. Data from relevant company sources must be collected, processed in a targeted manner, and integrated in a way that provides an efficient foundation for decision-making.

The effective use of data and information requires appropriate analysis tools from “simple” reporting to innovative machine learning. However, organizations and people must be provided with the knowledge and skills to use these tools effectively and meaningfully.

Digital Governance & Clean IT

Data and digital technologies are an essential foundation for sustainable management. But depending on the application, they can also have adverse effects on humans and the environment.

To reduce the risk of such damage, we need digital governance to regulate the handling and use of data and algorithms. When using artificial intelligence, we must pay attention to its trustworthiness and compliance with ethical rules.

The IT tools must also not increase the cost of sustainability, e.g., due to high consumption of electricity or other resources.

  • Strict protection of personal data

  • GDPR Compliance

  • Use of fair algorithms

  • Security and reliability of data and algorithms

  • Resource-efficient programming

  • Sustainable IT operations

c/o Zentrum für Digitale Innovationen (ZDI) Mainfranken

Leightonstr. 3, 97074 Würzburg