Guest blog: The tech industry needs more change advocates
If you’re looking for New Year’s resolutions, why not think about the positive change you’re able to contribute towards society through your workplace.
Let’s face it, the takeaway from COP26 wasn’t exactly a big sigh of relief.
That’s not to belittle the Glasgow Climate Pact or the sheer accomplishment of assembling delegates from nearly 200 countries to secure it. But the teary response from COP26 President Alok Sharma, a conservative MP somewhat new to environmentalism, signals uneven perceptions about the climate crisis and the road to net zero.
Environmental sustainability won’t magically appear in the paradigm of customer buying incentives. And shifting the goal posts so that profit and sustainability are valued equally by businesses won’t happen overnight. The need for change has never been higher, but the stereotypes for achieving change add yet another barrier for accomplishing it.
For technology enthusiasts we tend to share a faith that ‘innovation’ will be key to helping other industries change their ways and adapt to environmental demands. But under the skin of it all, who within the tech industry is driving this change? Should we rely on government to regulate the manufacturing of sustainable solutions? Or perhaps responsibility for a climate cure lies with the industry’s small proportion of senior leaders and R&D engineers?
For those of us not in the labs or the c-suite, whether we’re in sales, operations, marketing, HR, finance or beyond, it’s easy to believe that significant change is beyond our grasp. We may well be routing for our organisations to create the next big force in the market, but our specific roles are limited to playing a small part in a bigger operation of bringing what solutions we have to market, whether they’re helping the planet or not. And if we’re not happy with our organisation’s commitment to tackle environmental or societal issues, well, it’s an employee’s market so it’s better to jump ship to a company that you believe is, right??
But, what if every individual across the industry stops to consider how their specific role in their organisation, how their skillset, allocated resources and how their influence on others can be utilised to create a change for environmental and social benefit. They don’t have to invent something new or compromise their existing goals. But using the cards they’ve already been dealt they apply innovation, at any scale, to help alter the course of their organisation. This could be optimising internal or external processes and incentives around sustainability. It could be modifying objectives, changing the criteria for success, auditing partners, finding new ways to work with other organisations or good, simple volunteering. It could an individual plan, something you do together with your team, or even bigger. It could be challenging the status quo or it could be complementing it, but you’ll never know unless you try.
If everyone in your organisation put even a fraction of thought into how their role can generate good as much as they do generate profit, just imagine the scale of outcome your business could achieve. Just imagine how contagious this could be for your stakeholders, how more enriching for your brand, and how more relevant to your customers. Change may only be incremental, particularly to begin with, but incrementalism is what inspires wider change, and it all starts from nothing more than an idea.
Positive change needn’t be reinventing the wheel. In fact, most ‘inventions’ are simply resourceful adaptations of things created previously. The steam engine for example popularly originated from the 18th century, but steam powered devices were operated long before to open temple doors in Greece. The technology to make the video phone was available long before softwares such as Facetime and Skype made them relevant enough for success. And Epson’s PaperLab, the world’s first in-office papermaking system, was created off the back of the same dry-fibre technology that was first used to create the porous pads in printer maintenance boxes. This approach to resourceful adaptation is as relevant to the engineers and c-suite as it is to the rest of the organisation.
As a communications manager for a global technology manufacturer, one of the things I enjoy most is working with different people across the organisation to better understand and communicate our pursuits to solve environmental and societal issues. These pursuits are what attract the most consistent and vivid sense of enthusiasm by those involved. So, entering into this new year, let’s indulge in change, in innovation, and a greater sense of responsibility about what we can do individually to solve the greatest challenge afoot.