Six Propositions on Sustainable Enterprise Digitalization
In 2022, Software AG joined the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), the world’s largest initiative for responsible and sustainable corporate governance. We are committed to supporting and promoting environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable business practices. Business ethics professor Thomas Beschorner discusses why sustainability is becoming ever more important to companies and the role digitalization plays. The 52-year-old is the director of the Institute for Business Ethics at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland.

Sustainability and digitalization go hand in hand

When it comes to sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR), organizations often neglect digitalization. This is shortsighted. Traditionally, CSR focuses on the impact and responsibility business activities have on/for the environment, the economy, and society. The topics of climate change and human rights are particularly important. The role of new technologies and digitalization is growing. Organizations are well advised to give these aspects greater consideration and incorporate them into their business practices—especially companies in the tech sector.

Corporate digital responsibility: more relevant than ever

Essentially, corporate digital responsibility (CDR) is about avoiding bad digitalization practices and realizing good products and services that are beneficial to society on a long-term basis. Secondly, the good practices must be found within the organization’s core business and have a positive social impact. Good CSR and CDR are integral components of business operations and relevant to every imaginable department in a company: from Human Resources to R&D, Procurement, Marketing, and so on.

Gauge consequences and ask questions

How do you differentiate between good and bad practices? This can be done systematically, by conducting professional impact assessments, and individually, by asking yourself as a software developer, a department, or a manager what impact the products you offer have on society. Put yourself in the shoes of your software users—your customers and employees. Ask yourself, would I want to be the object of this surveillance system? Or, how will my app affect children and young adults?

“CSR and CDR are ongoing processes. So there’s no reason to think an organization’s approach to them should be perfect from one day to the next.”

Thomas Beschorner
Professor of Business Ethics and Director of the Institute For Business Ethics, University of St. Gallen, Switzerland

Responsible enterprises are at an advantage

Only enterprises that address the demands of society and act responsibly will prevail in the long term. All the while, a new mindset is taking hold in companies. They aren’t just aiming for short-term profits anymore, but also thinking about their purpose in society. Who are we as a company? What are our values? How can we make a positive social contribution as a genuinely responsible part of this very society? These questions are essential because they show that a company takes its responsibility seriously.

Discuss, analyze, take a stand

CSR and CDR cannot remain abstract concepts. They have to be put into practice. I have three main recommendations for companies to accomplish this. The first step is to give serious thought to what your company’s values are. Who are we and who do we want to become? The answers to these questions can be used to formulate a mission statement. The second step is to identify and prioritize specific key topics. This should happen in dialogue with stakeholders, like as part of a “stakeholder day” to which critical members of that community are invited. The third step is developing and operationalizing strategies, structures, and practices. This can include every imaginable department, organizational level, and process of a company.

A rewarding journey

CSR and CDR are ongoing processes. So there’s no reason to think an organization’s approach to them should be perfect from one day to the next. All companies will have to continue seeking good solutions, trying out different things, and experimenting with new approaches. Some will be rejected and some will be kept. This is a journey. But the direction is clear: companies must take their responsibility seriously, and strategically and structurally anchor the topic of sustainability within their business processes.

Sustainability at Software AG

Software AG’s solutions, tools, and applications are designed to work together seamlessly to form the digital backbone for enterprises. This allows us to help our customers utilize their resources as efficiently and sustainably as possible and improve their energy and carbon footprint. Our products enable digital transformation which, in turn, em­powers organizations to conduct business in an economically, environmentally, and socially responsible way.

Our Sustainability Strategy defines five action areas with eight material topics— which we evaluated together with our stakeholders—that represent a holistic view of our business and its economic, social, and environmental impact. For more information, please refer to our Sustainability Strategy.

In addition, we have compiled a Guide for organizations seeking to combine sustainability and connectivity and integrate the two more seamlessly.

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