Leveraging IT to build better businesses and champion positive innovation at all levels | Computerworld

Leveraging IT to build better businesses and champion positive innovation at all levels | Computerworld

A businesswoman looks into the distance amid abstract technology, colleagues in background.

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Over the years, small businesses have been overlooked as a topic for corporate social responsibility (CSR). Their environmental impact has been considered to be negligible in comparison to large enterprises, and there has been less scrutiny of them as employers and members of the community.

There has also been the issue of cost. Many small businesses struggle daily to manage cash flow and simply keep their doors open. In that context, CSG investment can appear to be a luxury.

This is changing, however. As with everyone, small business leaders and decision makers are concerned about macro challenges around the environment and social trends. Additionally, research increasingly shows that small businesses benefit from undertaking CSG activities, both from an enhanced reputation and even financially.

As Dell Technologies noted in its report Sustainable Devices for Positive Impact: “One 2021 survey, for example, found that 85 per cent of consumers globally had shifted their purchasing behaviours to become more sustainable.

“Nearly 9 in 10 investors now include corporate ESG compliance as a factor in their investment decisions, Gartner reported.” Small businesses know they need to take steps, and do so quickly.

Technology drives sustainability

One area where small businesses can make an immediate impact is by investing in sustainable technology. This should be a multi-faceted approach. As the Dell report notes, key features that workers see as promoting sustainability include durability, so that devices are replaced less frequently (46 per cent), energy efficiency (45 per cent) and are produced via an environmentally friendly manufacturing and logistics process (34 per cent).

Given that just 17 per cent of global e-waste is recycled, there is plenty of opportunity here for small businesses to change their procurement and lifecycle management of technology, and find vendor and supplier partners that can better facilitate a sustainable process.

Technology drives inclusion

Small businesses also have a critical social role to play in driving inclusion. The younger generations, in particular, want to see organisations taking a proactive and progressive step towards promoting gender, sexuality, cultural, disability and religious inclusion in work and society. Technology has a major role to play here.

For example, as noted in the Dell Technologies report Be the Game Changer: How to Lead Innovation at Your Organisation, 61 per cent of knowledge workers say that organisational culture restricts the employees’ ability to innovate. Providing technology that facilitates autonomy is key to addressing this challenge by allowing workers to both work remotely and in environments that are comfortable to them, and connect with peers.

As was noted in a separate report by ESG, commissioned by Dell Technologies, How Organisations Drive Employee Empowerment and Business Results with Leading Digital Work Technology, employees and leading businesses are 6.2 times more likely to feel that the investments made into technologies allow them to be innovative, and are 5.9 times more likely to believe that they’re empowered to work the way that they want to.

As the report notes: “If the organisation they belong to emphasises device choice, refreshes, smart investments in the areas of collaboration and intelligent devices, and employee training, the research shows the impact on employee enablement will be significant.”

Not only does this assist with driving a culture of inclusion across the organisation, where people are empowered to be themselves while at work, but the resulting spirit of innovation helps prepare the business to be ready to capitalise on the opportunities of the future.

Innovation is available to all – including small businesses

As Dell Technologies notes: “Sometimes we can be guilty of mythologising innovation. It’s not a great gift bestowed on only a handful of geniuses, it’s the outcome of a set of very achievable conditions—and everyone is capable of innovating.”

Small business leaders often feel left out with innovation. This is because innovation is perceived as some big, disruptive change. As noted in a HBR report, big, disruptive innovation certainly exists, but there’s another form of innovation, “nondisruptive creation,” and it is through this that small businesses can not only be innovative, but leverage the innovation towards the kind of positive outcomes that give them a strong foundation in CSR. “To be sure, fear can be effective. “Disrupt or die” is a strong motivator for an organisation to act,” the HBR article notes. “But the hope of making a positive-sum contribution to business and society is equally strong.”

Speaking to a partner like Dell Technologies, which focuses on helping organisations to be a positive-sum contributor to the world and unlock non-disruptive creation for each individual in the business, can provide an excellent pathway for small business that is looking to leverage IT to build a better business.