As global leaders take time to meet at Davos, Deloitte has released The Fourth Industrial Revolution: At the intersection of readiness and responsibility’ – the latest in a series of reports on Industry 4.0.

This latest report marks the convergence of digital technology (which gets a lot of attention due to the ‘shiny object syndrome’) and purpose driven business agendas.  The report concludes that “the same technologies that can improve business can also benefit society – and should be used for both”. 

Evidence for this shift can be found in Deloitte’s third annual survey of more than 2,000 C-suite executives across 19 countries which found tangible progress in the journey to find balance between profit and purpose.

Reading this report alongside the ‘Digital with Purpose’ report that we recently released in partnership with the Global Enabling Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), a roadmap for purpose driven business emerges; a roadmap that allows leaders to be more intentional in their desire and to develop a purpose driven strategy for their business.  

Both of these reports reflect a deeper understanding of how the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be applied in practice to contemporary business topics.  For example, the Digital with Purpose report provides a thoughtful mapping of the SDGs to the digital technologies that have transformational potential.  This allows business to more clearly link their digital ambitions with their climate change, sustainability, and Corporate and Social Responsibility ambitions. 

We have learnt over time that successful innovations and breakthroughs happen through integrated thinking, convergence of capabilities and clever combinations. Reflecting on the many successful digital businesses that we increasingly rely on, we see a ‘mashup’ of concepts and business models – for example, Uber can be considered as a mashup of the sharing economy, mobility on demand, GPS and proliferation of smartphones. However, to date, joining the dots between digital technology and societal impact has been more difficult, or at least less common. These two reports play a critical role in bringing these two worlds together and hopefully businesses will see the potential of being intentional in creating overlaps which have a real impact as they seek to become increasingly purpose driven.

While the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) provide clear direction on where to focus, the recent reports from Deloitte map out what can be done. Not surprisingly, the Deloitte global survey (from the Industry 4.0 report) identified that there has been an increase in CXOs that see environmental issues as threats to the business. These same CXOs also see a critical role for digital technology to help them manage these threats. Resource scarcity was sighted globally as the top issue that business leaders are focussed on followed by climate change. The numerous case studies that include the use of sensors and smart systems supported by artificial intelligence provide a clear demonstration of how the convergence of digital and sustainability can quickly become a win-win for all parties involved.

As New Zealand business leaders return from the holiday season, they will no doubt be influenced by events in Australia over recent months. With the introduction of the Wellbeing Budget and an enabling legislative environment, we are well positioned for our business leaders to step up and add substance to the desire to be purpose driven. The two recent reports from Deloitte offer a roadmap towards becoming more purpose driven and provide tangible examples of how different business domains can converge and drive value for society. When combined with bold, brave and ambitious leadership, New Zealand businesses can make meaningful progress on the UN Sustainable Development Goals and kick start a transformational shift in our practices as we seek to make an impact that matters and create purpose driven profit.

How is Deloitte New Zealand working towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals? Find out in our latest Sustainability Snapshot, which sets out our progress so far and the journey we're taking. 

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