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High Hopes for the Tech Industry in 2011

January 3, 2011
Settling in at my desk after a relaxing holiday break felt like the perfect time to sketch out my 2011 hopes for sustainability in the information and communications technology (ICT) industry. I’m a proponent of short lists, not long ones, as they tend to stand a much better chance of success.
So here it goes:
  1. Sustainability solutions for all industries: The ICT industry has done a fantastic job recognizing how ICT can provide solutions to the world’s sustainability challenges. A great example is the Global e-Sustainability Initiative’s “SMART 2020” report. However, if you examine the sustainability strategies of leading companies in other industries—such as food and agriculture, energy, and retail—ICT is rarely mentioned. ICT companies have the opportunity to engage more effectively with major customers to realize the true potential of ICT.
  2. Human rights impact assessments: We live in a world today where vast ICT infrastructures and extensive flows of information are natural features of modern life. However, this brings a wide range of new human rights risks and opportunities for companies across the industry, and I’m far from convinced that the industry has these under control. Human rights impact assessments are an essential first step to effective human rights management.
  3. Rapid obsolescence: As previously mentioned in BSR’s report, achieving sustainability requires a reconfiguration of our consumption-based growth model. Rapid obsolescence—achieving revenue growth on the premise that consumers will replace existing gadgets at an increasing rate—needs to be addressed. BSR plans to put forward new thinking on this topic later this year.
  4. Gender impacts: One report above all others caught my attention in 2010: GSMA’s report on mobile usage by women subscribers in low- and middle-income countries. The ICT industry can increase its impact by more effectively examining its products and services through a gender lens. At BSR, we’re exploring how lessons learned from our HERproject initiative can be applied to the sector.
  5. Conflict minerals: The ICT industry is not the only sector implicated in the “conflict minerals’” discussion, but it has been the most proactive by far. In addition to implementing the U.S. Security Exchange Commission’s new due diligence requirements, the industry can enhance its leadership by exploring other economic development-based solutions to conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

 

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