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Does digitalisation create a more sustainable world?

Lifestyle and the economy are currently strongly influenced by digitalisation – which in many ways also goes as long way to answering the simultaneous and growing call for sustainability. Many improvements would be inconceivable without digital technology. But critical voices can also be heard.

In many cases digitalization creates ideal conditions for a rethink or the specific changes for sustainable business management. Mobile terminals, for example, can replace many printed paper products, e.g. apps, which not only save you dragging round heavy catalogues and brochures, but also reduce their production to a minimum. Computer-controlled regulation on the internet of things makes a lot of things more comfortable and also helps to conserve resources, as with the electronically controlled thermostat for heating systems. Meeting technologies such as chats and video conferences can minimize CO2-intensive flights and hence expenditure of time and money, and thanks to online shopping nameless, alternative producers also have the opportunity to present and sell their products to a wide public on equal footing with the global players.

In this way digitalization is unstoppable in penetrating all sectors – but the consequences are not always positive. Like a broom it simply sweeps a lot of sectors a way if business models which have been established over decades and tried-and-tested business processes no longer fit the digital scene or are replaced by something better. Market analysts, management consultants and trend researchers now warn urgently about the consequences of the digital upheaval: companies should adapt their strategy as quickly as possible and network their business processes. If you don’t digitalize today, you’ll go under sooner or later.

As far as the social component of sustainability is concerned (such as fair working conditions and wages), an analysis by the Deutsche Bank, which only appeared last month, painted a dismal picture. Since the digital revolution and the internet render numerous jobs performed by people superfluous, work in the developed countries is undergoing the most drastic changes for generations. “For the first time since the industrial revolution new technology is destroying more jobs than it can mobilize new ones,” predicts Aleksandar Kocic, Managing Director of Research of the bank in New York. This produces a negative feedback for wages of the workers remaining, and with the lower wages there is a greater dependence on loans.

Even though the number of Jeremiahs and pessimists is large, the opportunity advocates predominate. The digital transformation offers new possibilities, they say. For instance, thanks to the internet is has become much easier to combine work and private life, and in principle endless possibilities open up for each individual to act independently off his own bat and for his own account. Anyone who keeps his company or operation up to speed technically will have no trouble surviving in international competition. This starts with a good internet presence, leading to the networking of locations, suppliers and customers, and ends with the use of the Cloud.

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