I think design has never been more in fashion than it is today. Did you know that over 80% of the environmental impacts of a product are determined during the design phase? Although both the environmental benefits and harms of the ICT sector as a whole are in discussion, there is a lot that we can do in designing digital services.
As a teen in the 1990s (almost 30 years ago), I had read about climate change in the newspapers. The scientists were saying our actions might cause the rising temperatures in the atmosphere… Later, I applied and studied sustainable development. At that time, it felt like us students were a small group of “activists” wondering how come “no one else” cared for the environment. My grandpa even dared to call me “kettutyttö”, Google that. But because or despite the anxiety of young people, our society has evolved and a number of things within ecological sustainability have progressed. For example, “the fart-gas” became an alternative fuel in traffic, and plastic packages are collected and recycled (not yet efficiently, but still). And maybe the most remarkable change since the 1990s has been digitalization. I grew up learning the concept of email. Little did I know about my life today.
Sustainable development means (Brundtland Commission 1987) “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. Unfortunately, in many ways, we are still compromising these abilities. As we begin the year 2022, we should remember that every year we are exceeding the World Overshoot Day, and for example, growing attention has been given to biodiversity loss, which means that we are losing nature’s ability to provide us the services we ultimately rely on.
Before joining the Gofore Crew I worked in the energy industry as a designer and environmental specialist and latest as an environmental consultant providing climate and circular economy services for the industry and public sector. Switching from sustainability consulting to service design seemed maybe a little bit strange to most people. But sustainable design and “design for the planet” are the talk of the day. Like sustainable solutions, also service design is not an intrinsic value. It is connected to business, to the surrounding environment and other design disciplines. For organizations, it requires an ability to think in the long-term and now after working almost 6 months at Gofore, it seems that many industry sectors have embraced the value of service design. Service design is not about organizing nice workshops or co-creating “cool stuff”. What we do serves for purpose. My own inspiration for design originates to maintaining customer experience and relations as an account manager and developing tools and practices for reducing environmental impacts as well as considering different stakeholder groups.
Today many sectors have taken huge leaps for example in climate action and there is a growing demand for sustainable technologies and solutions, but there is still a lot to do. The number one sustainability challenge companies are facing today is related to managing and utilizing data and developing the sustainability of diverse supply chains. When you buy a product or use a service, you can be certain it has required many steps before getting to you. Also, since IPCC released their latest climate report, it has become clearer that reducing climate impacts outside the company premises is needed and fast. When I imagine the next 10 years or less, reaching carbon neutrality without the role of digitalization or design seems almost like a “mission impossible” (yes, Finland is targeting carbon neutrality by 2035 and it is needed for staying below the 1.5°C climate target). Tackling the climate crisis or biodiversity loss will require many steps and probably re-designing along the way, but we can start by imagining what the world would look like in the circular, climate-neutral economy in 2035:
- Sustainability has been taken in the core of management principles and decision making
- Sustainable decision making considers a different kind of impacts and also life cycle
- The values of sustainable design have been identified and new ways for prevailing our lifestyles have been emerged
- The products and services actually reflect our sustainability policies
- There are procedures and tools by which we can determine and analyze our own impacts and be motivated in sustainable behavioral change
Together with our customers, we are working in the heart of sustainable opportunities
Together with our customers, we are working in the heart of sustainable opportunities. Although many changes are being realized by increasing resource efficiency, modernization of production facilities, or decarbonizing energy, there will still be challenges that are not met by technology. We will need new services to give us new information and new information will lead to more efficient, more sustainable, or even circular “business as usual”. But none of it will be realized without the help of us humans. As your ally in digitalization and change, we are not only providing digital solutions or practices for sharing data and information but contributing by helping you to understand the transformation and making the most of it. In addition, many of the low-hanging fruits might have already been done and soon before 2035, we are left with challenges that require designing more cooperation, more sharing of information, and more understanding of the complex ecosystems and their impacts, in a digital way.