In 1952, a dense smog descended upon the city of London. It lingered for five days, and experts estimate that it resulted in approximately 4,000 premature deaths. Caused by excessive coal burning, this is a deadly lesson of what can happen if sustainability is not prioritised.

Beyond the environment, sustainability also has to do with people and business practices, said Ian Krieger, Senior Principal Strategist at ServiceNow. “Sustainability is a broad term, and we need to think about it in multiple facets,” he added.

At the ‘Smart and sustainable: Transforming cities for the future’ webinar, Krieger shared how businesses can achieve sustainability in three ways. He explored the innovative use of spaces, digitisation, and creating a supportive workplace.

1. Rethink the use of space during the pandemic

More than budget or policy, Covid-19 drove transformation and innovation across the world, said Krieger. This applies to how organisations are managing their resources, he added.

One such resource is space, said Krieger. In universities, for instance, the pandemic forced many lessons to move online. As a result, much of the campuses’ physical infrastructure was not used.

One university converted part of their buildings to support incubators and startups so that spaces will not go to waste, Krieger said. By encouraging companies to enter these cities, these universities also support economic growth, he continued.

ServiceNow supported the initiative by helping them gather data on which spaces can be repurposed and how they can do so, explained Krieger.

“We make sure that the people making the decisions have the right information to do so at their fingertips,” he added.

2. Digitise government processes to help citizens

Digitisation can help governments work more efficiently while reducing their environmental impact, said Krieger. This is done by removing duplicated processes, and maximising existing resources such as manpower.

For instance, a government agency in charge of road maintenance services digitised the process of citizens reporting problems on the roads. In the past, when a citizen identified a problem on the road, they would have to call someone or submit a PDF form manually, shared Krieger.

ServiceNow digitised the process so that citizens can report a problem from wherever and whenever, through an online portal, Krieger explained.

Once submitted, the report is assessed digitally and routed to the team in charge, instead of having staff members manually inform the relevant department. The agency is also working on giving citizens more regular updates on when their report has been received, accepted, and resolved.

Digitisation has multiple upsides, said Krieger. Besides eliminating the use of paper, it also minimises the duplication of data, since information is conveyed directly to the relevant teams.

“We’re getting the most appropriate people engaged earlier in the process, and helping our government customers run the department far more efficiently,” he said. 

3. Create equal opportunity at work

Whilst not traditionally seen as a standard pillar of sustainability, companies have a part to play in making work more equitable, accessible, and rewarding. Or, to make “the world of work, work better for people”, said Krieger. This includes helping employees adapt to a digital working environment during the pandemic.

“Practically, it’s about making sure that they have access to the tools and the technology, and the training and support as they transition to a fully digital, remote, or hybrid operating model,” he explained.

Besides supporting their employees in pragmatic ways, ServiceNow took care of their employees’ mental well-being. For example, ServiceNow employees globally worked half days on Fridays for a period of time, said Krieger. This was to encourage employees to spend more time with their families and loved ones, or on themselves.

“We can’t work 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he said. “We’re trying to help our staff learn the skills to be sustainable in how they go about what they do, so that it can translate to how we support our customers,” he explained.

Thinking about sustainability in a more holistic manner not only protects the environment, but also creates a more productive and efficient workplace. It prevents resources like paper and space from going to waste, and helps workers thrive and produce better work.

Catch the full ‘Smart and sustainable: Transforming cities for the future’ webinar here.