June 06, 2017
Digital transformation and responsible business
By: Jamie Keeble

If you read my previous post, you’ll be aware that Accenture is partnering with BITC to understand the opportunities and challenges of the UK’s transformation to a digital economy. We believe that business has a unique chance to use digital technology to drive growth and fairness for the UK. This will only be possible if together we tackle digital’s unintended consequences; such as unemployment caused by automation, and lack of customer trust in technology.

This April, BITC kicked off the next stage of our partnership at Responsible Business Week. Responsible Business in a Digital Age has identified opportunities for positive action. In collaboration with BITC and several member companies, we have created four clear business priorities:

Priority 1: Protect, support and empower customers.

First, business needs to rebuild trust, ensuring that customers will continue to participate. Our action here is to simplify data practices, making data sharing and privacy clear and visible from the start. Businesses should then help customers with digital access, capability and confidence so all may benefit from digital transformation. Finally, businesses can help people to make better choices on their health, education and finances. Here, technology can deliver social benefits while also embedding brands more deeply in the lives of customers —a clear win/win.

Priority 2: Embrace the changing nature of work.

Businesses must prepare their employees for life in a digitally transformed economy, by providing them with the relevant digital skills and access to lifelong learning. Further, businesses should start work now to create new roles, where technology complements humans, and support communities to manage the transition. Finally, employers need to help stop precarious employment by extending job security, protection and benefits to the growing "gig" economy workforce.

Priority 3: Deliver products and services that serve society.

We believe businesses need to design with a new purpose: to ensure technology reflects human values and corrects for unconscious bias. Companies can also use this opportunity to transition to new business models that cut waste and increase asset productivity. Balancing the need for growth with the need to be sustainable will be tough, but it is possible: companies that transition to circular economy business models, for example, could together create an estimated £3.5 trillion by 2030.

Priority 4: Drive a transparent, inclusive and productive value chain.

More transparent business practices will improve stakeholder trust. All businesses should be looking to do three things. First, suppliers need to be empowered through digital solutions and training to achieve social and environmental best practice across the value chain. Second, companies must commit to minimising the environmental impact of operations, committing to renewable energy and zero e-waste. Finally, businesses can use technologies such as blockchain and RFID to manage the risks of complex, global supply chains, addressing corruption, exploitation and environmental harm. With 63 percent of consumers saying they refuse to buy products and services from companies they do not trust, this priority also makes good business sense.

These priorities serve as a call to action to UK business. It is only through collaborative and innovative approaches that our economy, society and environment will benefit fully from the opportunities of digital transformation. We still have it within our power to act and ensure that the digital revolution works for all of us.

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