How Can Technological Innovations Drive Sustainability?

CEO's Thoughts

How Can Technological Innovations Drive Sustainability?

  • How Can Technological Innovations Drive Sustainability? Datuk Muhamad Umar Swift, CEO of Bursa Malaysia, shares his thoughts on how technological innovation brings impetus to a sustainable future and what this means for business, investors, and the exchange.
  • Date: Jul 08, 2021
  • Category: CEO's Thoughts
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To ensure ongoing business viability, Our CEO, Datuk Muhammad Umar Swift believes technological innovations can be harnessed to drive the sustainability agenda forward.

The importance of technological innovations cannot be overstated. With the right application, they allow companies to differentiate themselves and discover new opportunities. Technology changes the business landscape and we need to be able to navigate and adapt to stay relevant. The inability to do so could prove to be disastrous as can be seen in the case of large companies such as Kodak and Nokia. Kodak’s failure to embrace digital photography while Nokia’s reluctance to transition towards application-centric smartphones has caused them to be no longer relevant and displaced. For exchanges, this is no different. Harnessing its power enables exchanges, investors and businesses to respond strategically to emerging pattern and trends.

In addition to ensuring ongoing business viability, I believe technological innovations can also be harnessed to drive the sustainability agenda forward. With Industrial Revolution 4.0 disrupting our world, we have also observed an exponential growth in the use of technological innovations to create practical, cutting-edge solutions to address specific sustainability challenges and opportunities. Here are four key areas, amongst many others, I believe technology can play an important role in creating a better planet and society. 

Greening business operations through energy efficiency

Energy make-up approximately two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, the fight against climate change requires a major rethink on how we produce and consume energy. In addition to fast-tracking the deployment of clean and renewable energy, we also need a host of technological innovations to improve energy efficiencies in value chains across many industries such as power generation, manufacturing, construction, buildings, industrial, transportation and others. In this regard, we have seen widespread adoption of the following;

Big Data solutions that facilitate data collection and analysis
Automated Controls and Systems to optimise energy usage and climate
Use of Cloud Computing to cut down physical data center carbon emissions
Energy Storage technologies that can store large amounts of electricity

Although the deployment of energy efficiency solutions requires initial investments, these measures can translate into reduced energy costs and generate savings in the long run. Further, it also allows companies to lower their climate footprint and prepare for future policies and regulations that could restrict greenhouse gas emissions and the potential establishment of external carbon pricing mechanisms. 

Enhancing productivity

Technology can help to ensure business processes are running efficiently with high precision and effectiveness. For example, employing sophisticated technologies such as Internet-of-Things (IoT), smart sensors and GPS in agriculture allow companies to monitor real-time crop conditions and optimise field management practices across irrigation, fertiliser application, use of pesticides etc. Thus, enabling agricultural companies to lower environmental impact, reduce input costs and strive for higher crop productivity. Another example would be the use of 3D printing in the construction industry. The technology unlocks opportunities for construction companies to accurately measure the amount of raw materials required, thus reducing potential wastage and supporting better management of labour resources during on-site installation.

Driving transition towards a circular economy

The concept of circular economy involves extending the life of materials and products as long as possible to create further value. Demand for raw materials is surging, driven mainly by rapid growth in world population and urbanisation. However, the supply of crucial raw material is finite. In addition, our current consumption habits favour brand new items, which further increases waste generated in a landfill. To sustain our future, it is clear that we need to transition from a linear model to a circular economy that favours regeneration and restoration.  Here are some interesting approaches to how technology can be applied to drive circularity:

Traceability systems that improve transparency on material flows and transactions in the value chains
Innovative waste to energy technologies that convert waste residues to electricity, steam or heat
Designing cost-efficient collection system for waste using sensors and smart bins
Application of intelligent technologies such as biosensors and radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to reduce food waste

Reducing inequalities in society

“Leave No One Behind” is one of the central promises of the UN Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs in short. As we build back better from the pandemic, we must increase economic inclusion across all facets of the society, especially for communities that face barriers in accessing resources, services and capital. There are many ways technology can bridge economic inequalities to build a fair and inclusive society in the future:

Providing rural communities and small businesses access to financial services through fintech solutions
Helping new entrepreneurs, micro and small enterprises access new markets and grow their businesses through e-commerce platforms
Improving access to education through online classrooms, especially for marginalized communities

While it has a huge potential, technology is also a double-edged sword that can widen current societal disparities if access is not democratised. Therefore, it is important to ensure all segments of society have equal access to more affordable and user-friendly digital solutions that add value.

Start your journey now

The above are only a few examples of how technology can unlock value for business and create sustainable impacts for stakeholders. There are a myriad of technological innovations that have tremendous potential for the greater good. Further, the digital revolution is already happening and fast transforming our business landscape in unprecedented ways.

At Bursa Malaysia, technology is helping us grow our capabilities, breadth and depth of our services and offerings. Our digital touchpoints, such as Bursa Marketplace has helped spur investor participation by reaching out to new segments of investors. While technology raises productivity, it frees up resources that can be redirected toward higher value-added efforts. Even simple technology can help contribute towards going green at every corner of the ecosystem. For example, the continued enhancement of our Bursa Anywhere digital platform will help to cut out paper waste and support the transition towards going greener.

I hope companies can start embarking on a journey of continuous improvement anchored on people, processes and technology while integrating sustainability as a growth driver. Unlocking the power of innovation and technologies can help to build a stronger competitive business advantage while facilitating new approaches to create a better and more sustainable post-pandemic future.   

To understand how technology can enhance supply chain transparency, I encourage you to also read the following article on BURSASUSTAIN, highlighting practical examples in establishing sustainable supply chains.

Case Studies: Leveraging on Technology for Supply Chain Transparency

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