Why Tech should lead, when governments lag

Last week shares in the tech giants plummeted following reports that US regulators from the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission were looking at investigating their business.

On the one hand, this may be good for consumers, since the technological era the web giants have created, means people’s data and online browsing history are treated as commodities that can be traded.

But the global internet platforms also bring people together in ways that no single government can ever hope to achieve. It is this power to enable people to rally around a particular ideology or campaign, that makes the internet both a force of power and danger for governments.

Make the world a better place through tech

Many believe technology can become a driving force for good when governments lack the appetite to tackle complex societal, sustainability and climate change issues. Social entrepreneur, Paul Polizzolto, is CEO Givewith, an organisation that provides a platform that links business activities to social impacts. Within the business-to-business market,Polizzolto believes social impact can be more valuable to a buyer than a negotiated best price. It can differentiate one seller from another and also delivers shareholder value both to the seller and the buyer. “Businesses have an opportunity to make ethics a core value,” he said, during a sustainability summit organised by SAP Ariba.

As Computer Weekly has previously reported, human rights lawyer, Amal Clooney believes businesses have an opportunity to step in and fill a void when governments do not live up to expectations. Speaking at the SAP Ariba Live conference in Barcelona at the end of May, she said: “We want to harness people like you in this room to solve public sector problems. There is a great opportunity.”

Access to accurate data can help organisations achieve sustainability targets and support climate change initiatives. Speaking at the sustainability summit, Sebastian Ociepka  head of business intelligence, airline IAG, discussed how the airline industry, can use big data to gain proper insight across supply chain, which can help reduce CO2 emissions. “If all passengers put 1 kg less in their suitcase, it would save 30,000 tonnes of CO2 a year,” he said.

Ethics and sustainability in global supply chains

Across global supply chains, businesses have an opportunity to tackle modern day slavery, reduce CO2 in their supply chain and operate in a more sustainable fashion. Angel Pes, president, of the UN Global Compact in Spain also spoke at the SAP Ariba sustainability summit. Pes warned that the biggest risk in supply chains relates to human rights. This, he said, is the most pressing issue for multinationals. For Pes, the other factor global supply chains need to consider is the environmental risk. “This requires systems of control, auditing and taking tough decisions to change suppliers if they are not committed to global principals.”

BSR is a not-for-profit organisation working on building sustainable businesses. During the sustainability summit, its managing director Tara Norton, discussed the challenge in operating a supply chain that promotes ethical values. She said: “We need to think about changing the dynamics in the supply chain. What is the incentive for suppliers? Yes there is the global agenda, and yes there is value for big companies, but what about SMEs?” For Norton, adoption of ethical and sustainability practices is not going to happen unless everyone in the supply chain can benefit.

An ethical and sustainable supply chain will be most effective if it is driven from the bottom up by businesses working towards common goals, rather than top down through multinational alliances. As the US regulators start to investigate the business practices of the internet giants, a key question for internet users is whether the benefit they, themselves receive from these services, is worth the price of their data and internet privacy. But, there is an equally valid question that must be answered. Do we believe these platforms help engender a better society than one driven by a political agenda?

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