Product digitisation and remote working are driving business sustainability

Covid-19 has accelerated the digitisation of business processes – from product inception to customer interaction and work practices. A 2020 study by McKinsey showed that in 2019, the average share of digital customer interactions amounted to 32% of all customer interactions, while the share of products and/or services that were partially or fully digitized made up for 34% of all goods and services in Europe. In fact, half of customer interactions taking place in Europe in 2020 used digital platforms, while 55% of all products and services transacted were of a digital nature. Teleworking has been championed as an alternative to working from the office during the global pandemic. As per Eurostat figures, the rate of employees teleworking as a percentage of the total employed population has increased from 4.9% in 2015 to 12.0% in 2020.  This trend was mirrored in Malta, as the island experienced an increase of 12.2 percentage points during a five-year period, with 14.8% of the Maltese working population working from home in 2020. 

Teleworking has generated multiple positive effects such as reduced air, marine and road traffic congestion – resulting in lower air and noise pollution levels. However, teleworking has proven to be quite a challenge to both the public and the private sector.

The latest ‘Flash Eurobarometer’ survey on SMEs published in 2020, deduces the barriers faced by EU SME’s when trying to switch to a more remote practice of doing business. More than 12,000 companies based in the EU participated in the research, whose findings show that 62% of EU SMEs confront barriers to digitalization. Moreover, 70% of participants stated that they are facing at least one obstacle that prevents their enterprise from becoming sustainable while a further 42% claim that the level of availability of support to help enterprises become more sustainable is poor.

 

Participants cited the following as other barriers to digital sustainability:

  • Uncertainty about future digital standards (24% of the surveyed companies);
  • A lack of financial resources (23% of the surveyed companies);
  • Regulatory obstacles (23% of the surveyed companies);
  • Lack of skills (20% of the surveyed companies);
  • IT security issues (20% of the surveyed companies).

The results highlight the importance of a new SME strategy in partly driving a swift economic recovery in Europe in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Smart technologies for effective waste management

Enevo is a Finnish waste disposal company whose digital strategy managed to generate sustainability. Its aim is to make collection of waste efficient by enabling waste companies to pick up waste only when the bins are full, rather than at a scheduled time. This allows companies which pick up waste to use less resources as there surely won’t be any useless trips.

Apart from being more sustainable and efficient, Enevo is also contributing to the ongoing concern about waste management by collecting the data it gathers from the sensors and other technological devices in the waste bins. Using this data, it better understands waste generation, proactively manages solutions, continues to decrease costs and increases sustainability in the long-run. More companies will surely follow Enovo’s example, and an EU-wide digital strategy will surely drive the adoption of smart working practices across Europe.