The IEMA Fellows Working Group on Disruptive Technologies & the Digital Economy has today released its second tech thought piece looking at the role of smart solutions in supporting sustainability professionals to scale up the transition to sustainability within their organisations.

In 2020, the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis added to the perfect storm of issues impacting on organisations, economic prosperity, communities, and health and wellbeing. At the same time, we witnessed numerous cross-sector collaborations with tech companies aiming to support the creation of smart solutions (e.g. online healthcare, mRNA vaccine platform technology) that would amplify positive environmental and social impact across sectors and organisations.

Taking stock of this paradigm, the IEMA Fellows Working Group on Disruptive Technologies & the Digital Economy, a cross industry working group of around 20 IEMA Fellows with specific expertise and insight on the digital economy met virtually several times over the course of a year to develop a follow up document to the 2019 IEMA Thought Piece on Disruptive Technologies & Sustainability.


The focus of the document aligns with IEMA’s Build Back Better Mission statement, while building on the identified key actions of the 2019 thought piece. In doing so, the IEMA Fellows have reached out to IEMA practitioner members and experts within their network across sectors such as mobility, agriculture, energy and the built environment to set out practical recommendations on important IEMA action areas such as investment in upskilling or infrastructure that deliver sustainable economic, social and environmental outcomes.

Indeed, IEMA members from different membership grades and in the public and the private sector (e.g. NHS Digital, Leeds City Council, Siemens, Sopra Steria, Qflow) have supported the Fellows project by submitting case studies that offer pointed recommendations such as the value of setting out training plans on tech and sustainability skills to better integrate digital systems so that multiple teams are working towards a common goal.

Covering a range of technology from cloud-based services to data visualisation AI, the recommendations should help to provide sustainability professionals with further support on how to better engage with smart solutions in their own organisations.

“It is vital to recognise the modularity of smart solutions and how they can be used to support sustainable outcomes”…“Innovative smart sensor technologies are allowing sustainability professionals to monitor environmental quality and resource flows with greater accuracy and often in real-time. This allows us to take a systems-based perspective of sustainability, using data to engage with other professionals in order to optimise economic, social and environmental outcomes. Sustainability professionals need to grasp this opportunity to ensure that future smart cities and societies are sustainable ones as well.”

Dr Tom Knowland (Member of the IEMA Fellows Working Group on Disruptive Technologies & the Digital Economy and Head of Sustainable Energy & Climate Change at Leeds City Council)

If you haven’t done so already, make sure you catch up on the interactive publication launch with presentations from IEMA corporate partners Sopra Steria and QFlow, available on the Watch Again page for IEMA members.

About the working group: The IEMA Fellows Working Group on Disruptive Technologies and the Digital Economy is a cross-industry working group of IEMA Fellows with specific expertise and insight on the digital economy.

IEMA members can download the thought piece for free, including the executive summary and access further video presentations of the case studies here.

Not an IEMA member? Get your easy-to-access digital copy for just £10 here and click on 'corporate sustainability'.

Photo of Marc Jourdan
Marc Jourdan

Marc Jourdan is a Policy & Engagement Lead for IEMA. He leads IEMA’s work on the circular economy and social sustainability issues. He has an LLM in Environmental Law and over 9 years’ experience specialising in sustainability issues. Marc combines his legal skills with the commercial acumen he developed as a corporate lawyer to support members in both the private and the public sector on sustainability matters.