The Successor to Digital Transformation

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For the first time in history, technology makes it possible for companies to be more profitable by becoming more sustainable.

This is not just a possibility, but an imperative.

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Today the very innovations essential for saving the planet are also those that can usher in a new era of business self-reliance in energy, materials, and resilience in the face of a sputtering global supply chain. More than this, digital transformation has given companies a decade-long dry run of the processes to create value from these technologies.

We are entering an era of sustainable transformation, the successor to digital transformation.

This report, which is a synthesis of roundtable discussions held in collaboration with Salesforce and Accenture, combines the insights of over 50 leaders in sustainability, science and technology. Our mission is to put C-level leaders and board directors on notice that there’s a new business case for sustainability and tried-and-true roadmaps to take bolder climate action.

We believe a better future isn’t just possible — it’s also highly probable. It’s now up to us to forge a new path that leads from probability into reality.

Sustainable Transformation:
Digital Transformation’s Successor

Sustainable transformation is about taking the lessons we've learned over the last several years dealing with disruption, data, speed, and agility, and applying them to sustainability.

The solutions companies must pursue to reach net-zero are the same as the ones they’d have to implement anyway to adapt to three major challenges shaping the most uncertain decade for business in living memory.

Challenge 01.

Fossil fuels have high, unpredictable costs and endanger the planet.

Challenge 02.

We can’t count on just-in-time supply chains and cheap materials.


A race to decarbonize through clean energy independence – cleaner, cheaper, “ownable” power supplies produced closer to the point of use.


A transition to circularity through resource independence shields companies from rising materials and supply chain costs and minimizes unnecessary dependence on third parties.

Challenge 03.

The benefits of net-zero are long term, but investments are needed now.


Digital long-term value business models have greater certainty around future cash flow and give companies more control of the full product lifecycle, using that new power to create efficiencies through data and technology.

Sustainability is not just about future generations. It’s about future-proofing businesses today — not just for the next 50 years, but the next 5-10.

We don’t have sustainability costs, we have sustainability investments. We invest in sustainability to future-proof our business—the same way we do for employee training, factory or office development. Consumer demand, regulatory requirements, and weather patterns are all shifting and will make this a good investment.

Jonathan Gill

Global Sustainability Strategy Director, Unilever

the race to net-zero brings the prospect of a historic round of global investment that would be just the shot in the arm the economy needs

We should view investments in sustainable transformation as an unprecedented business opportunity for the entire world, not an insurance check we must begrudgingly sign.

The trillions of dollars per year analysts predict will be necessary for a rapid, clean transition won't just disappear. They will be paid by companies and governments to other firms who will spend them back into the economy. Basic economics teaches us that every liability is someone else’s asset. This means the race to net-zero brings the prospect of a historic round of global investment that would be just the shot in the arm the economy needs.

Digital Drives Sustainability

The sustainability era brings a host of new challenges, but it’s not uncharted territory. The last decade of digital transformation provides a problem-solving blueprint to profitably address planetary woes while fixing business pain points. We call this approach sustainable transformation, the successor to digital transformation.

Sustainable transformation is about using new technologies to compete in a way that also mitigates existential business risks like climate change. It's about fusing purpose and profit in every product or service.

The challenge is, under the market's current rules, purpose and profit don't naturally overlap in all places or over all time frames. Policy changes are needed to address this, and businesses should aggressively advocate for them. But in the meantime, strong business cases exist for sustainable transformation goals in the places where they already converge.

To harness the untapped possibilities of clean technology, we must go beyond digital-transformation-as-usual, which author John Hagel likens to "just helping caterpillars walk faster," not transforming them into an “unrecognizable butterfly.” Tectonic business model shifts and product overhauls are the main goals of sustainable transformation, not merely an aspiration.

The largest profit-purpose overlaps that companies can act on today include:

Decarbonization through clean energy independence.

Supply chain reliability and waste reduction through resource independence.

Resilience that future-proofs businesses and adapts to climate impacts.

Access the Full Report

Sustainable Transformation: The Successor to Digital Transformation. Understand the new business case for sustainability and the technologies and strategies which will enable business to thrive in an increasingly uncertain world.


As the world’s leading organizations plan for 2050, there’s one way most of them are missing the mark. They fail to differentiate between climate change and the climate crisis, and in doing so forget that there are targets we must hit much sooner in order to have a chance of getting to 2050.


Climate Change

An intergenerational struggle to reach “net-zero,” completely decarbonizing our economies to prevent the worst effects of rising global temperatures.


Climate Crisis

The urgent race to cut global emissions by half before 2030, or risk global warming becoming a runaway train no amount of investment can stop.

Sustainability is truly the most all-encompassing, all-pervasive issue that we humans will face in our lifetimes. It's truly a test of our humanity. Are we able to prove ourselves as sacrificing and giving people? Do we know what it means to love and care for living beings beyond our own time?

Apricot Tang

Sustainability Tech GTM Lead,
Salesforce Business Group at Accenture

View Sustainable Business Transformation roundtable participants

Disrupting Sustainability

Consider that Moore’s Law – the idea that computer chips will double their performance for half the cost every two years – is “contagious” and spreads to other technologies.

Now, many of the core tools of our modern world follow similar “S-curves” of adoption and growth that drove the information revolution.

By most estimates, the cost of solar panels has fallen by over 80% in the last two decades.

Wind power costs have dropped more than50% in the last ten years and are expected to decline by an additional 37 – 49% by 2050.

According to Nature, lithium-ion battery prices have plunged by 97% since 1991.

In most places, renewable power is already much cheaper than coal or natural gas.

One reason more investment hasn’t poured into the renewables sector is because most businesses and traditional forecasters didn’t see this coming.
They continued to project linear, gradual changes to the cost and quality of technologies.

Year after year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) predictions have severely underestimated the rise of global solar panel installations.

Wherever you look, exponential technologies, which by definition improve at least 10% a year in cost and quality, are replacing legacy technologies that can’t keep up.

80% of the technologies we need to keep the planet under global warming targets are already invented, or someone is working on them today. The question is how quickly will they be adopted? Will the incumbents and otherwise well-meaning regulators try to slow them down, which is what they always do in a disruption?

Emmanuel Lagarrigue

Managing Director, BeyondNetZero at General Atlantic

Nine Sustainable Transformation Technologies

What’s Your Sustainable Transformation Strategy?

Our research and sessions with more than 50 executives and science and technology experts from the world’s leading organizations have identified six key strategic shifts that are common to nearly every organization’s sustainable transformation strategy.

Think of them like a checklist for evaluating investment decisions. The more boxes ticked, the more impactful the approach.

Products & Services
“Servitized” Products, Outcomes & Experiences
Cutting Waste & Carbon
Clean Energy & Resource Independence
Exponential Growth
Higher, Predictable Growth
Value Chains
Value Networks

More Than Enough Reason to Hope

As dire as the prognosis for our environment and society may be, this is no time for fatalism. If technology follows its historical adoption curves, if the forces of consumer opinion, financial markets, and regulatory action pile on to push the curves further and faster,

it’s possible that humanity will achieve net-zero even earlier than we can imagine.

The foundation of a new net-zero economy is already under construction. But since every revolution is market-driven, it’s time for us to act, innovate and build the infrastructure, marketplace, and global community we need to take us there.

A sense of optimism is required to succeed in sustainable transformation. Sustainability is making sure we're lifting up the quality of life in an equitable way for all people, globally. That includes healthcare, access to affordable, reliable, sustainable energy, and the ability to travel to connect with family and friends and economic opportunities.

Roger Martella

Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer, GE

For the first time in history, technology makes it possible for companies to be more profitable by becoming more sustainable.

This is not just a possibility, but an imperative.

Sustainable Transformation
Industry Briefs

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Sustainable Business Transformation

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