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11 CSR and digital trends for 2023

Without a doubt, this year will be marked by the geopolitical context and the entry into force of new European regulations where more than ever, environment and social will be linked to the economy through security and sustainability issues. Despite the growing impact of digital, the market of digital responsibility is not mature yet. When will it all click ? Digital is the first point of contact when it comes to stakeholders and it is a source both of impact and innovation. This is the perfect opportunity for CSR, communication, marketing managers and CIOs, to seize this year to renew their business model. CIOs and CSR managers will therefore have an interest in getting closer!

Intro: An injunction to reinvent ourselves

The KPMG innovation study has identified six trends in innovation this year. First, the multi-crisis context that will favor a return to the human (The human at the heart), an economy of connection based on collaboration, frugality ("more" from "less"), the bio-continuum (we are part of ecosystems), the ADN Tech trend, which is rethinking the meaning of more responsible innovation.

Between global revolutions, impacts of the health crisis and silent evolutions, the world is changing in depth. Every day, new modes of production are emerging. New forms of work and work relations are developing. Ways of consuming are changing. A singular moment, an injunction to reinvent ourselves.

Trends book 2023, KPMG Innovation Lab

With stats to back it up, we've identified a few CSR trends that will certainly impact digital this year :

1. Stakeholders more demanding regarding climate change

This year, stakeholders will favor brands that make strong environmental and social commitments. Companies will be more demanding of themselves. Already, more and more large groups are asking their stakeholders (subcontractors, suppliers, etc.) to fill in reports on their CSR impacts, as they impact their balance sheets (Scope 2).

70% of French consumers

According to a 2021 Deloitte study, nearly 70% of consumers say they are more likely to buy technology products from companies that have strong social and environmental responsibility programs.

40% by 2050 for the French state

France must move away from its dependence on fossil fuels and reduce its energy consumption by 40% by 2050. Companies will have to implement several measures (p.20, measures for companies + p.32 digital)

84% of investors

84% of investors will make global warming a top priority in their investments this year. (Source: Robeco, 2023 outlook)

2. Consumers more vigilant, with the covid-19 pandemic

Covid will likely continue to impact daily life and the economy in many countries, with efforts to build resilience and preparedness for future public health events. To adapt, consumers are adjusting their consumption behaviors.

60% for local products

More than 60% of e-buyers claim to have ordered from a local retailer in 2021. Since the health crisis, one French person in three wants to buy more local products.

2 out of 5 for reuse, collaborative economy, and rental

Recycling is on the rise! Among the 5 most popular e-commerce sites, 2 of them are second-hand sites (Source: Moncommerce, new consumer trends 2023)

3. Cybersecurity as a strategic issue

Artificial intelligence and machine learning technology will continue to develop and expand in many areas, such as healthcare, transportation, agriculture, and manufacturing. Competitiveness, ethics, and cybersecurity issues arise from this. These signals, coupled with the current context, tell us that cybersecurity issues will be highlighted this year, especially with the actions taken by the French government. Read this article, to learn more about cybersecurity issues this year.

4. Energy, CSR, and ESG issues at the heart of investors' concerns

The transition to a more sustainable economy and the fight against climate change will continue to be important global priorities, which will push companies to measure and improve their impacts beyond their CSR policies. This raises the question of ESG, which is challenged in particular by the energy issue. Indeed it will be necessary to know whether short-term energy security issues (linked to the war in Ukraine) will take precedence over long-term energy transition objectives (net zero emissions objective for 2050).

CSR is going through a period similar to digital technology in 2001: everyone has heard about it, but in practice it lacks the means to act, and even more so, to act in an integrated way and have a more powerful impact. This year, if it is integrated into corporate strategy, it could enable the renewal of business models, using the new requirements of extra-financial reporting (CSRD).

All this brings into play the issues of IoT, Big Data, and Cloud computing, which concerns CIOs. Indeed, they will regain responsibility for responsible digital purchasing, which can be slowed by inflation and shortages. CIOs and CSR managers should therefore get closer together!

5. Web 3.0, NFT and metaverse: Between energetic efficiency and innovation

For some, web 3 is an anarchist utopia, an Eldorado, a virgin land of hope and democratic enthusiasm: it is about creating a free, transparent and secure web that gives power back to users (to the detriment of all centralized power and big techs), by not repeating the mistakes of web 1 and web 2. For others (especially this year), it will be the business opportunity of the century. In any case, the ethical and energetic questions surrounding web 3.0. will not prevent it from emerging in force this year. To go further, you can read this entire article on cryptocurrency trends for the year 2023.

With metaverse, we have 7 more technologies that add to those of web 1.0. and 2.0. This will lead us into a synthetic world between reality and virtual, as described by the Hub Institute.

6. Blockchain: The answer to Duty of Care

Aura Toader of MSCI London asks in this Plan A article whether blockchain (based on cryptocurrencies) could be an answer to controversies about transparency and ethics in the value chain. Indeed, according to some, this technology could allow for better monitoring of human rights violations. More details in this Novethic article.

7. Human-centered UX design and ergonomics: More inclusion and accessibility

In terms of design, this year will also be marked by technological evolutions (notably what artificial intelligence and virtual reality can do in the arts) at the visual, ergonomic, and experiential levels. 99designs summarizes the major trends in graphic design. Narrative processes, micro-interactions, and artificial intelligence can help develop a more realistic and interesting experience for users.

There are some encouraging trends this year, moving towards more sufficiency, inclusion (diversity), and accessibility to all audiences, as Stratégies reveals. Accessibility and inclusion are often confused, but at least the subject has risen to the top of the year's trends. We see more and more sites using dark mode, optimizing their content and using clean designs, playing with fonts, and trying to design useful, usable, and used services.

Regarding the code, we are moving towards more efficient and secure web development. There are trends toward simplification, frugality, and optimization. Mytia Smusin, CEO of Yellow Systems, presents three main trends: dark mode, the use of artificial intelligence and chatbots, and cybersecurity, which confirms the trends mentioned above.

8. Development of sustainable technologies and the use of technology to address environmental challenges (IT for green)

This year, there are increasing opportunities to use technology to address environmental challenges, for example by using sensors and data to monitor and protect ecosystems, or by using artificial intelligence technology to optimize production processes and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Let's add a caveat, however. This "techno-solutionist" trend legitimizes excessive digitalization and pushes us to obesity. Moreover, it often makes promises that lead to NOTHING.

For a long time, tech has been at the forefront of the scene. Today, it is the human being and the very notion of progress, as well as the perimeter of impact measurement, that are being reexamined.

Albane Liger-Belair KPMG Innovation Director

$4.5 trillion

According to a 2020 Ellen MacArthur Foundation study, using technology to combat environmental challenges could generate $4.5 trillion in potential savings by 2030.

$500 billion

According to a 2020 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) study, governments and businesses spent about $500 billion on sustainable technology projects in 2020, a figure that is expected to continue to rise in the coming years.

9. Data center’s sustainability

It appears crucial for companies to ensure that their data centers are environmentally sustainable and use energy and resources efficiently.

+ 126% increase in energy consumption between 2005 and 2020

According to a 2021 Greenpeace study, data center energy consumption increased by 126% between 2005 and 2020 and is estimated to continue to increase significantly in the coming years if measures are not taken to reduce it.

10. Eco-design of electronic devices

There is a growing awareness of the importance of designing electronic devices to reduce their environmental impact throughout their life cycle. This can include for example the ability to upgrade or repair devices, as well as the use of sustainable materials in their manufacture.

8% of greenhouse gas emissions

According to a 2021 International Telecommunication Union (ITU) study, electronic devices account for about 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and this figure is expected to increase significantly in the coming years if steps are not taken to reduce the environmental impact of these devices.

11. Responsible communication and marketing as an ally of CSR

This year, brands will be eagerly awaited by stakeholders for more transparency, listening, and proof. Aligning business and communication strategies with intentions and values will require to rethink communication methods, marketing, and advertising, both in substance and in form. Trends such as ethical, committed, authentic, and responsible communication are already emerging.

75% of French citizens say they are suspicious

... about companies' social and environmental commitments (source Harris Interactive for the Impact France movement - February 2022).

When it comes to the environment too, brands must be vigilant to avoid being accused of greenwashing. To do so, they can measure the environmental footprint of their communication campaigns and think about their impacts from the design of the message, the content, the choice of channels, technologies, and distribution. To regain consumer trust this year, all brands, without exception, must rise to the challenge, while showing humility and empathy. And that will require a focus on purpose and evidence.

Corporate and brand communication is a strong lever for transforming representations and behaviors, and can become a real catalyst for contribution. [...]

Isabelle Dona, Managing Director, and Partner, LinkUp Factory

Legislation is already getting involved with the Climate and Resilience Law. Since January 1st, it prohibits carbon neutrality in advertisements in France without giving proof.

To conclude: It is time for business staging

According to Isabelle Saladin, President and founder of I&S Adviser**, it is no longer time for theory and ideologies, but for business staging** (optimizing the value of one's company). The question is not whether or not companies will seize the opportunity to renew themselves, but how. And for that, we need to go back to basics. A good resolution for 2023 could be to start by reading the sixth IPCC report, which is listing several courses of action. It is no longer the time to take stock or to procrastinate. Although this implies mourning old patterns, it is now proposed to renew ourselves through these trends and redraw an equitable social pact that brings hope to all.

The High Committee for a Responsible Digital Economy, created in 2022, aims to converge the digital and ecological transitions while controlling the environmental impact of digital technology in France. It has two missions :

  • Become the sole body for ensuring consistency between interministerial roadmaps, the France 2030 strategy, and the legislative and regulatory framework;
  • Ensure consultation with all digital stakeholders.

The Committee will present a roadmap in the spring. Its work will allow the various players to settle down and align themselves.

Trends indicate that IT Sustainability should be one of the strategic areas for large companies this year, for political, economic, social, environmental, and regulatory reasons. Will it be the case? It's hard to predict the future. However, for all these reasons, it will be necessary for companies to evaluate processes and their impacts, at 360°.

Autor : Marie-Christine Aubin

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