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Thoughtworks Live 2022 recap: How sustainable organizations sidestep disruption

Thoughtworks Live 2022 recap: How sustainable organizations sidestep disruption

After a two-year hiatus, Thoughtworks Live UK returned on October 11th 2022. While the initial pandemic-related disruption that put our events on hold is now over, today’s business leaders still find themselves in one of the most disrupted operational landscapes ever seen.


With that in mind, it seemed only fitting that this year’s event should explore what it takes to build and execute sustainable strategies that can help organizations turn disruptive challenges into valuable opportunities. 


At the event, Thoughtworkers and other digital and sustainability leaders came together to discuss how technology can help organizations adapt and grow as they face the next waves of global disruption, and evolve into sustainable organizations.


For those of you that couldn’t join us on the day, here’s a quick recap of the biggest takeaways from the event.

To drive sustainable transformation, leaders must craft a hopeful vision of tomorrow — then invite their people to help make it a reality


In his opening keynote session, former President of Volvo and IKEA Göran Carstedt explored the challenges of enabling sustainable transformation, and how leaders can respond to the most pressing question they face today; how can we become a truly sustainable organization?


To answer that question, we need to zoom out and consider what we really mean when we talk about sustainable organizations. They’re not just companies that hit their climate goals, abide by regulations and make sustainable choices. They’re organizations wholly united and aligned around the shared goal of sustainability, and actively motivated to bring the better future it represents to life.


It's a culture and mindset, rather than a laundry list of goals related to emissions and waste. Cultures like that don’t happen by accident. They can only exist when they’re created, grown and nurtured by leaders who are both inspired and inspiring.

To enact change, we need leaders that dare to imagine a hopeful vision of a better tomorrow — even when our future outlook appears grim.
Göran Carstedt
Former President of Volvo Sweden and IKEA North America and Europe

Those leaders create, communicate and live a hopeful vision of a better tomorrow that’s highly relevant to our times, challenges and context. In doing so, they demonstrate their vision’s value and show that it’s worthy of the organization’s full commitment. Then — most crucially — they invite the entire organization to drive progress towards making that vision a reality.


Only when sustainability is rooted deep at the heart of an organization’s purpose — its ‘why’ — can leaders build the human energy and interest required to bring their hopeful vision of a more sustainable tomorrow to life.


When it comes to sustainability, technology is a double-edged sword


In a joint session, Thoughtworkers Lisa McNally and Marcelo De Santis explored how technology has the potential to both help or hinder sustainability, and how leaders can make sure this double-edged sword cuts the right way.


The digital technologies our modern enterprises are built on create approximately 1.6 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year. That’s a staggering figure, and one that will take a lot of collective effort and change to reduce.


But, despite the scale of environmental damage caused by the digital world we’ve built, digital capabilities remain one of our strongest tools to help tackle climate change and build a more sustainable tomorrow. It’s just a matter of how we harness them.


When the world accepted the environmental damage caused by combustion engines, we didn’t stop building cars — we reimagined and redesigned them with cleaner, greener engines. Now, it’s time to do the same with our enterprise technology capabilities.


Green software practices can help developers and organizations build sustainability into their capabilities at the code level — leveraging languages and techniques that help reduce processing demands and make applications leaner and greener to use.


Tools like Cloud Carbon Footprint can help teams get a handle on their sprawling cloud environments, track the emissions linked to them and make smarter cloud choices that cut costs while eliminating waste and reducing emissions.

More than 75% of Thoughtworks Live attendees have made a public commitment to reach Net Zero. That’s a great start, but to achieve and deliver it, sustainability must become part of their digital mindset, and influence every technology decision they make.
Lisa McNally
Head of Sustainability and Cleantech, Thoughtworks North America

With the right mindset, capabilities, and strategy, we don’t need to choose between digital and sustainable transformation — the two can become one and the same. 

Holaluz showed us the power of those strategies in action


Joining us at the event, Jordi Medina and Oriol Tauleria of Spanish green energy provider Holaluz walked us through their sustainable transformation journey, exploring how the company is helping to solve society’s ongoing and intensifying energy crisis.


Sustainability has been in Holaluz’s DNA since day one. With aims to hit Net Zero and help others as they try to do the same, that company-wide commitment has made making difficult decisions around sustainability a lot easier.


Shifting away from fossil fuels or evolving your business model to support sustainability are big commitments that take a lot of courage. But once sustainability is a part of your identity, it’s a lot clearer how to progress towards it. If you accept that sustainability is your top priority, major business decisions can be distilled into much simpler questions like “will this help us progress towards Net Zero?” or “will this help us avoid future disruption?”

Be brave to disrupt. Ambitious purposes can’t be achieved doing the same as always.
Jordi Medina
Vice President of Technology, Holaluz

We also learned how applying some of the strategies shared by Lisa and Marcelo has helped Holaluz achieve some impressive results across their digital landscape. 


Using the Cloud Carbon Footprint tool created by Thoughtworks, the company was able to identify opportunities to reduce their annual CO2 emissions by ~20% by switching their workloads to a greener region. Plus, they were able to achieve a further ~14% reduction in emissions by rightsizing compute resources in non-production environments.

A sustainability mindset, governance and metrics are the top capabilities organizations want to build today

In their session, Lisa and Marcelo also introduced three key capabilities that come together to help enable sustainable transformation:


  • Sustainability in technology: Taking actions like understanding and reducing your cloud carbon footprint to help reduce the impact your technology has on emissions and the environment.

  • Sustainability of technology: Using things like green software principles to help build technology and digital capabilities that are sustainable by design.

  • Sustainability culture, governance, and metrics: Building an organization where everyone is empowered to make sustainable decisions, and where sustainability is a key factor in every decision you make.


To understand where our attendees’ priorities were, we conducted a short survey at the event. Of those capabilities, 84% of our audience felt that sustainability culture, governance and metrics would have the biggest impact on their sustainable transformation.


For many of those attendees, the biggest takeaway of the day was a clear understanding of exactly how digital technology can support sustainability. Whether they want to improve visibility of emissions to better understand the issues they’re facing, or completely transform their organizations around a new sustainable agenda, they can now clearly see how technology can help.


To learn more about how Thoughtworks is helping organizations apply technology in the right ways to drive sustainable transformation and move towards a clearer, greener, more agile future, visit our Sustainability Solutions hub.

Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.