The Importance of Technology in ESG Transformation

Ida Nganga
Regional Head
Automatic Summary

Exploring the Role of Technology and ESG

In a world driven by innovation and change, technology remarkably influences different sectors, including Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG). In this article, we explore the pivotal role of technology in ESG, highlighting key points discussed by Ada Naga, the regional head for Unesco's Chair on Emerging Technologies for Development during a recent session.

Understanding ESG, Technology, and Our Roles

Ada Naga delved into the depths of technological innovation, shedding light on the vast realm of ESG that remains relatively unexplored. "ESG is just another name for digital sustainability," Ada explained. By examining common misconceptions and sharing valuable insights, she reveals that technology can catalyze sustainable development and have a far-reaching impact.

The Intersection of ESG and Technology

Technological innovations, like Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), and robotics, significantly drive progresses in ESG. However, with the internet contributing almost 3.7% of global greenhouse gas emissions, balancing digital transformation and sustainability presents quite a complicated task. While these technologies are essential for development, their adverse impacts on natural systems cannot be denied or overlooked. Thankfully, digital sustainability endeavors to use these tools for enhancing the environment and facilitating sustainable business practices."Digital sustainability is about effectively using technology to advance sustainable development goals," she affirms.

ESG in Action: Calls for Individual and Collaborative Efforts

ESG is not just a concept. It requires actions; sustainable practices that create a lasting impact. Ada encourages individual actions and collaborations to generate transformations towards sustainability and an equitable world. Identifying these action items as a roadmap to start your ESG journey, she mentions:

  1. Aligning digital technology and sustainability for common purpose development, standard training, and fostering cross-sector action.
  2. Mitigating negative impacts by committing to sustainable digitalization.
  3. Accelerating digital innovation for sustainability with labs, workshops, circular economic principles, and prioritizing a just transition.

She rightly asserts, "Success in climate action depends on every one of us, taking individual actions and collaborating with those around us."

Moving Forward: Digital Sustainability in Your Organization

Ada Naga encourages everyone to take a lead in digital sustainability. By leveraging digital products and services more resourcefully, organizations can optimize their carbon footprint. Your marketing, HR, sales, finance, and operations teams' efforts and licensed software usage can determine your digital sustainability.

Choosing the Right Partners

"Choose wisely who to partner with", Ada advises. Organizational decisions on digital products and services inevitably have an impact on the environment, and you do not have control over all related decisions. However, you can make a significant difference by collaborating with active participants in the digital sustainability space, such as the UN Environmental Plan or Unesco's Chair on Emerging Technologies.

The Way Forward

Ada Naga concludes her session by summarizing her takeways on digital sustainability. Though acknowledging that there are many principles to cover, the three keys takeaways are:

  • Emphasize on clean services powered by renewable energy.
  • Ensure your product/service uses the least amount of energy and material resources.
  • Ensure your internet-enabled products/services are accessible and allow users to control their data.

These takeaways can serve as an excellent starting point for anyone interested in digital sustainability.


As technology and ESG converge, individuals, stakeholders, and organizations can play significant roles in shaping a sustainable future. Ada Naga's insightful session offers a well-rounded perspective on ESG, compelling us to consider our roles, actions, and engagements.

Video Transcription

Hello, everyone. Welcome to this session on technology, the role of technology and ESGS.Very excited to have you here and uh thank you, of course to the whole team at Women Tech because then they have been so amazing in making sure that as women in technology, we are actually informed about not only the issues that have been challenges in the past, but also imagine issues that are key to our progress and our growth.

So without further ado, I will go straight into it and I will allow my moderator to keep me in track of time because I know sometimes time can actually be a bit of an issue. First of all, just give me a minute to introduce myself again. I know you might have seen my bio but uh let me just speak more than what is actually on the website about me. So my name is Ada Naga and I am the regional head for Unesco, the UNESCO Chair on imagine technologies for development. Now, when we say imagine technologies for development, we're talking about the A I Artificial Intelligence, the internet of things. Of course, we have cybersecurity issues coming up all the time. And we are also talking about issues to do with robotics, all the emerging technologies that we know of as women in tech. And of course, as other guests are areas that we take very deeply, very seriously and we actually hope to use them for developmental purposes. Of course, there are those of you who are using them in the corporate scenario, but we also need to engage with other stakeholders in the ecosystem. When I mean, stakeholders, they might not only be in corporate, they could be in academia, they could be in civil society, they could also be individuals who are very passionate about taking technology to the next level.

And of course, we have other players who you might be willing to share in the church in the chat in the chat box. You can give us examples of some what uh some of how, how some of these stakeholders look to you or actors or just some of the people that you on a daily basis in order to increase the impact of your work in the tech ecosystem. So kindly give me a minute to just pull out some of the research that I have prepared for you just to make sure it's reflecting. But I will remind you for this session. I will be deep diving because it's an introduction. I will be deep diving straight into the issues that affect ESG and I will not necessarily be giving a lecture or uh presenting slides and too much information because uh when you deep dip, deep dive into an intro, it means you make the intro as um clear as possible, maybe just explain in terms that one would, would understand and whether they are in the field or not.

And that's exactly what I'm going to do for. Now. Of course, all of you are welcome to engage with me after this. I'll be sharing, sharing a lot of resources, a lot of links. And I know whether you are advanced or middle or even just at the initial stage of engaging with ESG at this uh specific level in your career, you can get a lot of information from the links. I'm going to share. If you want to engage further, you're going to get in touch with me. So let's get into it. Some of you have heard of the term ESG and I'm sure you have been wondering whether it's the re it's the prevailing um the buzzword of the day, there are many buzzwords of the day. For example, artificial intelligence is getting a lot of, a lot of um a lot of attention, but this is something which has been there for a while. What is happening right now in the economy is that we are taking it seriously. So it's just when we talk about technology and ESGESG is environmental sustainability and also governance, when we talk about such terms, what do we mean you might be confused about how you or your organization can embrace and operationalize digital sustainability because in simple terms, it's just about digital sustainability.

So what we're going to share are just common principles in a roadmap to get you started today. So what exactly are we talking about? So the digital sustainability harnesses the tools of digital transformation such as enhanced connectivity and the internet of things that I've mentioned.

So this is in order to improve the environment and support sustainable business operations. But with the internet, accounting for around 3.7% of global greenhouse gas emissions, it can be a tricky circle to square. And this is what uh Bettina Ryan especially has has actually highlighted in her publication in the in the publication. What is digital sustainability and how can it, what est goes and I'm going to be sharing that resource with you as well. So according to academic research, the definition of digital sustainability has evolved from the preservation and maintenance of digital content. This was way back in 22,007 when we were really preserving and maintaining the digital content. OK. Now, it is moving to how an organization uses technology to advance sustainable development goals. Now, let me give you a few examples. Digital sustainability is the process of applying social economic and environmental stewardship principles to digital products services and data delivered via the internet.

So designers and developers here might interpret this as a call to deliver more resource efficient digital products and they would be right. However, it goes both ways digital products and services can be used to advance sustainability efforts as well as per the quote that you had above.

So we'll be sharing basic concepts of course. But we also need to explore the myths and the misconceptions and outline practices that anyone can adapt to the, to devise a clear strategy and to achieve measurable outcomes. We may not have enough time to go deeply into all the principles and how all of you as different stakeholders can apply them because because you come from different fields, but we are always open to engaging on a one on one with different stakeholders. Be it corporate, be it academia, be it international organizations or be it civil society, whichever area you come from, we can engage with specific strategies of how you in your ecosystem can actually take action. I want to highlight at this particular point in time that digital transformation is globally pervasive. It's increasing productivity, it's disrupting pre-existing business models and leading to diverse innovations with pro profound implications for the human future. The Un Environment Program code action plan.

He is taking a lead in this transformation because the transformation has enormous potential to support progress toward sustainability. However, it's in its current form, it's still evolving. It continues to enable aid and encourage unsustainable practices at the same time, which are degrading natural systems.

So we need to take a stand, we need to work together as different stakeholders. The UN Environment program's code, code action uh plan that I have mentioned was authored by over 1000 contributors from around the world. It was re released on the 15th anniversary of the Stockholm Conference on Human Environment. So these plans presents the most comprehensive efforts to date to explore intersectionality between digital technology and sustainability. So I highly recommend it not only because I'm in the UN ecosystem, but I would also talk to you uh share some research resources on how you as an individual. Also, not only as an indi not not only as someone who works for your organization, also, as an individual can be passionate about ESD and technology and can take some of these plans to the future in terms of by your own contributions, women especially should actually take a lead at this specific uh time because what happens when you have something new which has come up is it gives people an opportunity to go into research areas that have not been gone into before women in technology need to take this as an opportunity to excel and also for visibility purposes.

So it doesn't matter what background you have, you have a take on environmental sustainability and governance. And this is this is a a AAA wonderful opportunity to push our women in tech to the forefront. So let me just also highlight a few areas that you can use for your own engagement. One is the plan calls for three fundamental systemic shifts to implement sustain uh sustainable digital alignment. What you can do is look at enabling an alignment. OK. Align digital technology and sustainability.

That is the the technology you are already using with sustainability. That means with a common purpose for developing standards, training and fostering cross sector action. This I believe is any it is something that anyone in our network can do so women take network members and also all other guests who are here. This is something that you can do. You can actually help in developing standards because remember I have just mentioned that the standards are in the process of being developed and this is an uh an opportunity to actually mitigate negative impacts that might be able to come up. What do I mean by mitigating the negative impacts, commit to sustainable dili digitalization. This world, this world can be a bit of mouthful digitalization. That means mitigate the negative social and environmental impact of digital technologies such as emissions e waste in the digital divide.

Many of you have been working in the digital divide feed for a long time and some of you have met in conferences worldwide, but there's another area that you can focus on and you do not have to be an environmental expert. That area is looking at e emissions and e waste, e waste is something that we cannot escape in the digital world. And you know that all the devices are we we are using are actually being discussed in ways that we are not sure of because people are using these devices from different places in the world. So this is an area for you to take a lead. Another area I must highlight is accelerate innovation. How can you do this accelerate digital innovation for sustainability through labs, workshops, circular economic principles and prioritizing just transition. Remember I have mentioned this is a period where all the information and all the contributions are equally important.

So this is the perfect time to effect change in your organization, in your society or community and also for yourself and your peers as an individual. So according also to the uh codes plan, let me just remind you a pro or probably add, if we accomplish this shift, we can help transform society and business model to a more sustainable and equitable world. The action items that I'm going to share um hereafter they fall at least under one of these categories. OK. So um there's, there's also a video that I'm going to share in the link. Probably uh when we go into the question, an answer, if we have time for question and answer, I could share that in the, in the, in the in the chat box. And when you get time to look at it, you can get in touch with me and you can give me your take on it at UNESCO emerging technologies. We are encouraging women to take a lead in this action plan. So any of you right now can actually be at the forefront of the committee or of the, or, or, or, or, or of the people who are going to steer the guidance of these standards.

Let me mention that whether you're, you're in the United Nations ecosystem or whether you're in another globally focused organization whose mission is to make a difference in the world. You're very welcome. Also, if you're a mid or small sized business or not, or even nonprofit, your difference can make an excellent difference. Let me give you an example because you might be asking yes, but how you can enable digital sustainability within your organization by for example, making sure that your organization does not operate on um a scale at which there is too much damage. For example, even if you're not focusing on emerging technologies, on innovation labs, on standard development or a host of other areas, I have mentioned your organization probably owns or manages or uses multiple digital products and services. For example, hosting networks and the digital infrastructure.

This might be in your it, your devops, your web box um sectors or uh functions under those functions, right? But also your marketing and communication teams are using websites, mobile apps, social media ads, email and related platforms. So it's not only the tech people that you should engage your hr your sales, your finance, your operations are using licensed software and subscription services for data management, aren't they? So they are also people who you can pull in in this mission. Well, you can only influence third party providers so much. You do not have control over decision making related decisions to many of the products and the services that I have previously mentioned. So it's very important for you to, to choose wisely who to partner with. So we recommend that you start with people who are already doing a great job in the digital sustainability space such as the UN environmental plan, the UN Emerging technologies that is us. And there are many chairs in different led in which have um presence in different universities, meaning that you have access to a lot of research from the academic field as well as from the corporate field. As I also not only represent the UN chair for Emerging Technologies, I also represent the Global Council for the promotion of International Trade.

So in the face of these principles, there are many things which are calling an emergency to climate success will depend on every single one of us, taking individual action and collaborating with those around us that have a real impact that's bigger than the sum of our individual parts.

One such person who has played a big role in sustainable web design is a gentleman called Tom Tom Greenwood and I would actually share his, his, his uh his research on this and his contribution because he, he has really emphasized on the fact that if we can, if we can create services for our society and for generations to come, it's a bigger call to action than just individual action for ourselves or for our organization.

There's a lot we can do in this space. So let me also remind you that there's a manifesto that states that for more sustainable internet, there are some principles that should be followed. Again, this is something all of us can do. Now. I can deep dive into this on a more personal level. Time is not on our side. I think we only have two minutes but just remember three things actually for now, but we will be able to add more as we go. One is clean services powered by renewable energy. Two is efficiency. Your product and service must use the least amount of energy and material resources. And three open internet enabled product and services should be accessible and allow for the open information and allow users to control their own data.

So that's it for now and then be kindly uh just hand over the baton to our moderator in order for him to tell us the way forward, whether we have time to take one question or whether we could just leave it to further engagement on a one on one level. Thank you so much. Any questions or are there any questions which have already been dropped in? That's true. Are there any questions which have already been dropped in the chat box before we close? Ok, I can see them. OK. No questions from the audience, but I can see that we have a lot of messages. OK? I can see we have a lot of messages. If you can hear me now, I'm going to be sharing my personal address. You can just use my name ID A nga nga Aya Nanga at All the questions that I was not able to respond to successfully, probably due to a technical hitch. I'm not sure because I didn't see what was happening in the background. Kindly get in touch with me directly and we can have a round table discussion on the ESGS and technology, any feedback on that moderator. Is that OK? Yes, someone has just said thank you so much for your talk and that's Drew. I love how you mentioned bringing in not just technical people but people from all areas. Excellent. This is exactly what I was talking about. Drew.

We need to have an, you know, system that is not only for stakeholders in tech, we have to have a multilevel stakeholder engagement strategy. So excellent, what I can do is um kindly use my, my, my, my uh my email again, Ada Gana, my name ID A Nga nga at I can see we have much interest in furthering this conversation, we can have it in a round table. Thank you so much, Drew. We would love to have you on board. I can see. We also have Eliza. Eliza kindly. You're welcome to join us. We have the women tech team willing to also take a part in that, in that round table discussion where we go deeper and I am very, very excited to, to welcome um not only the women tech team but anyone who might have attended this session. Thank you so much. Everyone I look forward to the round table and a personal one on one interaction with you. Thank you so much.