The rise of #techforgood and what it means for businesses

Many companies are beginning to consider the impact their technology solutions have on the world around them. Customers are no longer satisfied with tech for tech’s sake, and are looking for organisations that are in touch with the big social and environmental causes defining our time.

This phenomenon often comes with the hashtag #techforgood. Its ethos pushes for technology to be used to benefit society in a positive way, harnessing the incredible capabilities of technology in all its forms to truly make the world a better place.

A recent example of this trend was the announcement that scientists in America had used AI to discover a new kind of antibiotic that successfully killed 37 different strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The algorithm was deployed to analyse and identify patterns in 100 million+ chemical compounds, and completed this mammoth task in a matter of days. It was a landmark case: a major blow against a growing global health threat and a textbook case of technology helping to improve lives.

From the perspective of the C-Suite the #techforgood ethos is a huge commercial asset. According to the Business and Sustainable Development Commission, #techforgood solutions are opening up a market opportunity that will be worth $12 trillion by 2030.

Using technology for positive social and global impact helps to build a powerful and compelling narrative around the company. In turn, this gives an organisation purpose, helping it to live the values it espouses, joining up positive words with positive action. Aiming high gives #techforgood organisations significant capacity to scale which, when combined with growing customer appetite for socially responsible organisations, creates a huge business opportunity.

Several large VC firms, like London’s Bethnal Green Ventures, are pivoting to support these organisations, recognising the commercial opportunities on offer. Traditional KPIs for clients are being updated with other factors, such as environmental impact, governance, and hiring practices.

The new urgency for solutions to climate change is already creating a rush of investment in tech firms. Alternative and plant-based meat companies are attracting plenty of interest, with recent large investment rounds secured for Impossible Foods, Memphis Meats, and AccelFoods.

French start-up EcoVadis raised $200 million to fund its software that lets companies rate their suppliers on social responsibility – transparency is another essential component to help sustain a purpose-driven strategy.

Organisations shouldn’t forget that utilising #techforgood also requires them to put their money where their mouth is when looking internally. Employees have to feel motivated and supported to deliver the lasting impact an organisation may be looking for. This could range from using video-conferencing technology to support flexible working, to supporting and mentoring the next generation of #techforgood organisations like Google’s Campus start-up programme at its Old Street office.

Even simple solutions can create significant impact. One tech consultancy firm helped to bring Alexa-enabled devices to a Hampton Care elderly home, which was especially helpful for residents who were bedridden or who had dementia. The team quickly saw how this small piece of technology gave residents back a sense of autonomy, helping residents to play music, control lights in their room, and even to feel less isolated and alone.

Here at Resonance, we have seen #techforgood in action ourselves through our continued work with vCreate – the secure NHS Trusted video platform, used in paediatric and neonatal intensive care units across the country. The app lets nurses produce and share photos and videos of babies with their parents, helping them to stay connected to their new-borns during the difficult periods of separation. Its inspiring work has touched so many lives, and it was a pleasure to work on securing compelling coverage for it in the BBC. By marrying technological capabilities to human needs, it delivers lasting impact to parents across the UK – the very essence of #techforgood.

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