Now and beyond: Digitalization for a sustainable future

In today’s highly digital society, there are parts of the world that are still offline. As of 2022, the United Nations (UN) reported that 2.7 billion people do not have digital connectivity access, most of whom live in developing and least developed countries. But why is it important to bridge this digital divide? 

Digital connectivity is a crucial part of financial inclusion or the effective access to a wide range of financial services  especially among the vulnerable sectors. Mobile banking applications, online payment services, and e-wallets can reach underserved populations to help spur economic activity.  In the pursuit of progress, we need to recognize the role of technology as an enabler in ensuring that no one is left behind.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) acknowledges the importance of digital financial services in creating a sustainable and inclusive society. Under the National Strategy for Financial Inclusion (NSFI) 2022 to 2028, promoting inclusive digital finance lays t he groundwork for sustainable and equitable national development. The BSP’s Digital Payments Transformation Roadmap aims to advance digitalization to deliver cost-efficient, convenient, and responsive financial services that will cater to the diverse needs of Filipinos. With this in mind, stakeholders, including businesses, must harness the power of digital technology to help achieve the government’s goal of using digitalization for sustainability.

The Nexus of Digitalization and Sustainability

The convergence of digitalization and sustainability has become a global business trend in recent years. In practice, companies are realizing that digital technologies can improve environmental performance and resource efficiency. 

A study made by Accenture in 2021 revealed that companies linking digital and sustainable transformation are two and a half times more likely to be among tomorrow’s strongest-performing businesses than others that do not. Another study recently published in March 2023 (Bending et al.) revealed a strong positive relationship between companies that prioritize digital technologies and their environmental performance, showing that digital transformation can lead to improved sustainability outcomes. 

Road to Digital Transformation

Digital transformation has a lot of advantages, especially when it comes to sustainability. First, going digital reduces the need for paper, ink, storage space, and other physical resources. Transitioning to digital processes, such as using cloud sharing to exchange and share documents, can drastically cut down on paper waste. Advanced data analytics can identify inefficiencies and suggest improvements, helping companies optimize their supply chains and reduce waste. 

We also have digital transformation to thank for making remote work and virtual meetings possible. Apart from the convenience of working remotely, this has led to a reduction in commuting and business travel, resulting in lower greenhouse gas emissions. 

Another promising development is Artificial Intelligence (AI), which lately became popular because of ChatGPT. AI can drive sustainability through innovative solutions that enhance efficiency, reduce environmental impact, and optimize resource utilization. Through AI-powered algorithms and advanced analytics, organizations can analyze vast amounts of data to identify patterns, optimize energy consumption, and make informed decisions for sustainable practices. 

An example of this is BPI’s recently launched Track and Plan, an AI-powered personal finance management tool that leverages technology to simplify money management. Track and Plan, which can be accessed via the new BPI app, monitors transactional trends such as deposits, withdrawals, transfers, and payments to generate personalized insights that help our customers track, save, and manage their finances. These personalized insights empower the customer to take specific actions in managing his or her finances. 

For example, when you see that you have excess inflows for the month, the tool can suggest ways on how you can invest and grow your funds. Overall, Track and Plan is a holistic tool that helps our clients be aware of their finances so they can plan and achieve their financial goals. This innovation complements the trusted financial advice that the bank and our relationship managers have been offering to our customers for 172 years. 

Now with the help of emerging technologies, we are able to scale that and take the next steps forward in pursuing digital transformation and providing the best financial services to Filipinos.

This transformation is not confined to the private sector. For the past few years, several government agencies have launched their respective “digital transformation roadmaps.” For instance, the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT) launched the eGov Super App, which consolidates several government transactions into one digital application. This platform aims to promote transparency, eliminate corruption and make public transactions easier and more convenient. This streamlined service will also contribute to environmental sustainability since Filipinos will no longer need to travel to various government agencies just to request birth certificates, clearances, permits, and so on.

Now and Beyond

As the global population continues to demand more resources from the planet, we need to find solutions to complex problems that complement our current efforts to protect and preserve the environment. Organizations must remain steadfast in leveraging digitalization to drive financial inclusion. By embedding sustainability principles into its core operations, businesses will see that economic viability and responsible practices can coexist harmoniously. Embracing digital solutions is not only an imperative for businesses and organizations but also a pathway to a sustainable future.

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Maria Cristina “Ginbee” L. Go, Head of Consumer Banking at BPI, has helped make the bank an industry leader through product innovations and business initiatives. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in BS Business Administration and Accountancy from UP Diliman, ranked 1st in the CPA Board Exam, and earned her MBA from Harvard Business School. She is a devoted wife and mother who enjoys traveling with her family, starts her day with morning jogs with her husband, and keeps in touch with her creativity through writing, singing, and dancing.