The Potential of IT for Corporate Sustainability

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Several studies have proven that information technology (IT) can improve enterprises' performance. The effective and efficient management of enterprise resources has for long been the role of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. Whereas traditional ERP systems focused on the optimization of financial resources and assets, the manifold challenges of a sustainable development necessitate broadening that view. Business applications need to provide informational transparency on all kinds of financial, environmental and social indicators, both within the enterprise and along the value chain; they need to support business processes and enable the measuring, tracking and reporting of sustainability performance, as well as the compliance with legal regulations, all implying substantial potential for improving corporate sustainability. However, the understanding of the potential of IT for corporate sustainability poses an interesting and valuable research topic. Drawing on previous works of Luftman, Melville et al. and Dao et al., we propose a conceptual model for the sustainability value of IT. We will summarize the main aspects of the recent discussion around the capabilities of IT and, then, illustrate with best-practice examples how these capabilities can be utilized for improved sustainability performance in a corporate setting. The paper concentrates on the second order effects of IT, like process improvements or substitution effects, which have also been described as "green through IT".

Original languageEnglish
Issue number7
Pages (from-to)4163-4180
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 02.07.2014