Guidelines for Sustainability
The World Economic Forum has a vision to shape a sustainable, inclusive and trustworthy digital future. To
deliver the critical outcomes to achieve this vision, we are focusing on six key areas across the Digital Economy and
Society System: Access and adoption; Responsible digital transformation; Fit for purpose informed governance; Secure and resilient people processes and practices; Robust and interoperable digital ID for all; and The benefits of data sharing while respecting privacy.
The internet of things (IoT) is undoubtedly one of the largest enablers for responsible digital transformation. It is estimated that industrial IoT alone can add $14 trillion of economic value to the global economy by 2030.The economic value increases even more once consumer and public sector IoT are included. Additionally, as the converging point of several technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution like artificial intelligence, cloud computing or block-chain, the IoT has also tremendous potential to deliver social value.
Our analysis1 shows that 84% of IoT deployments are currently addressing, or have the potential to address, the
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as defined by the United Nations. The analysis supports the intuition that manyshare – that IoT has development benefits that could be maximized without compromising the commercial viability.
The reason that the IoT could become a game-changer for sustainability lies in its technology. At its core, IoT is about measuring and remotely controlling previously unconnected “things”, reaching people and objects that technology could previously not reach and in the process also supports sustainable development elements.
However, the awareness of this link between IoT and sustainable development is limited.
There are multiple case studies that illustrate how the prioritization of sustainability objectives could lead to
increased commercial results and benefits across multiple stakeholders. As a generic example, let’s take a smart
building energy solution deployed in commercial and residential complexes which leads to a substantial reduction
in energy bills for the owners. However, the benefits extend beyond the monetary savings: IoT solution providers benefit from the commercial results from the solutions deployed, governments at local, regional and national level eventually will benefit from the collective energy savings which equates to energy production and, ultimately, the broader society will benefit from the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.
These guidelines are, therefore, relevant for all the stakeholders in the IoT ecosystem including the private
sector – from technology providers to vertical industries implementing IoT solutions – governments at local, regional and national level, as well as development agencies, civil society, not-for-profit organizations and others actors of the ecosystem. The objective of these guidelines is to encourage the prioritization of sustainability goals as
part of the design of commercial projects to maximize social impact while still delivering, and potentially also
increasing, commercial value. Each guideline identifies the primary and secondary stakeholder who needs to take action and is segmented in three areas:
1. Collaboration models and incentives alignment (5)
2. Business and investment models (3)
3. Impact measurement (3)
These guidelines are based on research and insights collected during more than 40 interviews with executives and
IoT experts from 28 organizations.