Why the future of work must have societal impact at heart

Ricoh Europe, London, 23 October 2019
‘Companies that are not moving towards zero-carbon emissions will be punished by investors and go bankrupt’. That was the recent message from Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, aimed at the broader business community. And he’s right. Mr Carney’s declaration echoes the words of Ricoh CEO, Jake Yamashita: “Any company that doesn’t contribute to the achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals will be ignored by the market, and will go out of business.”

But it’s not just the market and regulators that are paying attention. Employees are increasingly holding their employers to a higher standard.

Ricoh Europe’s Future of Work report, which launched this month, examines the mass of trends and technology that are influencing how, when and where people work. Businesses’ power to be a force for societal good is certainly at the fore. A survey we commissioned reveals that 65% of European workers expect employers to be part of the solution for the big issues facing us all, such as climate change and inequality.

The other key theme for the future of work is collaboration. Technology will undoubtedly create new ways for people and machines to work together, changing workplaces for the better. Automation, or collaboration between machines, will be a major driver in workplaces of the future. It is here that the potential for business and societal good intersect.

Automation undoubtedly produces efficiencies for businesses. This potentially allows people to perform more rewarding tasks that improve societal outcomes. Our survey also reveals that 63% of workers expect companies to harness the efficiencies gained from automation and reinvest them in people and the community.

Solving society’s challenges cannot be left solely to not-for-profits or governments. Collaboration is a key part of the solution and it is the responsibility of all groups – not least businesses. Obviously, profit will always be a high priority for businesses – but the wider definition of profit needs to expand to include social and environmental gains, too.

At Ricoh, we think about this a lot. We have aligned our business activity, corporate philosophy and environmental management with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. We believe this is the best way to increase the value of our work – and we’re not shying away from encouraging our stakeholders to get involved.

Make no mistake: the future of work is bright. We just need to make sure we keep collaboration and sustainability close at heart.

You can access our Future of Work report here.

David Mills

CEO at Ricoh Europe

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