Digitainability: The Combined Effects of the Megatrends Digitalization and Sustainability

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Ulrich Lichtenthaler

Abstract

The concept of digitainability has recently been suggested to underscore potential cross-fertilization effects between digitalization and sustainability, which have often been neglected. This article draws on an innovation-based view to develop a conceptual framework for combining digitalization and sustainability in firms’ strategic initiatives. It distinguishes four settings depending on whether firms pursue either digitalization or sustainability – or both or none of them to a strong degree. Beyond the individual importance of the two megatrends, their potential positive and negative interdependencies will gain further importance, and this article underscores the need for overcoming a potential dark side of digital solutions in terms of their carbon footprint and energy consumption to enable a sustainable digital transformation. In addition, digitainability offers the opportunity to move beyond optimization and cost savings due to digitalization and sustainability initiatives in order to capture the cross-fertilization potential of these two megatrends for innovation and new business development.

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