For far too long, the prevailing view of sustainability in our industry has been that it is primarily about compliance and player protection, with other aspects treated as nothing more than a box office.
Fortunately, I believe that this perspective is changing for the better. By limiting and balancing the negative aspects of business operations, a holistic and comprehensive corporate sustainability strategy can also help maximize the positive contribution to society. There is an emerging realization in the gaming industry that the pursuit of sustainability makes excellent business sense and, in fact, can provide a competitive advantage. This is really an advantage.
The first step an organization can take towards environmental sustainability is to assess its current state of affairs. We believe the industry can do more to protect the environment. While we are developing products for online consumption and mobile devices that are not essential and have no direct environmental impact, we must never lose sight of how we can be more sustainable in our operations.
I sense a disturbing lack of urgency in some industry organizations in addressing this issue. Scientists recently discovered that a massive melting of glaciers has caused a significant shift in the Earth's axis of rotation over the past 30 years, demonstrating the huge impact that human activity can have on the planet. However, even in the face of such a formidable challenge as global warming, it can be tempting to set ambitious targets for carbon neutrality. In a world that has never faced such challenges, the time for real action is now, not 20 years after the future could have been very bleak by then.
The global pandemic has caused many to reflect on the negative impact of our previous working lives on the world at large. With the cessation of personal travel for business events and meetings, there has been a revolution in the way many industries conduct their business. In igaming, we have seen that instead of thousands of executives being sent on environmentally unfriendly flights to London, Malta and Amsterdam for meetings, deals of great importance were made through screens at a physical distance. Day-to-day office life remotely doesn't seem to have coincided with a drop in productivity either. Research has shown that in the tech sector, the opposite is actually true: employees are more productive when they work remotely. While there's an argument that some face-to-face interactions will eventually be good for business, the old way of working — bringing individuals together on a regular basis — seems to be a thing of the past. Naturally, this “new normal” working structure has proven to be good for the environment, but we must maintain momentum to continue cutting carbon emissions. The old-fashioned culture of presenteeism is no longer desirable from a performance or environmental point of view.
Solving current problems
It is important that our industry addresses environmental issues both globally and locally. On a global scale, this means eliminating environmental impacts and how corporations can work to reduce and neutralize harmful greenhouse gas emissions while continuing to reduce travel even as the world begins to open up again. One factor of concern for tech companies is the energy consumption of server farms, where we are already seeing a new momentum towards using renewable energy to power them.
At the local level, the emphasis should be on the development of the communities where our industry offices are located. Paying local taxes in full is essential to contributing directly and transparently to these societies, resulting in both direct and indirect economic benefits. The hiring and subsequent development of local staff is also important in stimulating local growth.
Ignorance of environmental issues in our industry is no longer an option. Organizations can benefit from a more enlightened approach by recruiting employees for whom local tree planting activities in their spare time, for example, provide a sense of added purpose. Increasingly, companies seeking to attract the best talent will be forced to make tangible progress on sustainability issues or risk missing out on the brightest and most capable candidates for whom such issues are critical to their mindset.
The gaming industry is often in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, but we have the opportunity to lead by example and protect the environment. We are proud to take action to keep our planet in the best condition for our children. It would be great if these efforts were replicated elsewhere, creating goodwill and a brighter future for the world.
Lisbeth Ost is a sustainability manager at Aspire Global, a leading B2B gaming solutions provider. It focuses on a sustainable development strategy that is based on responsible gaming. Ost holds an MA in International Political Economy from the University of Groningen and is a Certified Investor Relations Officer (CIR®). Prior to her career in online gaming, she worked for the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.