Harnessing Tech Skills to Achieve Sustainability Goals 

elev8 - 3 min read

A woman operates a calculator, with a light bulb that symbolizes her problem-solving abilities.

Due to a combination of UN SDGs, shareholder activism, public awareness, and competitor pressure, sustainability goals remain high on the corporate agenda, and businesses are searching for efficient strategies to attain their social and environmental objectives. 

While new technologies are often introduced to reduce spending and enhance operational efficiency, business leaders are finding that by upskilling their employees to effectively leverage advanced technologies such as AI, the Internet of Things (IoT), digital twinning, and the metaverse, they can accelerate their progress towards achieving such targets. 

For example, a report by Microsoft revealed that while only 43% of organizations with near-term sustainability goals adopted IoT to reduce their carbon footprint, 73% of them found such technology to be an essential tool in reaching their broader sustainability goals. PwC has estimated that AI can reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by roughly 4% by 2030, equivalent to the estimated 2030 annual emissions of Australia, Japan, and Canada combined. 

To make these sustainability gains, companies need to both understand the strategic potential of digital innovation and ensure that their teams have the right tech skills at the right level to put the latest tools into action. Organizations with a suitable skill base can progress rapidly on their sustainability journey, creating more excellent customer value and driving company growth.  

The Challenge for Businesses  

The first step is for leaders to deepen their knowledge. Elev8’s Sustainability and Technology Management Program can offer the strategic-focused grounding leadership teams need to gauge the scale of both the opportunity and to work out where their organization might need additional skills to make the best use of new technology.  

Crucial to this process is focusing on applications that might help meet a business’ specific ESG and strategic goals rather than being swayed by applications that grab media headlines.  

This approach should focus on having the required human capital and expertise within teams. Failure to take this into account at the outset could hamper efforts. For instance, careless use of AI and machine learning tools could lead to embedded bias, undermining ESG efforts. In contrast, a team upskilled in tech and sustainability can dramatically improve an organization’s sustainability.  

Below are some potential opportunities that might help spark further thought.  

Detailed Carbon Footprint Calculations 

Measuring and tracking progress on ESG is the first challenge many business leaders face. Advanced technology can assist with this. For example, AI and the IoT can be leveraged to create detailed carbon footprint calculations by monitoring the use of resources and resulting emissions, all without compromising company productivity or using significant financial resources. Integrating sensor devices, edge, cloud computing, and machine learning can also offer data insights into how resources are being used, where efficiency can be enhanced, and where faults are occurring and impacting consumption.  

Optimized Logistics and Production 

Technology innovation also has the potential to enhance the sustainability of manufacturing and logistics operations, which can often be responsible for significant carbon emissions.  

By integrating AI-enabled computer vision systems into their production lines, companies can enhance quality control and detect faults early. Upskilling employees to navigate such systems can help eliminate human error and speed up production rates, assisting the companies in avoiding additional costs, substantially reducing waste, and minimizing the environmental impact of product returns and replacement creation. There is also scope to optimize machine usage, power consumption, and grid balancing while conserving resources.  

Regarding product delivery, AI-powered software can also provide route optimization algorithms that can minimize the fuel consumed by vehicles, helping businesses cut down on recourse investment and limit harmful CO2 emissions. 

Creating Safe and Environmentally Sound Workplaces  

The operation and construction of buildings create 38% of total energy-related emissions of CO2 globally. Intelligent building solutions, therefore, present a significant opportunity to drive down carbon footprint. Adopting IoT technology, Digital Twins modeling, and AI can reduce workplace energy consumption by optimizing operations to adjust heating and lighting based on real-time needs.  

The property company Vasakronan, for example, has noted substantial reductions in its energy spending and carbon footprint after upskilling its employees and integrating IoT and Azure Digital Twins solutions into its commercial and office properties across Sweden.  

Adopting new technologies can also assist with workplace safety. AI-enabled computer vision systems, for example, can help to improve worker safety when operating heavy machinery by verifying adherence to proper protocols. For instance, smart cameras can be installed to confirm whether employees abide by safety regulations and wear the required protective gear. 

Travel Alternatives 

One notable workplace outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the increased use of digital meeting platforms and remote working practices, with workers connecting online without the considerable emissions caused by daily commutes and extended business travel. Indeed, there was a reduction of 2.5% in global emissions created by air travel in 2020. 

The metaverse offers even more significant developments in this sector, allowing participants to genuinely immerse themselves, collaborate, and engage in activities that surpass what a traditional in-person meeting could offer, all without the associated time, cost, and, crucially, the carbon footprint.   

Management teams could maintain vital team connections while reducing emissions by training workers with the right tech skills to navigate the metaverse. 

How Could Tech Upskilling Help you Meet your ESG Goals?  

There are even more exciting ways tech can fast-track sustainability initiatives. Talk to us if you want to understand how best to use the latest innovations to help you on your ESG journey.