Due to a combination of UN SDGs, shareholder activism, public awareness and competitor pressure, sustainability remains high up on the corporate agenda, and businesses are searching for efficient strategies to attain their social and environmental objectives.
While new technologies are often introduced with a view to reducing spending and enhancing operational efficiency, business leaders are finding that by upskilling their employees to effectively leverage advanced tech such as AI, the Internet of Things (IoT), digital twinning and the metaverse, they are able to accelerate their progress towards achieving such targets.
For example, a report by Microsoft has revealed that while only 43% of organizations with near-term sustainability goals adopted IoT with the intention of reducing their carbon footprint, 73% of them found such technology to be a very important tool in reaching their wider sustainability goals. More broadly, PwC has estimated that the use of 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. With the right skills base, organizations have the capacity to progress more rapidly on their sustainability journey, creating greater value for their customers and driving company growth in the process.
The Challenge for Businesses
In order to utilize emerging tech to reach ESG goals, the first step is for leaders to deepen their own 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 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 simply being swayed by applications that grab media headlines.
Underpinning this approach should be a 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, which would undermine ESG efforts. In contrast, a team that is upskilled in tech and sustainability can dramatically improve an organization’s sustainability.
Below are some examples of the potential opportunities that might help spark further thought.
Detailed Carbon Footprint Calculations
Measuring and tracking progress on ESG is the first challenge that 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. The integration of sensor devices, edge and 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, helping companies to both avoid additional costs and substantially reduce 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.
In terms of product delivery, AI-power software can also provide route optimization algorithms that can minimize the fuel consumed by vehicles, helping businesses to cut down on recourse investment and limit harmful CO2 emissions.
Creating Safe and Environmentally Sound Workplaces
The operation and construction of buildings creates 38% of total energy-related emissions of CO2 globally. Smart building solutions therefore present a significant opportunity to drive down carbon footprint. The adoption of IoT technology, Digital Twins modeling, and AI can help to reduce energy consumption in workplaces 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 spendings and carbon footprint after upskilling their 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 are abiding by safety regulations and wearing the required protective gear.
One notable workplace outcome of the Covid 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 to the 2.5% of global emissions created by air travel in 2020.
The metaverse offers even greater 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.
By training workers with the right tech skills to navigate the metaverse, management teams could maintain vital team connections while reducing emissions.
How Could Tech Upskilling Help you Meet your ESG Goals?
There are ever more exciting ways in which tech can be used to fast-track sustainability initiatives. Talk to us if you would like a better understanding of how you can make best use of the latest innovations to help you on your ESG journey.