Keeping pace with ever-changing consumer demands has been an on-going battle for organizations, and one that has force-fed agility and flexibility into crucial business survival skills. But there’s one demand staying put — the switch to greener practices and improvement of company Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) policies. To stay ahead of the curve, organizations must look to technology as a facilitator. It will be crucial for achieving sought after sustainability goals and staying ahead of the competition in fluctuating market conditions. 

The pandemic wreaked havoc across many industries and forced businesses to change their key focus areas as consumer behaviors continuously changed—but for every cloud there is a silver lining and now, the need for greener operations has become clearer than it ever has been before. For 96% of businesses the concern rests on improving the social element of ESG strategies, which is where technology can provide the perfect tonic for reaching specific targets. From the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud, to blockchain and supply chain software, all have disrupted traditional modes of business in favor of new solutions focusing on impact and sustainability. 

These technology applications have the capability to increase productivity, reduce waste, and offset carbon emissions, among other sustainability focused perks. Findings from a recent report, outlining the use of technology to drive large scale sustainable change, looked at 300 cases of emerging technology in relation to achieving global sustainable development goals. With findings indicating that 70% of their 169 targets could be enabled by technology applications, the connection between technology and sustainability is clear to see—and it’s happening across three core industries:

Energy, Utilities & Resources: As greenhouse emissions rise, so does the need for tech advancements

With 30% of overall greenhouse gas emissions stemming from power plants, it is not surprising that utility companies are under intense scrutiny and pressure to transition to green energy. Many are actively investing in renewable energies such as wind farms, hydro stations, and solar power. In fact, the latest IDC FutureScape report predicts that by 2024, 80% of electric, gas, and water companies will have implemented sustainable business models by accelerating digital transformation (DX) and rearchitecting the core business.

“Green steel” is at the center of America’s 2030 Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Target, and the U.S. already generates around 11.4 million tons of hydrogen per year. All eyes are on these “green steel” initiatives that are showing that, with the right resources, there is plenty of potential to decarbonize the U.S. energy, utilities, and resources sector.

Manufacturing aims to go the full 360-degrees

The manufacturing sector is another major industry facing complex challenges – and opportunities – on the path to sustainability. The time is now for manufacturers to drastically change their linear approach of “material, manufacture, dispose” and move towards a circular economy of “reduce, reuse, recycle”. This means adopting reverse logistics methods enabling manufacturers to integrate more environmentally friendly practices into their manufacturing processes. 

According to a recent Deloitte op-ed, “Through the use of digital technology, manufacturers may already have a head start in their sustainability journey. In recent years, the implementation of lean processes using digital capabilities have boosted productivity, created safer workplaces, and reduced costs. This automation through digital technology can also provide manufacturers with greater visibility into their production processes, equipment wear-and-tear, and, more importantly, energy usage. Armed with this data, organizations can then optimize production and improve predictive maintenance to diminish energy loads as well as reduce material and water waste—all key factors in building sustainability.” 

For example, enterprise resource planning (ERP) software is helping manufacturers to develop and maintain the overall life of a product by using data and tracking which areas need more sustainable practices. For instance, manufacturers embracing a circular model can rely on ERP software to help them maintain, recondition, recycle, and support a product over an extended lifecycle. 

Aerospace & Defense: Flying high with lower emissions

Every industry has a part to play with reducing carbon emissions and the aerospace sector is no different, so it’s right that the industry is taking significant steps towards improved sustainability. Some of the key enabling technologies that will support this are highlighted by Global Data in its Thematic Research on ESG in Aerospace and Defense. The report highlights: “Electric aircraft, hydrogen-powered aircraft, and sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) are key innovations that will shape the future of air travel. Improving social sustainability is vital for companies seeking to earn government contracts, increasing visibility, and improving management throughout the whole supply chain will be vital.”

Rolls Royce takes first place in the race for innovation 

Leading Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) are highlighted in the report for applying innovative thinking to solve industry emissions challenges. Rolls-Royce has already announced the first flight of its all-electric “Spirit of Innovation” aircraft and has committed that by 2023 all of its Trent family engines will have been proven compatible with 100% SAF

The Rolls-Royce Trent, a family of high bypass turbofans produced by Rolls-Royce, has been able to help airline customers automatically update predicted maintenance deadlines for every life-limited component inside their engines by using AI forecasting and digital twins. This forms a key part of the Rolls-Royce Blue Data Thread strategy, a digital information thread connecting every Rolls-Royce powered aircraft, every airline operation, every maintenance shop and every factory. More effective maintenance will also translate into sustainability benefits. As the aviation industry moves towards a greener future, digitalization and predictive maintenance are an important element for the engineering side of the industry. 

Technology holds the key to going green 

Across all three industries, the need for improved ESG activities is clear to see. Achieving such goals aren’t unattainable but investing in the correct modern technologies will be pivotal – from IoT and AI to cloud deployments and more, the time is ripe to embrace the new-found digital age.