National Technology Day: Leveraging Technology to Provide a Quicker Route to Sustainability

By Shiwani Pradhan, Correspondent, Consultants Review Friday, 10 May 2024

Every year on May 11, India marks National Technology Day to honor the nation's status as a global leader in technological innovation, remember the successful nuclear test at Pokhran in 1998, and recognize notable scientific and technical accomplishments.

The purpose of this celebration is to encourage young people to choose jobs in technology, engineering, and mathematics as well as to foster a scientific attitude. In addition, it fosters partnerships between government, business, and academia, promoting dialogue on new technological developments and providing creative answers to pressing societal issues. Sustainability is one such pressing challenge.

Prominent corporations recognize that accomplishing challenging sustainability objectives necessitates a comprehensive strategy for change—one that considers the problem from every angle. But incorporating data and technology from the start is necessary to building sustainability as a competitive advantage.

Technology plays far more than just "green IT." Management teams should consider whether they are applying game-changing technology and digital thinking to the task of meeting sustainability goals, or if this crucial business issue is missing a crucial component, as more companies consider their technology and sustainability agendas in tandem.

Reaping the Benefits Out of Technology 

Technology could serve as a powerful accelerator for businesses that are prepared to view sustainability from a wide perspective when considering how to progress their program. This kind of thinking, which we refer to as "technology ecoadvantage," involves using cutting-edge tools and methods of operation to allow successful solutions that also benefit net zero and other environmental, social, and governance objectives. 

Consider reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. Our experience demonstrates that a company with around 80,000 employees may cut emissions by 45% to 70% by combining circular product or service design, carbon data transparency, process automation, and sustainable business models.

These kinds of programs can also result in significant cost reductions. For example, a top European mining firm developed an end-to-end model for an integrated energy management system by combining a digitally enabled energy control tower with a cloud-connected data platform, artificial intelligence, and sophisticated analytics. Consequently, it was able to achieve a 5% to 10% decrease in energy use and is expected to save between €8 and €9 million in expenditures annually. Digital decarbonization already has well-developed application cases in a number of industries, including consumer products, energy and gas, electricity, banking, and pharmaceuticals.

By assisting in the integration of sustainability as a fundamental value, businesses may accelerate the adoption of new technology by creating a roadmap for new tech adoption, which is a major advantage of the technology ecovantage attitude. Rethinking conventional approaches to technology is essential for successful implementation, especially in the fields of digital product and service design, blockchain, cloud computing, IoT, and advanced analytics, using AI and advanced analytics, data sharing, and ecosystem development and management. 

Several instances demonstrate how successful leaders have used these novel technological ways to quicken their sustainability revolutions. 

Digital Products and Services 

Prominent corporations establish novel avenues of distribution that surpass financial limitations to augment scope, magnitude, and accessibility for advantageous communal influence at reasonable expenses. One example would be apps that digitize and make it easier to obtain necessities like commodities and services. Three consumer-centric sustainability solutions were created by a significant municipal transportation authority that revolutionized package delivery, reduced emissions, improved customer satisfaction, and produced sustainable growth and profit.

Artificial Intelligence and Advanced Analytics 

These technologies provide information and analysis on how a process, service, or product affects society and the environment. Digital platforms facilitate the integration of skills, data sharing, and partner responsibility and openness. Leaders use these skills to create and refine products, interact with clients, and enhance performance over time; IoT- and AI-driven solutions also maximize energy efficiency in real time, cutting costs and emissions simultaneously. 

These kinds of solutions are being used by Nubank in Brazil to hasten financial inclusion for the 55 million unbanked people in the nation. Nubank's totally digital business strategy employs proprietary data sources and algorithms to create a financial profile of prospective clients, granting them access to loans at interest rates that are 50% less than those of traditional banks and without any fees.

Digitalized Processes 

Leaders in this field develop operations and procedures that are by nature more sustainable. For instance, novel materials or manufacturing technologies that use substitute inputs to cut waste and emissions and reap the benefits for investors and customers. Additionally, digital operations may increase a company's resilience; some of the technology and methods used in them even end up becoming industry standards. Schneider Electric changed from being a company that installed industrial electrical equipment to becoming a pioneer in the world of efficiency-as-a-service, making money by lowering the carbon emissions of its clients. Schneider is rewarded financially by consumers and sees quicker company expansion the more environmental and social impact it generates via energy savings and carbon reductions.

Blockchain, IoT, and Cloud: The monitoring and tracking of environmental and social effect throughout value chains may now be done to a greater extent thanks to advanced digital technologies and tools including blockchain-enabled tracking systems, cloud-based data platforms, and linked Internet of Things sensors and monitors. In turn, businesses may enhance management and investment choices and raise their performance in relation to ESG objectives. Blockchain-based value chain transparency solutions, for instance, ensure the integrity and safety of goods from the supplier to the manufacturer, the retailer, and the final customer.

Adopting a Prompt Technology-Led Strategy

BCG looked at over 300 business sustainability projects in 2020. Out of these, 85 instances of innovative sustainable business models (SBM-I) produced benefits for both businesses and society. To reduce their negative environmental effect, half of these enterprises innovated their goods, processes, or value chain. A further 25% redesigned corporate ecosystems and value chains to address the underlying causes of social and environmental demands. Reimagining their firm from the ground up, the top 25% effectively reshaped the competitive landscape to solve the underlying issues at scale for advantage and growth. 

These industry leaders' use of digital skills and technology to overcome financial barriers and find novel solutions was a crucial differentiation. However, utilizing technology and data from the outset is essential to success. Before devoting significant time, managerial effort, or corporate resources, management ought to have a forward-thinking and strategic perspective of how cutting-edge technology and data might expedite the path to sustainable advantage.

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