We have made a lot of progress with sustainability in the last few years in our businesses, but many are still in the nascent phase of sustainability. We are now discovering that while many organizations have very good intentions these days, the actions don’t always match the intent.
This month there were three different studies released that address sustainability in businesses. 451 Research, a part of S&P Market Intelligence, released a paper that revealed a perception-versus-reality dilemma with enterprise organizations believing their sustainability programs are more advanced than they actually are.
Here we see the main drivers of sustainability is business value and firms start with measuring energy usage then expand into other sustainability metrics and tools. This research has discovered the greatest challenges in the sustainability journey are optimizing energy usage, obtaining consistent data and metrics, and lacking skilled staff.
Setting aside all these reports, we need to take a closer look at the skilled staff point. This is truly something that continues to ring loud in many organizations. It is clearly something we need to take even more seriously if we ever want to get to the targets businesses are espousing. So, it’s not surprising then that the key takeaway is that analysts are determining that many enterprises believe they are further along in their sustainability journey than they actually are.
As another example, Forrester Consulting found 73% of respondents reported sustainability as a business priority for their organization, but only 33% say their organizations have created a strategic sustainability plan. This is very disconcerting. Take it from someone who has been reporting on the IoT (Internet of Things) long before it was known as the IoT. Therefore, if we look back at the IoT implementations many companies struggled for the very same reasons. Even this paper determined that moving forward, a key piece of sustainability success will be finding the right partner to help organizations succeed. It also found companies that hired an outside sustainability consulting firms as part of their sustainability initiatives are 33% more likely to be high maturity.
Canalys Research, on the other hand notes that IT channel partners are investing in sustainability strategies but are struggling to translate the investment into action and lack a clear answer on how to accomplish this goal. It found 60% of those surveyed have dedicated environmental, social, and governance resources and 40% expect revenue from sustainability solutions.
Schneider Electric commissioned reports by these three independent research firms and what we are seeing here is there is a clear disconnect between intent and action, which is something I have talked about here on this blog and over on The Peggy Smedley Show.
All this to say, we are still in the burgeoning stage of sustainability, and we need a clear roadmap for how to proceed forward.
Roadmap for Sustainability
Perhaps one of the best ways to press forward is by identifying the hurdles we face in our businesses and then specifically look to other case studies as examples of how to tackle these issues in the future. To do just that, Harvard Business Review Analytic Services and Schneider Electric have created a briefing paper on how local transportation officials can best approach planning and deploying infrastructure of the future. Here is what it recommends, which I think could apply to most businesses.
The first step is to audit a municipalities’ energy use. If we want to reach that elusive net-zero in the next decade in any vertical, businesses need to move to more renewable energy, but the only way we can make progress is to know where we are starting.
The next step is to map out the future. Businesses need to map out different scenarios and various renewable energy combinations and growth rates. We need to create that roadmap for where we are headed. As an example, in the case of government projects, they need to find the funding, often through public-private partnerships. Also, energy consultants may be a good resource in this case.
I think auditing the energy use and creating a roadmap are two key ingredients for any business that wants to take the steps to a net-zero future. We need to know where we have been, and we need to know where we are going.
One of the key components to a net-zero future will certainly be technology. One of the big announcements that came from Schneider Electric at the Innovation Summit World Tour earlier this month is that its technology extends digital twins from the design and engineering stage for renewable farm owners to the operations and maintenance stage. This can help grids to avoid wasting green electricity.
Digital twins are one technology that can help. The edge is another, as it brings computing closer to users and the source of the data. For smart girds, this offers lower latency by monitoring the frequency of the grid in realtime and proactively making decisions, while also reducing bandwidth to increase data collection by enabling accurate forecasts and models that account for weather, location, and roof angles when using solar panels.
At the end of the day, we need a business strategy for sustainability—that includes looking at where we have been and where we are going—and we need technology and data to enable better, more sustainable operations in our business. Where are you on the sustainable journey?
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