Transparent sustainable technology strategies help businesses achieve green ambitions

New Accenture research finds that organizations are more likely to use the power of technology to deliver on their sustainability commitments, but few use it to enable and scale sustainability programs or to make technology itself more sustainable.

92% of global companies surveyed aim to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2030. While all cited the importance of technology for sustainable development, only 7% of companies fully integrated their technology and business strategies.

Romain Groleau, managing director of sustainable technology at Accenture ANZ, said most companies still have a long way to go in designing, implementing and implementing sustainable technology strategies.

“The survey shows that as companies set more ambitious Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) goals, their sustainability and technology strategies need to be more closely aligned. The problem is that few are doing this effectively, There are many reasons for this.

“About one in five executives are unaware of the unintended consequences of technology, or whether the technology they are currently using is sustainable. The third is battling the complexities of sustainably retrofitting legacy systems, which 40% believe is true solutions are unavailable or immature.

“This leads to what we call the ‘intent-action gap’. That said, it’s easy to make commitments, but much harder to implement changes to manufacturing and sales processes. Many companies set ambitious net-zero targets, But they find themselves balancing business and sustainability goals.

“Advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, IoT, cloud computing and data analytics can help businesses achieve both goals without the need for trade-offs.”

According to Mr. Groleau, an effective sustainable technology strategy can help drive business growth and ESG performance, and accelerate transformation by integrating three interrelated but distinct elements.

1. Sustainability exist technology – This uses technological innovation to drive sustainability initiatives and transform business models.

2. Sustainability exist technology – This measures the ESG impact of the technology itself and strives to ensure the sustainability of its design, development and deployment.

3. Sustainability exist
– This orchestrates an ecosystem of businesses, technology companies, startups, nonprofits and government organizations to leverage technology in entirely new ways, often through collaboration. It enables the “tough problems” of the decade to be solved.

Technology Sustainability

Accenture has identified five key areas where organizations are prioritizing technology deployments.

1. Accelerate the net-zero transition.

2. Towards sustainable value chains.

3. Promote sustainable choices for customers.

4. Measurement, reporting and performance of ESG objectives.

5. Build a sustainable organization.

“The use of technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud, blockchain, data analytics, the Internet of Things, etc., are powerful sustainability tools,” Mr. Grolo said.

“70% of companies surveyed said they already use AI to reduce emissions in production and operations. A good example is a global building materials company that has launched a groundbreaking application powered by machine learning , which is used to predict cement strength in real time during production. This means that less raw material is needed to test cement strength, resulting in a reduction of 13,000 tons of CO2 emissions per plant per year.”

Technology Sustainability

It is estimated that the ICT sector’s share of the global carbon footprint has expanded from 1.5% in 2007 to 4% today.

However, by 2040, ICT’s global carbon footprint is heading towards 14%. If left unchecked, rising trends in data and power consumption, including the rapid growth of power-intensive technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain, will push carbon emissions far beyond current levels.

The report also states that only about 17 percent of the e-waste collected today is recycled — while most organizations recycle less than 10 percent of hardware.

Accenture says CIOs can make technology more sustainable by focusing on three key areas.

1. Only consider zeros. Embrace green software.

2. Build trustworthy systems. Combine privacy, fairness, transparency, robustness and accessibility.

3. Establish the correct governance mechanism.

“The Green Software Framework includes the Green Software Development Lifecycle, UI/UX, AI, Cloud and Data Center, Data, Distributed Ledger Technology and Infrastructure.

“Organizations can also consider shifting the current ‘take-to-make-waste’ infrastructure model to a ‘take-to-make-to-make’ model. This allows equipment to run for as long as possible, then reused and reused in zero-waste value chains. Recycle raw materials.”

Sustainability at scale

Since no single organization can expect to take on global sustainability challenges or make a large-scale impact alone, companies will have to rethink technology use and work together to decarbonize their entire value chain, the report says.

“Already 43% of companies surveyed have joined industry partnerships, alliances and advocacy groups focused on environmentally friendly technologies.

“But achieving sustainability at scale will require more focus and standardisation of technology, and stakeholders will need to understand how they will benefit from participating in these broader initiatives.

“Technology, in turn, needs to be fundamentally reimagined to help change human behaviour, rethink the way we produce and consume resources, and rebuild entire industrial clusters to ensure that the UN Sustainable Development Goals are met,” said Mr Grolo.

The report states that most companies surveyed are focused on reducing both scope 1 emissions (direct emissions from their operations) and scope 2 emissions (indirect emissions associated with their purchases of electricity, steam, heat and cooling). It concluded that organisations will need to increasingly decarbonise their Scope 3 emissions – indirect emissions generated in their value chains rather than activities owned or controlled by companies.

“The sustainable development agenda cannot be achieved without technology.

“Making technology itself more sustainable is often overlooked, but it is becoming increasingly important as organizations respond to the demands of customers, investors and employees.

“Creating and implementing a comprehensive sustainable technology strategy must now be at the core of the purpose-driven CIO’s mission. The responsibility is great, but the opportunity is greater.”

This Combining technology and sustainability The report is available on the Accenture website here.

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