Sustainable engineering: a 'triple win' for businesses, stakeholders and the planet
As climate change fears loom, countries the world over are urgently working towards emissions reduction goals. Australia has committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 43% below 2005 levels by 2030 and to net zero emissions by 2050.
But the pathway to achieving net zero emissions by 2050 is narrow: it will require unprecedented transformation of the industrial sector, which currently accounts for more than 25% of emissions worldwide. This, in turn, will have a significant impact on industry.
To pave the path for a sustainable and profitable future, industrial companies around the world must digitally transform work.
A recent AVEVA survey found 85% of industrial leaders plan to drive sustainability by increasing their investment in digital transformation during the next three years. That’s a start, but the path to net zero will require consistent investment and focus over time.
The latest technologies can help design sustainable plants more quickly, and build and run them more efficiently. That’s a win for businesses, and it also has a flow-on impact for their other stakeholders: their employees, regulators, shareholders/investors and communities in the immediate vicinity of their operations.
When a critical mass of industrial businesses and industries embraces sustainable engineering, the benefits multiply and the achievement of macroeconomic targets comes into view.
Transformation initiatives that enable this ‘triple win’ — aligning businesses and stakeholders to move in a direction that contributes to a healthier planet — is what all industrial companies need to commit to and now be working towards.
How industrial businesses can win
For businesses, sustainability is no longer optional; regulations and the market demand companies work towards carbon net zero and ESG compliance goals. However, achieving sustainability goals is no small feat. Companies must upgrade old assets and design new facilities that are geared towards green operations and increase both transparency and accountability, all while ensuring licence to operate.
Achieving sustainability and ESG goals requires visibility and awareness across production and value chains. By centralising data management strategies and enabling remote operations, companies can increase asset health and performance and ensure processes are running as efficiently and sustainably as possible.
For industrial companies, optimising performance is inextricably linked with environmental benefits. Traditional efforts in this space focused on machinery; advances in hardware have furnished plants with next-generation equipment that is both more reliable and much less energy-intensive. Yet, there is still much to do to ensure industries maintain their trajectory for net zero.
Industrial software picks up where hardware leaves off, connecting insights and augmenting decisions. Industrial software can be leveraged to track, analyse and act on emission intensity and resource utilisation. A comprehensive view of operations facilitates indicator definition, standard setting and target making. This three-step approach is pivotal to sustainable transformation.
Only a data-driven holistic view can inform sound decision-making, empowering leaders to drive further improvements to efficiency, optimise resource consumption and reduce emissions and waste in real time.
Winning strategies for stakeholders
Industrial businesses have many stakeholders: employees and team members, shareholders, investors, regulators and communities, to name but a few. Engaging each of these stakeholder groups is critical.
With the right digital strategy, ESG and regulations are an opportunity to build sustainable business models and find new ways to engage workforces.
Ideally, companies should seek to make every team member a key stakeholder in performance and sustainability initiatives. With the right tools, operators can democratise insights throughout the value chain and put them into the hands of people that can action them. Using a combination of real-time data and advanced tools, teams can accelerate process design, innovation and learning to build better and more efficient engineering cycles to upgrade facilities and lower emissions and waste. Together, teams can reduce the overall carbon footprint and improve compliance with government regulations and ESG goals.
Moving towards greener capital projects and operations is also key to gaining regulatory approval and securing access to funding. Investors now focus on sustainable outcomes. Of course, this is the right thing to do, but it is also becoming a business necessity as investors turn their backs on investments that don’t support sustainable outcomes. As recently reinforced by regulators, “ESG is an absolute priority for Australian businesses and investors.”
In addition, good digital tools and data are essential to enabling an open and trusted relationship between industrial companies and communities. Increasingly, companies publish ESG data, in sustainability reports or on public dashboards, to prove their transparency and commitment. This will become the expectation and the rule for industrial companies to maintain their licence to operate.
Action for the planet
Technology is critical to industry decarbonisation as part of fighting the climate crisis.
By optimising operational performance, industrial software can profoundly improve an industry’s relationship with the natural world. Efficient equipment, better production quality and improved equipment reliability trigger lean methods to reduce waste, consume less energy and use fewer raw materials.
What’s important for all parties is to stay the course — to build on climate actions to date so that together, we can work towards a common goal of making a net zero world a reality for the next generation.
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