We are in the transition phase to a hyper-connected digital world in which sustainability is a top priority. Companies should take a step away from the “old” world through sustainable digitization – and a step towards the “new” world with digital sustainability. Resource-saving handling is increasingly becoming a strategic success factor. provide suggestions for the way into the green digital world.
We are in a transition phase between two epochs: from the old, automated world, in which fossil fuels still make up the majority of energy sources, to the new hyper-connected world, in which digitized economies and societies build on renewable energy sources. From an entrepreneurial point of view, this change phase is exciting because it awakens the pioneering spirit and creates a spirit of optimism – at least among courageous companies.
Everything can; a lot has to change. Those who do not accept this and cling to the status quo they have come to love will soon no longer play a significant role on the economic stage. Anyone who accepts change, breaks through old patterns of thinking, and is open to innovative approaches has excellent chances of a good market position in the future – for customers and talents.
The current challenges: are delivery passes, shortage of skilled workers, climate change, and digitization. On the one hand, companies must make their supply chains more crisis-proof, build a candidate pipeline through imaginative HR concepts and regularly train existing employees. On the other hand, in addition to digitization issues, they increasingly have to deal with ecological sustainability to improve processes and protect the earth.
These challenges can be categorized into “sustainable digitization” and “digital sustainability.” If sustainable digitization is the step away from the old world, digital sustainability is the step toward the new world. Both steps merge into one another and should not be viewed in isolation from one another.
The first question is: How can we design processes, products, and procedures digitally to be successful in the market or new markets in the long term? Many companies are faced with this question today. Mechanical and plant engineering is the most prominent area in which changes can already be seen. Sustainable digitization here means rethinking production. Deliveries have to fit because products are becoming more and more individualized. Digital access to customers must improve. Product data must be verifiable, recognizable, and applicable to consumers. And let’s not forget the chaos of internal processes and digital communication channels that came with Corona and the strong desire to work from home – and now requires sustainable systematization.
Manufacturing B2B companies are under pressure to be demoted from American or Asian digital platforms to hardware suppliers and only play second fiddle – without direct customer access. Therefore, the question is whether the companies can follow a “European path” to digitalization and become digital players with their platforms and innovative business models. We can no longer compete with the USA and Asia for the B2C sector. In the B2B industry, Germany and Europe still have a good chance of leading or helping to shape the field. Now is the time to drive the digital transformation forward.
The goal of digital sustainability is to use resources more efficiently and sparingly: people, energy, and capital. The questions are: How can we use digitization to ensure more ecological sustainability? For example, how can we make the entire product lifecycle more sustainable – also with the help of digital tools? How energy efficient are our digital applications? How green is our fleet management? Where is our data center, and where does its energy come from?
There are already approaches to this today. For example, networked agriculture: Measuring devices measure the acidity and moisture content in the soil – and, if necessary, automatically send drones to the fields to fertilize or irrigate them. Or the digital twin, a digital image of a machine, component, or building. Load tests can be carried out on the digital twin of a machine or machine park. Changes can be tried out on the digital twin of a building before they are implemented. Think of large-scale construction projects such as Berlin-Brandenburg Airport (BER): how many resources could have been saved with a previously used digital twin?
A metaverse is also an approach to, e.g., B. to make the supply chain more sustainable: The avatar of a customer has the data of his body measurements. This way, they can comfortably try on clothes – and only buy them if they like them. This can significantly reduce the return rate – and thus save energy and reduce costs.
It’s About Resource And Energy Efficiency
The examples mentioned already contribute to digital sustainability. However, those responsible should think ahead. Starting with energy efficiency in the company: How can we occupy offices intelligently so that not every floor has to be heated in winter? For example, round tables between energy suppliers and companies in the cities would make sense to work together on sustainable energy concepts.
And even when selecting digital applications in the company, those responsible can act sustainably. Did you know that the energy efficiency of programming languages varies greatly? A research group investigated this and published the results in May last year in the scientific journal Science of Computer Programming: The programming language Python, for example, requires around 60 times more energy than Java.
Digitization And Sustainability Begin In Mind
These are all aspects that entrepreneurs should deal with. And here it quickly becomes clear: Both sustainable digitization and digital sustainability are a question of attitude. Only if people are willing to rethink, break down old structures, and get involved with the new and unknown can the step into a green digital future succeed. That doesn’t happen overnight. However, it is the responsibility of upper management to initiate this thought process.
After all, digitization and sustainability begin in mind. Digitization does not mean making analog digital. Digitization is holistic thinking in processes inside and outside the company. It begins with the customer’s request and ends in the supply chain. And it always requires the idea of sustainability: internally with a focus on savings, capacities, and resources as well as energy – externally with effects on climate, resources, and employees. Sustainability in digitization is a competitive advantage in the battle for talent. Climate change demands sustainability in digitization, for the planet, and for our customers and employees, who are beginning to demand sustainability.
Appeal: It’s Up To You
If you want to develop your organization further, deal with sustainable economic models, such as B. the Common Good Matrix 5.0. This includes, among other things, dealing with ecological effects through the use and disposal of products and services, the ethical and social attitude when dealing with funds, human dignity at work, ethical customer relationships, or the reduction of ecological effects.
Many companies are already in the process of changing their thought processes and moving towards digital sustainability. We would also like to encourage you to follow this path – to digitize your business long-term and to ensure the digital sustainability of your economic activities. Involve your employees actively in the development of sustainable ideas: You will be amazed at the creative ideas with which they enrich your company.
In our hyper-connected future, energy efficiency must also be an elementary part of the economy. Make sure that the value “sustainability” already belongs in every ROI calculation – and make the topic “sustainability and digitization” the focus of your efficiency projects. Prosperity is not just an amount in euros but is also reflected in clean water and good air. What is your company doing to change the massive consumption of resources?