Using digitalisation to accelerate the sustainable transition

How can digital tools be used to create a more sustainable future?

With global temperatures increasing and extreme weather becoming more common a greater emphasis is being put on sustainability. What was just a niche subject has now become a major focus for the general public as well as international organisations and agencies. But how can we as a society approach this shift towards sustainability? What tools can we use? How can we overcome the obstacles that stand in our way?

We at AFRY believe that digitalisation will play a huge role in answering these questions. In this article we will delve deeper into how digitalisation is not just another buzzword, but might instead be a key component in transitioning us into a more sustainable society by providing clear use-cases and their potential impact

Digital Tools

But talking about digitalisation begs the question, what exactly is digitalisation? The definition of digitalisation is as broad as its potential impact on society. We see digitalisation as the use of digital tools to transform traditional processes, systems, and operations into digital formats that makes them easier to comprehend, optimise, and interact with. From this definition it may be hard to envision the real-world application of digital solutions and services, but their applications can have a large impact on your daily life.

A clear and proven use case for digital tools is in the energy sector. Digital technologies can both optimise and manage energy distribution to decrease the waste. Digital tools such as sensors can equip smart building systems with the information necessary to engage in a smart usage of heating and lighting depending on how people walk and interact within the building.

So called “Smart Grids” are also a key component in the energy sector to reduce waste. Smart grids leverage real-time data, predictive analytics, and self-healing technologies to optimise electricity generation, distribution, and consumption. Due to this Smart grids help improve grid reliability, reduce emissions, and support the transition to a more sustainable energy future.

Another apparent use case in moving towards a more sustainable future is using digital solutions to reduce the need for paper, for cases such as receipts, billing, or invoicing. According to a report titled “The e-invoicing journey 2019-2025”, created by Billentis in 2019, the global market produces 550 billion invoices or invoice like documents each year and it is expected to keep growing. 500 billion invoices and invoice like documents where done with paper, leaving only 10% to be done digitally. Given the generous assumption that each billing takes up 2 A4 papers and an average pine tree yields 10 000 A4 papers, it gives us an estimated 100 million trees that are cut down each year for this system. The benefits of switching to a digital solution are clear.

Another way of reducing waste and increasing sustainability is using data analytics to give more insights into operations. As more and more machinery and processes move to having digital components, data is becoming easier and easier to collect. With the help of data analytics this gathered data can be processed and structured to provide high levels of business value. The processed data can be used to gain insights into inefficiencies, potential risks, and operational challenges which, if acted upon, can greatly increase efficiency, and give an opportunity to change the business into a more sustainable one, not only from an environmental and social point of view, but from an economic one as well. So, the integration of data analytics into operational decision-making processes can empower businesses to make data-driven choices that enhance sustainability efforts and generate long-term economic benefits.

As has been shown, digitalisation has the potential to play a crucial role in moving our entire society towards a more sustainable future. It involves using digital tools to transform traditional processes, systems, and operations into digital formats that are easier to comprehend, optimise, and interact with. Whether they be used to optimise energy use in the energy sector, reduce unnecessary material usage and help save millions of trees, or help make data-driven decisions to ensure a more efficient use of materials for companies, the use cases for digital tools are many. We believe that through the power of digitalisation, we can pave the way towards a more sustainable society.