Executive Voices 8 mins read

The tech that has the biggest impact on sustainability (and your bottom line)  

Cloud computing, data integration, and API management can create profitable solutions and drive your business forward.

Dr. Stefan Sigg Dr. Stefan Sigg

Enterprises still have sustainability as a priority, but many have put it on pause due to economic pressures. Instead, they put their resources behind digital transformation to shore up resilience and drive business. This, however, is a short-sighted move long term. 

In Software AG’s annual global survey of IT leaders, we found that they were finding it difficult to balance technology and sustainability. This is due to mounting commercial issues such as rising inflation and soaring energy costs. 84% of IT leaders surveyed admitted that sustainability now takes a back seat to commercial objectives as they look to deal with the uncertainties diverting business attention.  

Enterprises prioritizing digital transformation in tough economic times tend to be more resilient and better prepared to handle the unexpected. However, trail-blazing companies understand that achieving sustainability goals requires a systematic approach to digital transformation. For example, they are adopting cloud, edge, IoT, and API management technologies to drive change. At the same time, creating a sustainability strategy that is a competitive advantage requires a data insight and technology integration strategy.

Why drop sustainability when it benefits business?

While 95% of enterprises consider sustainability a high priority, 69% of CEOs said they would divert resources from this and other areas to support digital transformation efforts. Technology can be a crucial accelerator for enterprises that think more widely about advancing sustainability initiatives, helping to create profitable solutions that positively impact environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals. 

Leading industrial enterprises are employing innovative sustainability practices to drive competitive advantage. Those making the most progress are adopting a number of tangible actions, including deployments of technology and analytics. Technology is helping enterprises drive their sustainability initiatives, building strategies, harvesting and analyzing data, setting KPIs, tracking, and reporting.

Adopting the Genius of the And

The Genius of the And is an approach that embraces two extremes that may initially seem paradoxical. Highly visionary enterprises have liberated themselves using this methodology. Instead of choosing between technology and sustainability, they have worked out how they can have the best of both worlds.   

The following technologies are helping enterprises marry sustainability with business outcomes to achieve ESG goals and drive profits.

Cloud computing:

By moving to the cloud, business benefits include greater flexibility, agility, security, and increased collaboration. Cloud can also reduce energy consumption and carbon footprint. Microsoft Azure, for example, claims to be 93% more energy efficient and as much as 98% more carbon efficient than on-premises solutions.  

Today more enterprises are interconnecting to multicloud environments to manage their workloads better. An Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) helps to connect the different parts of the business seamlessly, reducing complexity and IT costs while providing highly available, enhanced quality of service. For example, linking distributed supply chains, partner networks, and internal operations simultaneously reduces energy consumption.

Data integration:

Data integration plays a pivotal role in connecting and monitoring sustainability initiatives. It is little surprising that 28% of organizations surveyed said that data integration had the biggest significant positive impact on their sustainability efforts after cloud.  

The data needed to improve sustainability isn’t in just one location. It is in systems across the organization. Data integration helps you access all the data you need and analyze/track it in a way that can make a real impact and influence decisions. 

Although, as we have noted, enterprises are finding it challenging to prioritize sustainability in these times of economic uncertainty, they are aware that they risk losing sales, investors, and skills without a solid and transparent sustainability strategy.  

For example, a look at the Green House Gas (GHG) protocols highlights the complexity of the data challenge. An accurate 360-degree picture of sustainability performance requires integrating a host of data sources both internally as well as from supply chains and partner networks.

Application integration:

Application integration allows individual applications to work together. Without connecting applications across clouds or on-premises, data is siloed and inaccessible.   

Via seamless interconnected processes and data transfers, application integration enables businesses to be more efficient and gain greater insight from their data. It allows the automation of workflows, and it enhances interoperability between teams. Application data may be connected in near real-time, allowing for the creation of dynamic, scalable applications and services.  

Integrating applications results in better information management. Regarding sustainability reporting, application integration creates a single point of access across individual systems to correlate data and improve collaboration. At the same time, it becomes easier to look for trends or changes in demand, for example, that may influence an enterprise’s sustainability strategy. 

API management:

API management may vary from enterprise to enterprise, but it is how enterprises create, monitor, and control application program interfaces (API) in a secure and scalable way. According to Gartner, API management is “the set of people, processes, and technology that enables an organization to safely and securely publish APIs, either internally or externally.” 

APIs act as intermediaries between applications allowing them to communicate. API management has become fundamental due to the increasing number of APIs that enterprises use and the administrative complexities and security issues that come with it.  

Data helps to drive change. APIs can be used for sustainability calculations, for example. These APIs could be integrated with business intelligence software to provide real-time analytics for smart decision-making or reporting, identifying improvement areas, and improving stakeholder trust. API management fulfills several roles here, including compliance with external regulations, for example, while managing its entire lifecycle.    

For example, Marsa Maroc, the main operator of ports in Morocco, uses Software AG’s webMethods API Management solution to centralize and streamline elements of its business, such as customs declarations. The solution has also helped to significantly reduce its carbon footprint thanks to the digitalization of processes and better planning. 

Business processes / process mining

Process mining is an in-depth analysis of an enterprise’s processes, including discovery, monitoring, and improvement by harvesting data from event logs in information systems.   

Visibility into an enterprise’s processes provides insight into an area that may be holding the business back, slowing it down and spotlighting opportunities for improvement. This knowledge enables enterprises to become more agile when it comes to both internal and external operations.  

Regarding sustainability, process mining can be used to adhere to legal regulations and continuously monitor if the business is on track to achieve sustainability goals. It can, for example, provide detailed insight regarding carbon emissions showing the footprint of each process in a manufacturing chain. For example, Enzen, a global knowledge enterprise specializing in the energy and water industries, uses Software AG’s ARIS to improve the sustainability of water and energy firms. It has deep knowledge of clients’ end-to-end processes like carbon footprinting and accounting. Using ARIS to build the processes, tit can easily create, store, update and share best practices and models with its clients, resulting in a big shift in how its customers look at sustainability. 

In a complex business landscape, prioritizing process changes is one where the most significant wins can be seen. Process mining is invaluable to any enterprise in discovering how their business is really operating, discovering deficiencies, and addressing anomalies.

Edge computing and IoT

Centralized data centers consume vast amounts of energy, electronic waste, and carbon emissions. Edge computing allows for the processing and storing of some IoT data closer to the devices and where the data is harvested, increasing speed, reliability, data security, and performance. As a result, edge computing uses less power and reduces latency.  

QTRS in Australia, for example, has added intelligence to its refrigerated trucks via IoT sensors. An IoT analytics solution based on SAG AG’s Cumulocity IoT platform can analyze data at the edge to decrease emissions and food waste due to spoilage.  

There are many ways that edge computing, IoT, and artificial intelligence (AI) can help to make our planet greener. Factories, for example, can be more energy efficient using condition monitoring and predictive maintenance. By flagging components that need to be replaced, manufacturers can ensure that machines run optimally. Smart agriculture can reduce water waste.

Digital transformation and sustainability: the perfect marriage

According to Gartner, CEOs report that environmental and social changes are now a top three priority for investors, behind only profit and revenue. As well as feeling the pressure to do more to protect the planet, they are beginning to view sustainability as a way to drive efficiencies, revenue growth, and the transition to new ways of working. 

Here digital transformation and sustainability are inextricably linked. Successful enterprises will be the ones that can match technology firmly with business objectives and sustainability goals.