Cross-sector research from Schneider Electric explores how organisations are tackling the challenge of balancing sustainability with urbanisation, digitisation and industrialisation
Schneider Electric, the global specialist in energy management and automation has launched a report that reveals 87 per cent of UK organisations find themselves torn between doing the right thing for the environment and meeting the business objectives of today.
The Secret to Sustainable Success study found that while businesses understood the need to become more sustainable in the face of increasing energy demands, nine in ten UK organisations were primarily focused on short-term economic outlook with only one in ten focused on delivering transformational change.
Energy consumption is expected to increase by a factor of 1.5 in the next 40 years, and to meet climate targets CO2 emissions must be halved. 79 per cent of organisations feel confident they can overcome the challenges presented by the increased demand for energy and create a sustainable business for the future. Yet when it comes down to the practicalities of delivery, only 13 per cent feel extremely well prepared to address the rapid growth in energy demands. This dichotomy between the belief in solving the challenge and the lack of explicit confidence in the practical solutions can create intense pressure down the line if no action is taken.
Facing up to global megatrends: urbanisation, digitisation and industrialisation
When looking at how they can address these coming mega trends, 71 per cent of decision-makers believe they will need to go through a period of tougher economic times to deliver a better, more sustainable business. They also agree that their workforce’s mindset around energy usage needs to fundamentally change to deliver against their sustainability objectives.
The Secret to Sustainable Success report revealed that almost half of organisations are targeting this change through innovation projects – whether it be to use less energy by finding efficiencies in operations, embracing robotics to address the skills gap or adding sensors to identify maintenance needs before they occur. The modus operandi is to ‘do more with what you already have’ and ‘keep the existing equipment operational’.
Mike Hughes, Zone President UK & Ireland at Schneider Electric, said: “There is no getting away from the fact that organisations are operating in unprecedented times. While the benefits of sustainability are becoming more universally accepted, many still hold the belief that this comes at a cost to the business’ bottom line. Yet there doesn’t need to be a trade-off between sustainability and business success. In fact, quite the reverse.”
Adopting digital systems and processes
Today, gaining visibility into everything a business does and uncovering the energy it no longer needs is completely achievable through adopting digital processes. This opportunity is certainly resonating with UK businesses, as 70 per cent are actively considering digitising operations moving forward. This consideration is triggered by a reduction in energy usage (89.9 per cent) and overhead costs (89.9 per cent).
Making the investment to digitise is key to turning an organisation from a reactive to a proactive state. What’s clear is that when digital investments are made, a positive return is all but guaranteed. This return is already recognised by 69 per cent of decision-makers, as they expect to see a noticeable rate of return within the first 12 months. Moreover, 75 per cent believe that once disparate data sources have been consolidated they will have the capability to intelligently connect people, processes and data through devices and sensors in the first year.
Providing access to data in an intuitive format empowers employees to be active participants in real-time work streams, ensuring their ability to increase equipment life, reduce unplanned downtime and increase overall availability and operator efficiency.
“The reality is – doing the right thing – comes with immediate and long-term rewards,” added Hughes. “The secret to sustainable success is visibility – as you can’t measure what you can’t see. The world is going through the second wave of digitisation. It means we have access to data that provides insight into how effectively our operations are run, how proactive actions can help improve reliability, safety and sustainability to drive efficiency and market advantage in the long term.”