Three Big Questions on how technology can drive sustainability

Our Director of Sustainability, Lisa Wee, explains how digital innovation is driving industries to become more sustainable and the opportunity for companies like AVEVA to accelerate the pace of change.

Posted: 10th February, 2021

How big is the opportunity for technology and software to impact sustainability for the better?

It’s huge. If you look at just the global United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is now one of the most commonly-used ESG framework for companies, we know that technologies like big data, the industrial internet of things (IIoT), artificial intelligence (AI) have the potential to significantly impact more than half of them, and advance all of them at some level. There is a huge opportunity to have an exponential impact in software – our tools and solutions can help a wide range of customers to set and achieve sustainability outcomes.

I’m particularly excited by AI – a 2019 PWC Study projected it to increase global gross domestic product by US $15.7 Trillion by 2030. If we can harness AI to address big systemic issues like climate change, this is a huge opportunity for the business agenda as well as for sustainability.

This latent potential is being magnified right now by the very positive policy environment in which leaders are committing to drive sustainability. This is key, since so much of reaching these goals involves public-private partnerships, multi-stakeholder initiatives and multilateral action.

We are now in an environment, post-pandemic, where there is a desire to build back better and greener. In addition to policymakers, this investor community is also looking to put in place incentives for companies to accelerate and grow their sustainability agendas, especially in support of reaching a net-zero economy. This is real transformation, and I am excited and encouraged to see what the next few years will do. We can’t afford not to act – this is a critical decade for us to take action both on achieving the SDGs and addressing the climate crisis, the world can’t afford to wait.

What’s top of your sustainability agenda?

We are building capacity, growing our team and formalizing how we work across the company. I’m working closely with Corporate Strategy and our Business Unit leaders on building out a  product sustainability roadmap and setting strategic KPIs. We are also planning to launch an employee engagement program to help to build sustainability capacity throughout the organization, because to be successful we need to harness the power of everyone working together. This is particularly true of decarbonization, a critical area of sustainability where we are currently taking steps to set company-wide targets.

Right now, I’m also working on a materiality assessment, launching our first standalone sustainability report later this year and preparing to report to CDP. We will also be conducting a Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures readiness assessment as a first step to developing a multi-year plan to better align our ESG reporting with this standard and help provide investors with a deeper level of insight on our ongoing plans to address climate-related risks as well as opportunities.

As a software company that is supporting the digital transformation of industrial companies across the globe, we continue to see those climate-related opportunities as very significant. For example, by providing real-time energy data and supporting improved operational efficiency we have the potential to help hundreds if not thousands of our customers – some of whom have very sizable carbon footprints – to cut their energy consumption and emissions. We have started to think about this positive impact of our products as our sustainability handprint, and as part of our evolving disclosure strategy we are looking into developing better qualitative and quantitative metrics to speak to that.

What’s the opportunity for AVEVA’s partner ecosystem to contribute to sustainability initiatives?

Our team is excited to collaborate and explore new opportunities to drive sustainability throughout our ecosystem. We have aligned our program with the SDGs and we’ve recently joined the UN Global Compact so understanding our shared commitments and opportunities is key.

At the moment, our priorities are around four goals where we see the greatest opportunities for our products to directly advance progress - clean and affordable energy, industry, innovation and infrastructure, sustainable cities and communities, and clean water and sanitation – and we are especially interested in collaborating around those four goals. However, those goals are key enablers for accelerating climate action and boosting circularity as part of a move toward more responsible consumption and production, and we know from talking to our customers that those are big strategic sustainability priorities for them. So we are also looking to learn from the work that our partners do with our customers in those areas, to spot new ways to drive greater impact and change.

We would also like to build on the success we have had this year with our Customer Advisory Board, which brought together sustainability leaders from across our network to discuss the most pressing challenges, to provide guidance to AVEVA for our own strategy and to develop our role in driving positive change. We want to do something similar with our broader ecosystem to understand the full scope of our potential to shape sustainable industries.

As we build our sustainability foundations, we are still very much in learning mode, so if partners have suggestions or see opportunities for us to pilot or co-develop a specific technology together, we would love to hear more about this. Please contact me or email [email protected] to learn more.

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