Sustainability is a collective responsibility starting with CEO, COO, CFO, CTO, CIO, and so on

'Technology-driven' is the aspiration but the driver should be a human. That is the necessity for a sustainability future.

Aanchal Ghatak
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Screenshot 2023 05 10 at 12

Tomorrow is National Technology Day, and Dataquest being the business of Infotech, we spoke to tech leaders for their opinion about the future technology. "Integrated Approach in Science and Technology for a Sustainable Future" has been chosen as the theme for this year. This theme emphasises on utilising technology to create a sustainable future.


Let's read what Shantanu Godbole, Global Lead, Sustainability, IBM Research has to say:

How will generative AI and other technology trends transform businesses?

In the last decade, we have seen AI models perform incredible feats through their understanding of time series data and deploying it to Industry 4.0 use cases like manufacturing, asset management, supply chain, automating tasks, and so on. However, businesses continue to face obstacles like a lack of well-labelled data that has prevented them from successfully creating and scaling AI. 


Generative AI is expected to accelerate and scale the adoption of AI, as they are built on large foundation models -trained on large amounts of unlabeled data that is more easily available in massive quantities than labeled training data. This allows the creation of larger models which have shown to be far better in various benchmarks than the previous generation of AI models. Built once, they can be fine-tuned for downstream applications using a small amount of training data (10x to 100x less labeled training data than required by previous approaches) decreasing time to value creation and increasing productivity of the data science teams.

Generative AI opens a new window of opportunity to start exploring altogether new and different data modalities including: data synthesis for machine learning in regulated industries; event-sequence analysis for failure predictions; design of new materials and so on.

For businesses, it provides an opportunity to augment employee efforts, improve customer experience with more near real-time insights into customer complaints, reduction in time for internal audits to maintain regulatory compliance, efficiency gains for testing and classification, and make the enterprise more productive. 


How are companies balancing their impact on the environment with their technology?

First and foremost, with increased pressure to act, 51% of CEOs now rank sustainability as their greatest challenge over the next 2-3 years. This implies that it is now an organization-wide goal and responsibility.  

Second, organizations are moving sustainability away from CSR and making it part of their business functions. This implies that sustainability is a collective responsibility starting with CEO, COO, CFO, CTO, CIO, and so on. According to a recent CIO study, sustainability has emerged as one of the top focus area where the expect technology to have a great impact.  


Thirdly, what gets measured gets managed, so businesses have started tracking their energy consumption, GHG emissions, and so on. Capturing this data and using technologies like AI can help businesses uncover insights and make informed decisions and improve sustainable outcomes.

Lastly, engaging ecosystem partners and suppliers to meet sustainability goals helps. To achieve their sustainability goals, many organizations have begun to co-create with partners to boost efficiency of the supply chain, for greater visibility, to increase sustainability, reduce risks, developing new business platforms and pursuing innovation together. 

Can you provide examples of how companies are using technology to make data-driven decisions and reduce their environmental impact?


When it comes to sustainability, businesses need a 360-degree approach that spans the entire operations - focusing on areas like asset management, IT infrastructure, supply chains, analysis and reporting of ESG data, the broader impact of their business on the community, and more. Technology helps businesses move beyond capturing and reporting data to improving operational performance, turning data into insights for more sustainable decisions every day. Some of the ways that companies are using technology to make data-driven decisions are:

  • ESG Data, Reporting, and Risk Management: Establish an ESG data foundation to operationalize sustainability goals, reduce cost, time, and the burden of reporting with a single system of record allowing businesses to focus on delivering ESG strategic outcomes. IBM products like Envizi and Environmental Intelligence Suite (EIS) are helping clients achieve this.
  • Intelligent assets, facilities, and infrastructure: According to the UN Environment Program, buildings use about 40% of global energy and emit approximately 30% of GHG emissions. By building intelligent more intelligent factories, offices, and assets that increase resilience and sustainability, gaining operational insights to drive clean energy transition, efficient waste management, and decarbonization, businesses are able to extend the life and improve the efficiency of physical assets such as building, machinery, and critical infrastructure. IBM Maximo and IBM TRIRIGA solutions are helping clients to achieve that.
  • Responsible computing and green IT: Computers, data centers, and networks consume approximately 10 percent of the world’s electricity, demanding about 190 terawatt-hours (190 trillion watts) of energy annually. Hence, designing, deploying, and managing energy-efficient infrastructures and innovations with a hybrid cloud approach, exploring alternative energy sources, and optimizing data centers, IT operations, and platforms can also reduce energy consumption and GHG emissions. Using Turbonomic, LinuxONE and IBM Cloud is helping clients adopt green IT.  
  • Sustainable supply chain and circularity: Technology can help businesses improve supply chain resiliency with actionable insights and intelligent workflows to enable more responsible sourcing and transparent supply chains with AI and blockchain capabilities. IBM Supply Chain Intelligence Suite and IBM Sterling Order Management Solutions are helping clients lower inventory levels by 18%, and reduce expedited freight costs by up to 52%.

How can sustainable practices and technology be used to drive growth and innovation in the ecosystem?


As mentioned earlier, sustainability practices need a 360-degree approach, only then can it make a difference and impact growth. Businesses can take the following steps to innovate and drive growth:

First, define Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) goals for the organization that relies on data. 

Second, establish an ESG data foundation that aligns with business goals such that they can collect, correlate, visualize, and analyze data. 

Third, operationalize your sustainability goals by acting on the insights derived from ESG data to drive resilient supply chains, optimized IT infrastructure, and efficient functioning of assets. 

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