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Why a green future is worth the trip

The world needs to change. Even before the Paris agreement, signed in 2016, it has been clear that we cannot go on like this if we want to avoid climate change causing general, long-term trends like the rising sea levels and rising temperatures and more deserts.

The negative impact of industries during the last century on the environment due to the causation of some of the world’s most severe environmental concerns cannot be denied. But at the same time industries have a huge potential or you can even say are the key to save the planet from those same problems. How can we solve this?  The answer is environmental technology.

What does this mean for a company in industries like Mining, Metals or Plastics?

There are two options. Either they disappear or they change dramatically. To go on like that will not be an option. The pressure of politics and society will not go away. But another reason is even more convincing – no change will lead to a slow financial death.

Let’s go back to the reason behind all that: our planet earth. Over centuries industries have taken a lot from natural resources, used it and produced besides goods a lot of waste. I’m talking about exploitation here. But we cannot go on like that without sacrificing mother earth and finally OURSELVES.

Therefore industries need to think of how to take less from nature and stop producing waste that pollutes the environment. The industrial revolution brought new technologies with immense power but did not care much about the environment. The recent rise in global concern for climate change has led to new laws and regulations resulting in  higher costs for energy and waste and subsequently the development of new environmental technology. An example here is the transformation to renewable energy and smart technologies.

Change always means leaving a comfort zone, which is defined as, “a state in which things feel familiar to a person and they are at ease and in control of their environment, experiencing low levels of anxiety and stress.  Clearly many of us are now being forced out of our comfort zone as stress and anxiety rise due to the impacts of climate change.  We are being pushed to give up on some habits that functioned during the past but that are now not sustainable. -. And change means the future is uncertain.

Companies speak  about this change like turning from the bad to the good. Leaving the dark side behind and turning to a bright future with a healthy mankind and a clean and unpolluted environment. This sounds honorable but has nothing to do with the everyday reality of how the economy works. Any output or new way of working or producing has to also have the means/money to cover the costs for production.

So what’s in for industries besides this great feeling of doing some good and talking about it?

The answer is a digital change to an environmental technology basis that will help the companies to survive in the new environment they have to act in  and also to gain financial benefits on the long term.

Where to start to undergo such changes?

A different strategy based not only on short term but also long-term Investments. Up to a few years ago a period of ten years was considered as a reasonable planning horizon within companies. Today many entrepreneurs claim that is not possible to oversee a period longer than five years and they limit their long-term planning to periods not longer than that.

If strategy means the very detailed planning of all actions than in today’s economy even five years seem to be a long period because of the extremely fast changes.

But this is not what strategy is about. For sure, all possible options, varieties and turnarounds need to be well thought out. But on long-term planning, granularity decreases not leading necessarily to a disadvantage. It opens up a view on what is essential. This is why companies should not lose their long term view in this fast-changing world.

Long-term planning and investments do not lead to fast success and quick ROI. But if you look at the end result you will see that it is not only worth it, but there is also no alternative. To constantly adapt to the world´s new challenges, it is worth thinking about a fundamental change to become a digital company using smart technologies.  

Let’s take a look at an example of the steel industry. Steel production needs a lot of electricity. To reduce the consumption, deeper insights into the actual levels of consumption for various processes and activities are are crucial. Smart technology opens up a lot of new possibilities to get this visibility. With consumption-monitoring tools that serve as an analytical data hub, companies can capture insights in planned, consumed, current and future consumption. This helps to understand the use of electricity and identify saving potentials. It can also enable real-time detection of unauthorized energy consumption. It lowers electricity costs due to improved adherence to plan. Severstal, largest producers of coking coal and iron ore in Russia, took this new path and reduced its annual loss by $12 Million.

This example shows that some profits can already be gained in early stages of digital transformation. In the long term these profits however will even materialize more and more. As global concerns for climate change will continue to put pressure on technological developments, companies will have the chance to adapt step by step to what is needed not only to become an intelligent enterprise but also to gain profits from any step in the right direction and finally make their contribution on the way to save our planet.

Check out these links to learn more about Severstal and other stories

How Machine Learning Will Help Severstal Prevent Energy Fraud (sap.com)
https://news.sap.com/2018/09/severstal-machine-learning-prevent-energy-fraud/

More Sources:

https://www.msn.com/en-us/weather/topstories/natural-disasters-linked-to-climate-change/ss-BB18caEg
Environmental Technology | Impact of technology on the environment (edinburghsensors.com)
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  • Thank you for the inspiring blog, Brigitte. Reminded me a lot of an interview I heard with Maja Göpel,a researcher on systems transformation and advisor to the German government.

    Göpel describes in her book “The Great Mindshift” how transformational change can happen in a process of “radical incremental change” and highlights the important role of pioneers and tipping points.
    A critical mass of successful pioneers that proof a new, more sustainable business model, or manufacturing technology, at the right moment can introduce large scale change. She claims that not just complex natural systems have tipping points, but also societal change. The switch to electrical vehicles illustrates this nicely. It's hard to say when a tipping point is "ripe".

    I would say we are (lucklly) close to such turning points, for how we use plastics, and how we think about climate change.

    Technology can help, policy guardrails, like the Green New Deal in Europe, help even more. What I take away from this, is the importance of proof points, e.g. that green steel is possible, that sector-coupling for carbon capturing makes a lot of sense. First steel companies plan to take fossil-free to the market already in 2026. 

    In the sense of radical, I would say many pledges to become carbon negative or neutral in heavy industries seem like a radical vision, but incrementally achievable through concrete small feasible steps – with pioneering companies that can draw a competitive edge of being first movers, and can inspire others that change is feasible. 

    Technology will play an essential role in enabling this - to build trusted networks, to share resources,  and optimize the grid.