The many ways in which technology can contribute to sustainability were very much a part of our 2022 communications and PR initiatives. Therefore, we asked our clients as well as industry experts and contributors to our CleanEnergy-Project “Which developments will contribute to more sustainability in 2023?”. As their answers show, the starting points for more sustainability are multi-faceted. Accelerating the energy transition is not only a priority in the context of the climate goals.
The topic will also be a priority with regard to independence from energy imports and economic stability. Due to the obligation to report on ESG (environmental, social, governance), companies must also disclose their sustainability strategies. Analysts assume that by 2024, 80 percent of G2000 companies will already be collecting their CO2 data. ESG performance will thus become a standard component of risk assessment in relation to companies in the future. Our compilation of expert assessments provides concrete examples of starting points and trends from different technology and business perspectives.
Expansion of storage capacity
The expansion of storage capacity is undoubtedly one of the most important levers for accelerating the energy transition and using energy resources more sustainably. The topic of energy self-consumption with the combination of PV and battery storage is becoming increasingly popular with consumers. But there is also enormous potential for commercial applications – from the use of battery storage for load management, consumption or price peak shaving or for energy backup and emergency power supply. Therefore, we can expect many exciting new applications in 2023.
CO2 accounting sustainability initiatives in companies
The importance of digitization for the sustainability of companies will continue to grow in 2023. Example carbon footprint: IT provides the data that organizations need to meet legal requirements and achieve their sustainability goals along the entire supply-chain. From our own fleet of vehicles to heating and air conditioning to waste disposal. Natural Language Processing (NLP), for example, analyzes invoices for purchased goods and services in order to calculate the carbon footprint more precisely. In this way, effective measures for decarbonization can be identified and promoted.
Dr Larissa Talmon-Gros, Co-Lead Center of Excellence Sustainability at NTT DATA DACH
Technology supporting energy optimization in companies
When hear “climate killers” we think of combustion engines, smoking chimneys, and deforestation. But did you know that around 4% of global carbon emissions are attributed to the IT industry? That’s as much as the aviation industry causes. Therefore, the pressure on companies to rethink their IT structures is increasing. In view of rising energy prices, energy consumption is not only a high cost factor. There are many ways to tackle carbon emission reduction in the digital space, from moving to the cloud, using Platform-as-a-Service to coding more efficiently. It’s an exciting time for people working on these topics.
We see enormous potential in the collection, processing and analysis of geodata for sustainable solutions that address acute problems. This location-based data can be used to gain insights that are relevant for a large number of industries – especially when it comes to resource-saving planning and management of infrastructure or mobility. Whether reducing CO2 emissions, increasing the profitability of renewable energy sources or accelerating the mobility revolution – in all these areas the evaluation of geodata contributes significantly to success.
Daniel Priem, Senior Expert Mobility & Sustainable Cities at Ubilabs
Green hydrogen as important building block for decarbonization
Green hydrogen, which is obtained from 100% renewable energy, can make a decisive contribution to energy self-sufficiency and the reduction of CO2 emissions. Without green hydrogen we will not be able to reach Net Zero. Especially companies from the field of renewable energies have already recognized this. With hydrogen production and storage on site, it is also suitable for large companies in heavy industry such as steel and chemicals. But it is also becoming increasingly popular for mobility applications in municipalities, local public transport, the heavy transport industry or shipping and air traffic. There are also options for sector coupling for the areas of power generation, industry, transport and heating. We expect this trend to gain momentum in 2023.
Future technologies help to make the textile industry more sustainable
According to UN reports, the clothing industry is the world’s second largest polluter. In addition to the high water and chemical consumption during production, this is also due to the high return rate. According to studies by the University of Bamberg, a single return causes ca. 500g of CO2 emissions. A total of approx. 1,500,000 tons of CO2 are generated annually by returns of clothes and shoes due to incorrectly ordered sizes. There is also waste from discarded clothing and packaging. The main reason for returns is inconsistent sizing. This problem can be solved by AI-based future technologies and 3D body scan processes. The scan can be used for size recommendations in online shops, the virtual try-on on your own avatar and even the creation of individual patterns. This not only turns shopping into a tailor-made customer experience, but also conserves resources and reduces CO2 emissions.
Verena Ziegler, CEO OpenDress GmbH – BEAWEAR
Returns management: the more sustainable, the more profitable
Germany is the returns world champion – nothing to be proud of, rather an area that is still crying out for sustainable and profitable solutions. In addition to returns, which do not even occur in the first place, smart software modules and the sustainable remarketing of functional B-goods are not only trend topics for the coming year, but also indispensable components of sustainable returns management. Using intelligent test and remarketing software directly on-site at manufacturers and dealers helps to save even more transport routes and is therefore an important step towards making trade and returns management more sustainable.
Building with fewer resources
Concrete is the most important building material of our time – without it the foundation for housing construction, important infrastructure projects and the energy transition would be missing. At the same time, the carbon footprint and resource consumption of the building materials industry are significant. It is therefore important to build more with less material in the future. Serial construction with precast concrete parts, for example, contributes to this. An innovative resource-saving and at the same time climate-friendly solution are e.g. prefabricated parts with prestressed carbon reinforcement. The high-performance and at the same time extremely thin concrete slabs enable material savings of up to 80 percent and reduce the CO2 footprint of the component by up to 75 percent. Many good arguments for rethinking design approaches.
More sustainable packaging alternatives
In order to achieve a European circular economy by 2030 and the climate targets by 2050, it is essential to turn away from fossil resources and towards the use of renewable raw materials. Packaging plays a crucial role for these goals: 133 million tons of new plastic packaging are produced worldwide every year. The demand for packaging solutions that are based on regenerative resources and biodegrade after use is increasing enormously – both in the industry and among end consumers. We therefore see great potential for innovative materials based on brown algae.
Sustainable purchase options at no extra cost
The majority of e-commerce customers already want to shop more sustainably. But not everyone can afford newly produced fair fashion and neither companies nor customers want to pay the surcharge for green shipping, as a 2022 survey by bevh shows. The possibilities of creating sustainable alternative purchase options have not yet been exhausted. Returns, for example, offer great potential: They are almost always in perfect condition, which sets them apart from B-stock or 2nd fashion and can therefore be offered perfectly as an alternative purchase option. There are also completely new and more sustainable returns options – for example directly from buyer to buyer.
Transparency and common standards for the circular economy
In 2023, the movement towards the circular economy will continue. We can create the necessary transparency with solutions such as the digital product passes – a digital twin for all product sustainability issues. It maps the entire supply chain, from production through the use phase to recycling. For this to work, we will also need industry-wide collaborations to avoid the chaos of competing standards. And we will have to pay even more attention than before to interoperability, security and trust in data – with the help of digital technologies such as blockchain.
High potential for municipalities and citizens
Almost a third of the installed renewable energy capacity is in the hands of private households. This means that there is still very high potential in the commercial sector as well as in the public sector, in municipalities and communities. The energy crisis has made the benefits – lower and stable energy prices, security of supply and a quick ROI – even more visible. In addition, many communities have areas that are not suitable for building or similar purposes and can be used for renewable energy projects. There are also exciting projects in the field of citizen participation. People can get involved and find suitable projects via platforms or directly with communities and thus not only benefit from the attractive ROIs, but also contribute to the energy transition and a greener future.
Sustainability has many Faces
Of course this compilation cannot cover all trends and developments in the field of sustainability. However, the interesting insights that the experts have provided us with show what contribution innovative approaches and technology can make in the most diverse fields of application. It is no great surprise that the expansion of renewable energies and their efficient use for even more fields of application play an important role. But innovative technologies and intelligent concepts can also make a decisive contribution in many other areas. The concepts and solutions, presented by industry experts, inventors and entrepreneurs help companies to become more energy-efficient or find ways to make entire sectors and particularly resource-consuming processes more environmentally friendly. 2022 was an exciting year for PR professionals working in the field of technology and sustainability and we are looking to more exciting topics in 2023.
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