Friday, May 31, 2024

Digitalization is catalyst for sustainable future: forum

Milling about the hall with an anticipatory crowd. Sitting in a full auditorium. Approaching booths to learn about their displays.

These activities usually only happen face to face, but not in Schneider Electric’s Innovation Day, which was held on Wednesday, June 9.

Attendees had the freedom to explore the company’s new technologies, attend the talks, or network on the event’s online interactive platform. This innovative digital set-up only drove home the theme of the day: “Sustainable Digital Transformation”.

“At Schneider Electric, we believe that being green is good for your business, as well as for the planet and its citizens,” said Natalya Makarochkina, senior vice president of secure power international region at Schneider Electric, in her welcome address.

“When you walk with Schneider Electric, you can deploy digital innovations to help build a more sustainable world.”

Other speakers also gave attendees a deeper understanding of digitalization, how it can be used to further the growth of businesses, and how businesses can reach operational stability while prioritizing sustainability and efficiency.

The line-up of experts had diverse specialties, ranging from company officials and tech leaders to a renowned digital anthropologist and sustainability enthusiasts.

Pankaj Sharma, executive vice president for the secure power division at Schneider Electric, headed the discussion on “Electricity 4.0: How Digital Technologies Shape a More Sustainable & Resilient Future”. Here, he tackled why the solution to the world’s current climate crisis is to go electric and digital.

“Electricity is the most efficient energy and the best vector of decarbonization, and with digital innovation, electricity unleashes huge potential to eliminate energy waste,” said Sharma.

“Only by disrupting the way we manage energy and design buildings, industries and mobility will we be able to deliver a net-zero carbon world.”

He emphasized the need for the electricity industry to capitalize on the world’s fourth electricity revolution or electricity 4.0. Electricity 4.0 refers to the integration of Internet of Things (IoT) technology in electricity production and distribution.

IOT solutions will allow this industry to monitor and review available data from their systems, thereby increasing efficiency by cutting down on wastage. These solutions will also equip the industry with the means to analyze electricity usage to better deploy their services.

“Climate change is likely the biggest or the largest challenge in front of our generation. But that said, it is also the biggest opportunity and almost a responsibility for us to change that trajectory,” said Sharma.

Continuing on this vein, the panel discussion on “Sustainability Digital Transformation” spotlighted companies’ response to the growing demand for sustainable solutions in all industries, including energy and utilities, finance, as well as data centers.

Esther Finidori, vice president for environment at Schneider Electric, explained how the company encouraged their partners to pursue more sustainable efforts by enabling them with programs and resources.

She also enumerated the advantages the company experienced in its own shift to sustainability such as an increased rate of innovation, the attraction of talent, and a style of company governance that was open to the needs of its stakeholders.

Speaking for the banking and finance sector, Eric Lim, chief sustainability officer at United Overseas Bank (UOB), covered how banks will be moving away from investing in unsustainable power sources such as coal fired power plants. Instead, they will prioritize businesses centered around renewable energy generation in their portfolios.

“Overall, there is absolutely a tailwind for banks to transition our own portfolios towards winning technologies of the future,” Lim said.

Moreover, he shared how banks can support the transition towards sustainability. UOB offers sustainability-linked financing to help clients’ fund the transformation of their business models to ones with sustainable outcomes.

Aaron Binkley, head of sustainability at Digital Realty, talked about how the dependence of the data center industry on electricity only underlines the need for it to make a conscious effort to lower its carbon emissions.

Many customers in this industry have figured out ways to incorporate sustainability into their data centers without sacrificing uptime and resilience.

“What you may see is a need to do thing differently.” Binkley stated. “It can get you to the same place, but it may be the use of a new technology, it may be a slightly different configuration.”

Trust expert, lecturer, and author Rachel Botsman discussed how trust is “the most valuable and fragile asset a company can have.”

She revealed that human beings’ first instinct is to retreat back to the old and familiar when confronted with newness. As a result, customers will fail to accept innovation unless they trust in the intentions of the companies offering it. She particularly stressed the significance of ensuring a tech platform that is trusted by its users.

Brain Solis, a digital analyst, anthropologist, author and global innovation evangelist at Salesforce, pointed out another essential component of sustainable digital transformation: the willingness of businesses to change.

Solis urged business leaders to take advantage of the unprecedented opportunity offered by the pandemic. Covid-19 undoubtably disrupted all industries, but that same disruption gives business leaders the chance to reimagine how everything works and in turn, reinvent their company’s operations, he said.

Lastly, Robert Swan, the first person to walk to the North and South Poles and a global educator on climate change, called attention to people’s need to work together to ensure a sustainable future.

“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone will save it,” stated Swan.


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