Sustainability: From Buzzword to Business Value


Sustainability Manager POC

Learn how to create a safer, more sustainable business mode that can turn ambitious sustainability goals into practical, measurable actions.

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The concept of sustainability has been around for a while. Most people know that, as a planet, we need to reduce carbon emissions and be much more efficient with our resources and waste. Over the years, sustainability has grown to encompass many ideas to make the world a better place to live and thrive.

In 2015, the UN established 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) designed to put focus on large global problems — from ending poverty and hunger to sustainable consumption patterns to social justice and access to healthcare to renewable energy and clean water and air, and more. They want to achieve this by 2030 — a tight deadline that will require all sectors of global society to commit and act.

However, if you are not a huge global company with billions of dollars, knowing what to do and where to start can be challenging. The big question is how to transition to a sustainable business model, in a practical way, that delivers measurable results and ensures you remain profitable?

It is a different journey for every business, so there isn’t one right way. But what is clear is you can’t wait on the sidelines anymore. Whether it’s for compliance, DEI initiatives, brand reputation, financial benefit, or something else, you have to act. Your employees, customers, government, and the world are demanding it.

So how do you bridge the gap from buzzword to business value when it comes to sustainability? Technology and data. Read on to learn more.

Digital technology and data fuel sustainability initiatives

Advances in digital technology that many have been using to modernize and improve their business operations — such as cloud connectivity, automation, IoT, AI, ML, and other advanced analytics  — also offer opportunities to start (or advance) your sustainability efforts. That’s right, these transformation tools that are already being employed to make your processes more efficient, people more productive, and businesses more resilient, can also be used to collect and harness your business data to record, report, and reduce your environmental impact.

With your data and reporting in place, the right strategy and solutions can help you focus insights and predictive qualities on being more efficient from an operational and resource standpoint and find innovative ways to create sustainable value for the company. This is a practical and manageable step to begin your sustainability journey.

Leverage sustainability to create value

Making sustainability work for your business is key to success. Once you have the data and technology to enable centralized visibility, proactive monitoring and reporting, risk mitigation, and traceability and trust, there are many areas where you can have an impact on environmental sustainability while creating true business value — no matter your industry. Some examples include:

  • Energy — Use predictive weather capabilities and intelligent grid systems to better manage the demand and supply of renewable energy, optimize efficiency, and cut costs and unnecessary carbon pollution generation.
  • Transportation — AI can reduce traffic congestion and improve supply chain logistics. It can help with demand and forecasting and last-mile delivery problems to reduce the number of delivery vehicles and amount of transport needed.
  • Manufacturing — Modernization and automation can design and operate more efficient systems to help reduce waste and energy use in production facilities.
  • Agriculture — Transform production by better monitoring and managing environmental conditions and crop yields.
  • Water resource management — AI can eliminate waste while lowering costs and lessening environmental impact. It can localize weather forecasting, which can help reduce water usage. 
  • Facilities management — Technology can help recycle heat within buildings and maximize the efficiency of heating and cooling systems.

These are just a few ways businesses can leverage sustainability data for value creation.

Digital sustainability in action

Actually, one of our customers has taken this approach to the next level. They’ve even won awards for their groundbreaking efforts. This customer is one of Canada’s largest real estate investment trusts and manages thousands of residential apartments, townhouses, and manufactured home communities.

The main challenge they were trying to solve was tenant comfort. Yet, the IoT energy optimization solution they created had a huge impact on energy savings and sustainability.

For this customer, unexpected weather fluctuations were making it difficult to maintain stable building temperatures. This was causing tenant discomfort and inefficient energy use, and it was negatively impacting employee productivity and operational costs.

Leveraging the Azure cloud and IoT, we were able to centralize relevant building data with real-time weather updates to proactively recommend and automatically execute boiler plant adjustments. It replaced costly and labor-intensive manual activities, automated startup and shutdown, and identifies and prevents issues before they occur. The result was an intelligent building automation solution that:

  • Minimizes impact of unexpected and severe weather
  • Provides system health, insights, oversight, and control
  • Optimizes active temperature profiles and adjusts thermostats without user intervention
  • Maintains activity history and actions, making the solution smarter over time

Key value drivers include enhanced tenant satisfaction, ensured regulatory compliance, increased energy efficiency, and reduced carbon footprint. All properties remain comfortable and energy efficient 24/7 — a big competitive advantage for the customer and a huge step in their sustainability journey.

Tools to accelerate sustainable transformation

As we’ve demonstrated, technology such as AI, ML, IoT, automation, a modern data estate, and other advanced data and analytics technologies have the power to drive the sustainability agenda across all sectors by increasing the efficiency of systems and processes while reducing waste, lowering emissions, and monitoring resources.

For those looking to quickly advance sustainability initiatives but are having challenges measuring and monitoring sustainable transformation at scale, there’s Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability. Based on more than a decade of work to reduce their own environmental footprint, Microsoft introduced Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability to help others accelerate their sustainability progress.

They’ve packaged up all the relevant data-driven solutions to create a dynamic and extensible platform. The goal is to help organizations around the globe unify sustainability data intelligence and more easily track and reduce the environmental footprint of their operations and value chains.

How to start

If you haven’t already, the time is now to begin your sustainability journey — there’s no more waiting. We’ve shown you don’t have to go all in at once; but, rather, you can take one step at a time. That way, it isn’t quite so scary.

Doing a Sustainability Manager proof-of-concept might be a good way to get going. This engagement is designed to deliver a customized Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability quick start that will help you embrace an innovation-led approach to managing sustainability. Determining your digital maturity is also something you will want to explore, evaluating your organization’s ideas and efforts and identifying the next step to keep your momentum moving forward.

For sustainable change that really makes a difference, it is best to determine your unique, targeted strategy and value drivers, and create a simple framework for success, upfront. To do this, expert advice and guidance is suggested. Using a strategic partner with the appropriate experience and techniques will help keep you on the right path.

Hitachi Solutions Business Advisory

We have been implementing digital transformation solutions for two decades — and we bring this knowledge to every project. Through our business advisory services, we seek to understand your vision and culture, align strategy and priorities, determine the business framework, and focus on value.

As a trusted Microsoft Partner, we deliver the technology and industry expertise needed to drive consistent growth and sustainable impact without sacrificing economic opportunity. We are passionate about sustainability, and we are the right partner to accelerate your transition to a sustainable business.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you build a sustainable infrastructure and power your digital sustainability journey, listen to our recent sustainability podcast or contact us today.