Green-tech and Industry 4.0: supporting a sustainable future

Imagine running your enterprise on current funds. No more revenues coming in. This is exactly how we've been running our planet since July 29th, known as "Earth Overshoot Day," the day when our demands on ecological resources in a given year outstripped what the earth can generate.

The United Nations (UN) recently issued a grim future for our planet if we don’t address climate change as a matter of urgency. Everybody has a role to play in our ICT industry and harnessing the power of green IT and Industry 4.0 will help, improving energy efficiencies, reducing carbon emissions and driving a circular economy.

Climate change is already impacting businesses

We are already seeing the significant impacts of climate change. Climate-related events are already affecting more than 1 in 4 organizations worldwide, according to Deloitte Global’s 2021 Climate Check report. Nearly 3 in 10 organizations are seeing operational impacts of climate-related events, such as flooding and wildfires, which have destroyed facilities and displaced workforces. The result is broken and disrupted supply chains.

Customers are driving change

Enterprises that don’t embrace smart manufacturing and green technologies are leaving themselves open to a significant dent in their bottom line. Why? Because consumers are driving change, seeking out products, and changing their shopping habits to reduce environmental impact. For example, in a recent study, 72% of those surveyed said they were willing to pay a premium for brands that support recycling.

With more and more consumers demanding companies to be ethical and take big steps towards net-zero carbon emissions targets, many big-tech companies have pledged to reduce their emissions within the next 20-30 years. At Orange, we have aligned ourselves with the Paris Climate Agreement and have set the ambitious target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2040 as part of our Orange Engage 2025 strategy.

With our Green Act, which encapsulates our goal to become a benchmark among ICT players and accelerate our digital decarbonization, we are driving green IT initiatives. This includes the eco-efficiency for our data centers and using energy alternatives such as solar power. We have, for example, deployed a network of sensors in three large data centers in Europe to measure energy consumption. As a result, we have already achieved a 10% reduction in consumption between 2019 and 2020.

Businesses must embrace sustainability

Climate change now has a growing role in business competition and driving significant opportunities. India is expecting to see its renewable energy capacity quadrupled by 2020, generating $90 billion in GDP and creating two million jobs. Businesses understand that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to being sustainable. Each company’s approach will need to fit in with its overall business strategy.

Gartner recommends that enterprises adopt six strategic imperatives to realize key benefits in doing business in a circular economy, such as increased customer engagement, raw material resilience and meeting environmental goals. These include developing a long-term vision and accepting there is a learning process to the journey. The analyst firm suggests moving to product-as-a-service to retain control of materials and setting up teams to manage end-of-life products and assess how they can be re-processed.

Industry 4.0 can be a game changer to promote sustainability and global economic decarbonization. IDC predicts that by the end of 2021, 90% of Global 2000 companies will mandate reusable materials in IT hardware supply chains. In addition, they will demand carbon neutrality targets for providers’ facilities and low energy as a non-negotiable requirement for doing business.

At Orange, we are also looking at ways enterprises can use IoT and AI to contribute to reducing carbon footprint. For example, we provided an AI solution to better define a delivery route for one customer, which resulted in a better service to their customers and reduced their carbon footprint. AI-enabled routing can deliver a 98% increase in on-time deliveries, 35% reduction in failed deliveries and a 16% reduction in fuel usage.

Working with our customers to make a difference

Unlike the industrial revolutions that have gone before it, Industry 4.0 is actually sustainable.

It is revolutionizing the way enterprises make and distribute products. It is driving the adoption of automation and the integration of technologies, including cloud, IoT, AI/ML and analytics. This is helping businesses to optimize production processes, creating visibility across the entire supply chain. Smart factories, for example, can increase operator efficiency by 25%, while reducing energy costs by 30% plus, thanks to predictive maintenance, automated quality control for wastage reduction and advanced automation.

We are working with our customers now to make change happen. SHV Energy, for example, is using our IoT connectivity solution to deploy smart telemetry and meters on gas tanks in Europe and the U.S. As well as providing an enhanced gas delivery service for its customers and improving overall satisfaction, it is significantly reducing SHV Energy’s carbon emissions with better routing for delivery drivers.

In another energy-efficient move, over three million water meters are being connected to our LoRa network in France as part of a water digitization project with Nova Veolia and its subsidiary Birdz. The goal is to read more than 70% of their water meters remotely by 2027. It will allow customers to better predict their water usage and make it easier to spot atypical consumption patterns, which may indicate water leaks, for example.

By utilizing these technologies, enterprises can boost their competitiveness across the value chain and, at the same time, open up the benefits of the circular economy. This is where products are designed to be reused, helping companies better manage resources and waste. Industry 4.0 and the circular economy can decouple value creation from finite resources consumption, leading to broad social and environmental benefits.

At Orange Business, we are integrating the principles of a circular economy to limit and reduce our reliance on the earth’s natural resources. We are committed to ensuring that 100% of our Orange-branded products are eco-designed by 2025. We recognize that having a circular product design can enhance sustainability and be a competitive differentiator.

To meet these major challenges of the 21st century, it is necessary to mobilize and coordinate all players in the digital value chain. This is why Orange Business is taking part in initiatives with its entire ecosystem of customers, partners and suppliers. For example, the Moovin'on collective, which today brings together some 300 economic players, pursues two key ambitions: zero emission and the preservation of resources.

A greener landscape

The widespread adoption of Industry 4.0 and green technology can’t happen overnight. There are obvious challenges, such as legacy systems and securely integrating IT/OT environments. But with commitment and a robust strategy in place that aligns with business outcomes and trusted partners, enterprises can undoubtedly start to see a noteworthy reduction in their carbon footprint quickly. We all need to move in tandem to make this happen and create a greener landscape for future generations.

Kristof Symons
Kristof Symons

Kristof Symons is an Executive Board Member at Orange Business and leads the International Business Division. He previously held positions in Professional and Integration Services, Large Outsourcing and Multisourcing Customers and Transformation programs. In his private life, Kristof enjoys reading about future innovation and human psychology. He also practices martial arts and leads a martial arts club in Belgium.