Partnering for Climate Success: Unleashing the Power of Data and Collaboration

By Marco Mancuso, EMEA Head of Strategic Collaborations.

  • 6 months ago Posted in

Businesses are hearing the voices of their customers, their clients, and the regulators loud and clear. They have to move quickly to become more sustainable and reduce their carbon emissions. The problem is that although companies are aware of the urgency, their ability to get a plan in place that matches that pressure to move is lacking. According to research carried out by Hitachi Vantara, on average, organisations do not expect to be at net zero carbon emissions until 2046 - 23 years from now.

From the conversations I have with businesses in many different industry sectors and hearing their stories and pain points, one conclusion I have is that technology isn’t the issue holding people back. It’s organisational and cultural change that needs to take place in order to reach climate goals. There’s a need to collaborate, share insights, share data, and maximise investments so that companies can reach their goals faster.

As EMEA Head of Strategic Collaborations at Hitachi Vantara, my role is essentially to put people around a table with different backgrounds and different priorities to solve key issues, with sustainability being a prominent one right now. The biggest challenge for any organisation, or groups of organisations, is to agree on a common purpose or shared sense of direction. This can sometimes be challenging for people within one company to do, but when it comes to sustainability, particularly when measuring scope three carbon emissions, there are many people involved in the value chain.

To get a working strategy in place that can get companies moving in the right direction, it requires data. And currently, businesses don’t have enough of it, or rather, they aren’t able to track it and analyse it adequately. According to the same research, 35% of UK businesses said they had inadequate access to critical sustainability data. It makes it difficult to know how well you are progressing if you can’t crunch the numbers that tell you.

Another issue is that many businesses are driven by the wrong things when it comes to sustainability. Our research found that complying with regulations was cited as the primary driver of organisations’ sustainability goals at 66% of responses. This means that too often, businesses are beholden to the needs of the day instead of considering the environment itself and the business case for sustainable operations. Also, anecdotally, I often hear a lot of talk about return on investment, when in fact we should be prioritising the return on environment. When we focus on the long-term deliverables, the effect on business performance will materialise in tandem.

Shared data powers sustainable design

Shared data is such an integral part of successful sustainability strategies. Unfortunately, there are challenges that come with sharing data across the supply chain because many organisations worry about the possible security implications. It shouldn’t be necessary to share everything, but it is essential to relay key information to partners who need to see it.

If we want to improve the value chain, implement new products and services, and create with an eternity design mindset to extend the lifecycle of products, there is a need to share data from the raw material to the production lines. We also need to be able to collect the data into a single dashboard that gives a comprehensive view of all operations.

To collect that data in the first place, we need more sensors and IoT connections, which also implies the introduction of cloud infrastructures. These have to be managed sustainably as well. Yet only

25% of CEOs say that an eco-friendly data centre is one of the most effective ways to reduce their company’s carbon footprint; compared to 60% of CIOs and 60% of Chief Sustainability Officers. This mismatch of priorities is often why there is underinvestment in data centre modernisation, which can deliver so much value when reducing carbon footprints.

Bringing in broader perspectives

Indeed, shared data and the platforms that underpin the data are significant building blocks of sustainable businesses. Alongside this is the way that organisations work together. Yes, that means companies in the same value chain working more closely, but beyond that, it also requires collaboration beyond the usual areas of conversation.

Whereas before, most of the people I spoke to were CIOs, I now spend most of my time speaking with Chief Sustainability Officers. The topic of conversation is often about how they can combine expertise from different specialists to help them become more sustainable and implement their strategies with pace.

For example, a utility company might be concerned with increasing their renewable energy sources to provide more clean energy to their customers. But on the other side, they need to provide stability to the grid and get more control of the grid. We at Hitachi Vantara combine our data management solutions with the operational technology and domain expertise of others – whether that’s the expertise from other Hitachi companies such as Hitachi Energy, or other partners that a company wants to collaborate with. The important aspect is that businesses appreciate the significance of data services in the bigger picture of sustainability and bring the right people around the table from the planning stage.

Stronger together

They say a problem shared is a problem halved. It’s no longer possible for companies to work in isolation if they want to reduce their impact on the planet. By sharing insights and bringing in the expertise of others, it amplifies the efforts of each party by creating a collective intelligence. Company leaders have to look outside the four walls of their business but they can even go outside of their industry to seek out best practice and knowhow from other leaders who can add value. If the goal is to become more sustainable and to a shorter timeframe, collaboration and knowledge sharing can help organisations to get there faster than they could ever imagine.

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