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A 3 Phase Plan for Sustainable Digital Transformation

“The hardest part is starting. Once you get that out of the way, you’ll find the rest of the journey much easier.”

Simon Sinek

According to a McKinsey Global Survey, more than 60 percent of respondents with stalled digital transformations attribute the problem to factors that organizations can control. This notion goes against widespread assumptions that external pressures, such as market disruptions or regulatory changes, pose the most significant threats to digital initiatives. More commonly, sources of derailed progress included lack of clarity or alignment on a company’s digital strategy and poor quality of the digital strategy to begin with.

Cultivating A “Marathon, Not A Sprint” Mentality

It’s incumbent upon the digital transformation leaders to manage expectations and take the lead in defining realistic, data-driven ambitions for the enterprise. It’s also critical for all stakeholders to agree upon the necessary governance changes to achieve the new objectives.

Re-envisioning your digital transformation project requires crafting a bold, inspiring mission statement – one that is clear, concise, and consistent with established strategic pillars. This will help everyone focus their efforts on building a program that delivers immense value. Pick a leader who can cast a compelling vision, which acknowledges the past but establishes a new and exciting future.

It’s important to understand and accept that your other project and business leaders will shape the basic perceptions associated with your subsequent plans and actions.Therefore, proper preparation, assessment, planning, acting, measuring, and above all, communication can greatly enhance your chances of success.

Implementing a Proven Methodology and Framework

Following a proven approach to reinvigorate your data roadmap will likely solve many of the problems faced initially. There are a number of different frameworks that can help design your approach. For example, the Prosci change management framework is one approach to following a structured process for implementing lasting change within an organization. It’s initial strategic framework includes three phases:
  • Prepare Approach

  • Manage Change

  • Sustain Outcomes

Each phase is broken down into three stages, and each stage includes important activities to support the success of a change. Similar to other change management methodologies, the Prosci approach is structured, yet also adaptable and scalable to fit the needs of any organization or change initiative. For more information visit the Prosci 3-Phase Process full outline.

Conclusion

Again, the Prosci methodology is just one of many available to successfully manage change to support digital transformation. See this list of 10 other models for a few examples. Regardless of the exact framework, what they all have in common is taking a methodical approach to ensure your digital transformation efforts are lasting – meaning you’ve identified the right goals and that you have stakeholders and an organization that’s fully invested in the change.

Don’t let fear of failure get in the way of trying to move your digital transformation efforts forward. With structure, clarity, and concrete objectives, leaders can forge a new path and create a new momentum that allows for a data-driven culture to emerge and thrive.


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How Tech Makes Water Positivity a Reality

Increasingly, businesses are embracing sustainability and proclaiming ambitious goals to improve processes, add value for stakeholders, and satisfy consumer demand. Major corporations across all industries like AT&T, Dell, and Target have made serious commitments to becoming leaders in this area. They’ve not only pledged to reduce the social and environmental impacts of their operations– they’ve promised to be net positive. But what does net positive mean?

A standard collectively created by the Forum for the Future, WWF-UK, and the Climate Group, ‘Net Positive’ is described as “a new way of doing business which puts back more into society, the environment, and the global economy than it takes out”. Net positive strives to go beyond reduction in carbon emissions and water usage; it aims for persistent, long-lasting positive impacts from every process a business undertakes (The Forum for the Future, 2021).

Net Positive in Sustainability

Within the context of environmental sustainability, net positive aims to ensure that businesses consider the impact on our planet throughout all of their operations. As opposed to simply minimizing harm, organizations strive to positively impact the environment and uncover new ways to replenish natural resources. Net positive encompasses different parts of a supply chain’s impact areas (upstream, downstream, and operations): water, materials, carbon, and energy. These areas can be measured and assessed by certain pillars, which were also created by the Forum For The Future.

What is Water Positivity

In light of increasing water scarcity, many organizations are undertaking net water positive, or water positivity, efforts — PepsiCo, Microsoft, and Gap to name a few.

PepsiCo, who aims to become Net Water Positive by 2030, describes water positivity in an August press release, as “replenish[ing] more water than the company uses” (PepsiCo, 2021).

There is a general, two-pronged approach taken by companies to achieve water positivity, provided by Bluefield Research:

  • Reduce the amount of water consumed in industrial processes
  • Replenish water-stressed regions with purified process water

PepsiCo’s water positive vision parallels this by adopting “operational best-in-class or world-class water-use-efficiency standards covering more than 1,000 company-owned and third-party facilities” (PepsiCo, 2021). And for those of us who marvel at the idealistic dream of making new water, PepsiCo is quite clear about how it is able to replenish more water than it consumes. In a statement provided to The Guardian, PepsiCo’s vice president for global sustainability says that it plans to “go upstream and partner with local NGOs…to restore the natural system [waterways] that’s been degraded” (Schupak, 2021).

A 2020 sustainability report detailing PepsiCo’s approach to reducing its water footprint introduces the corporation’s investments in membrane bioreactor technology; it allows PepsiCo to produce “high-quality water for reuse at different manufacturing plants” through treating water to drinking standards. Other technological innovations — such as low-water processing in facilities’ corn washing lines and “burst rinsing” equipment, which PepsiCo describes as spraying beverage syrup tanks, “in 30-second intervals, using less water to achieve the same hygienic degree of cleanliness” as opposed to 30 minute periods — have streamlined water-related operations (PepsiCo, 2021).

Colgate-Palmolive, another leader of corporate sustainability, has yet to announce a water positive goal, however its 2025 Sustainability Strategy describes aggressive targets that will contribute to water conservation. In an August 2020 press release, Colgate listed plans within its water strategy, including “achiev[ing] net zero water at [its] manufacturing sites in water-stressed areas”, and decreasing “manufacturing water intensity by 25% v.s. 2010 levels” by 2025 (Coates, 2020).

The likelihood of Colgate-Palmolive integrating water positivity into its sustainability plans is high, especially considering the company’s innovations that increase efficiency in water and energy usage. Single-step sanitization, for instance, is a cleaning process co-developed by Colgate-Palmolive and Ecolab, which majorly reduces the former’s water manufacturing intensity.

Microsoft has committed to water positivity by 2030. The corporation is tackling the issue via two fronts: reducing water use intensity and replenishing water in water-stressed regions. Investments in new technology will allow Microsoft to integrate water management systems to properly utilize, replenish, and recycle water. One innovation, enabled by technology, is an on-site rainwater collection system and waste treatment plant in California; it ensures that every drop of water is derived from on-site recycled sources. This system, as stated by Microsoft, may “save an estimated 4.3 million gallons of potable water each year” (Smith, 2020).

Moving From Promise to Reality Through Innovation

An article by Amanda Schupak for The Guardian acknowledges PepsiCo’s, as well as Microsoft, Facebook, and Google’s, commitment towards water positivity, but questions these pledges. There appears to be a general consensus that the definition of water positive is vague— Schupak states that “companies’ plans differ in detail and scope.” Each organization that pledges to be water positive seems to define the term at its own discretion. People “are concerned that these voluntary pledges can lack precise definitions and accountability mechanisms”, adds Schupak (Schupak, 2021).

Bluefield Research’s blog post titled, Is Net Water Positive just Hype, also discusses the ambiguity surrounding water positivity. Organizations that are water positive, author Nathan Goldstein says, classify “water ‘use’ as total water consumption…. [where] water consumption calculation for companies is enterprise-wise,” and “water replenishment is targeted at facilities in water-stressed regions of the world where the companies have operations.” Additionally, like Schupak, Goldstein mentions that “water positive goals differ amongst companies in terms of their ambition, urgency, and scope” (Golstein, 2021).

Regardless of your perception of net positivity, it’s clear that the only path to making net positivity feasible is through technological innovation. The frequently vague and aspirational nature of net positive goals, while often decried as PR greenwashing, can mostly be attributed to the fact that it requires technology that is in development or doesn’t yet exist. As the examples provided from Microsoft, Colgate-Palmolive, and PepsiCo demonstrate, these emerging technologies are gradually enabling those organizations to reduce, track, and revolutionize their impact.

Innovation enables net positive and net positive water strategies in two ways:

  • The development of novel technologies, processes, and materials. For instance, a porous concrete that could help Microsoft restore groundwater or ceramic membranes that can make water treatment and desalination more efficient. These innovations can fundamentally change how entire industries operate, especially as the technologies are brought to scale.
  • Making existing operations more intelligent. Organizations have made tremendous investments in instrumenting their physical infrastructure for connectivity with IoT. Advances in big data and artificial intelligence mean organizations can make existing operations more efficient. Manufacturers can see enormous reductions in resource consumption through better analysis and predictive modeling. For large organizations, analytics enables visibility which enables net positive activities, such as balancing production at one site vs consumption at another in a high-risk watershed. And when it comes to holding companies accountable, having more complete and accurate data across the enterprise ensures organizations will demonstrate that they are making real and concrete progress towards their sustainability goals.
Governments and corporations have accelerated investment in both these areas. The rise of technology accelerators, such as the 100+ founded by AB Inbev, is just one example of a collective effort to drive sustainability. Furthermore, many of the largest global organizations continue to invest in R&D to develop the next generation of green technologies. In the meantime, the rise of more intelligent operations through the use of big data and AI is something that’s attainable now and in which every organization should invest. By simultaneously reducing the cost of operations and resource consumption, being sustainable is not only ethical and economical, but a good business practice. More importantly, as industries continue to invest in sustainability, resulting data will ultimately tell companies, their customers, and the public whether they’ve made good on the promise of net positivity.

Resources

  • Coates, C. (2020, August). Water commitment. Colgate. Retrieved December 17, 2021, from https://www.colgatepalmolive.com/en-us/who-we-are/stories/water-commitment
  • Goldstein, N. (2021, November 17). Is net water positive just hype? Bluefield Research. Retrieved December 17, 2021, from https://www.bluefieldresearch.com/is-net-water-positive-just-lip-service/

  • PepsiCo. (2021, August 17). PepsiCo announces “Net water positive” commitment. PepsiCo, Inc. Official Website. Retrieved December 17, 2021, from https://www.pepsico.com/news/press-release/pepsico-announces-net-water-positive-commitment08172021#:~:text=(NASDAQ%3APEP)%20announced%20its,operating%20in%20high%2Drisk%20watersheds

  • Schupak, A. (2021, October 14). Corporations are pledging to be ‘water positive’. what does that mean? The Guardian. Retrieved December 17, 2021, from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/oct/14/water-positive-pledge-corporations

  • Smith, B. (2020, September 22). Microsoft will replenish more water than it consumes by 2030. The Official Microsoft Blog. Retrieved January 7, 2022, from https://blogs.microsoft.com/blog/2020/09/21/microsoft-will-replenish-more-water-than-it-consumes-by-2030/ The Forum for the Future. (2021). What is net positive? Forum for the Future. Retrieved December 17, 2021, from https://www.forumforthefuture.org/net-positive

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4 Industrial Sustainability Trends for 2022

While digital transformation has been a priority for organizations for decades, 2021 saw a convergence of events that greatly accelerated digitalization efforts across industries. Covid, supply chain disruptions, inflation, and labor shortages intensified the urgency with which organizations have pursued this goal. With the need to ensure greater operational resiliency and efficiency, digitalization has quickly shifted from aspirational thought leadership to essential to survival.

We also saw a major shift in how sustainability has factored into the equation. While efficiency and cost reduction have always been goals of digital transformation, 2021 saw ESG and sustainability move from PR initiatives to strategic objectives of companies large and small across industries. The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) was a historic event, which highlighted both the enormous public demand for real environmental progress and also the significant gap between long standing goals and tangible outcomes.

As we move into 2022, sustainability will undoubtedly continue to be a top priority, and one supported and enabled through digital transformation and technological innovation. Here are 4 trends that we anticipate continuing to influence industrial sustainability in 2022

Shifting from reduction to climate neutral and net positive.

As the world struggles to keep pace with climate change, organizations worldwide are taking more holistic approaches to sustainability. Some are taking their sustainability goals a step further and looking to not only reduce consumption, but to reuse and replenish those resources. We discussed this trend of technology-enabled net-positivity in a recent blog post. One example is PepsiCo, which promised to decrease its water consumption in the water-stressed Valley of Mexico region and replenish what it uses. Their method which treats wastewater on site, for example, allows the factory to reuse 80% of the water it draws from the tap or the truck.

Others are following suit in the water sustainability space. Data centers and software companies, for example, that aren’t typically thought of as tied to water issues are continuing to take the opportunity to be creative in this area. One example is Microsoft, which has been exploring underwater data centers that take advantage of the ocean’s natural cooling capabilities.

Prioritizing reduction and impact over offsetting.

While carbon offsetting helped many organizations make an impact over the years, it is also seen as problematic and perhaps counterproductive, delaying the actions needed for significant climate change efforts to occur. More and more companies are paying attention to this point of view and are thereby taking leadership in the use of reduction strategies versus carbon offsetting mitigation measures. An article produced by Marketing Brew explored this emerging trend in great detail. “We believe that carbon offsets are only one of the tools in the toolbox,” Jodi Manning, VP and director of marketing and partnerships for carbon-offsetting nonprofit Cool Effect, said in the article. “The most important thing that any of us can do is scale back emissions in the first place,” she explained.

Especially in industrial applications, this means that organizations will be challenged to face their own impact head on and seek novel ways to mitigate it. As we’ve seen across industries, one of the quickest and most effective ways to achieve this is by instrumenting operations to be more intelligent and efficient, as demonstrated by the projected growth of the industrial IoT market.

More quantifiable and transparent progress

According to MSCI ESG Research, corporate issuers continued to step up their ESG game in 2021, demanding radical transformation and ways to demonstrate tangible outcomes. This trend could bring more disclosure requirements, scrutiny and calls for action. One company that reflected this trend is Exxon Mobil, the first US oil super major to disclose greenhouse gas emissions data related to customer use of its petroleum products. The company will provide Scope 3 emissions data reports annually, according to S&P Global.

With a proliferation of varying corporate sustainability goals and timelines, the pressure to produce results will encourage companies to adopt more methodical approaches to measuring progress built around increasingly standardized metrics. Every organization will need tools to create visibility across all areas of the enterprise and reliably report on their impact.

Accelerators!

With the threat of climate change growing more dire, organizations and governments are realizing they can’t tackle the challenges of sustainability within a reasonable timeframe alone. One of the biggest and most promising trends we’ve seen in the last couple years that will surely continue is the rise of accelerators. These accelerators, like the 100+ Accelerator or the Pepsi Greenhouse Accelerator bring together myriad innovators to prove out different approaches and ensure faster, scalable solutions are realized. A benefit of this collective approach is also the innovations created (e.g. AI in industrial processes or circular packaging innovations) don’t remain siloed, but more quickly become industry standards.

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