ABB study on relationship between digitalization and sustainability

Feb. 8, 2022
72% of companies are increasing investment in IIoT specifically to address sustainability aims.

ABB released the findings of a new global study of international business and technology leaders on industrial transformation, looking at the intersection of digitalization and sustainability. “Billions of better decisions: industrial transformation’s new imperative” examines the current take-up of the Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) and its potential for improving energy efficiency, lowering greenhouse gas emissions and driving change.

The goal of the new ABB research is to spur discussion within industry regarding opportunities to leverage the IIoT and empower companies and workers to make better decisions that can benefit both sustainability and the bottom line.  

“Sustainability goals more and more are a crucial driver of business value and company reputation, and IIoT solutions are playing an increasingly important role in helping enterprises achieve safe, smart and sustainable operations,” said Peter Terwiesch, president of ABB’s process automation business area. “Unlocking insights hidden in operational data holds the key to enabling literally billions of better decisions throughout industry and acting upon them, with significant gains in productivity, reduced energy consumption and lower environmental impact.”  

The study, commissioned by ABB, found that an organization’s “future competitiveness” is the single greatest factor—cited by 46% of respondents—in industrial companies’ increased focus on sustainability. Yet while 96% of global decision-makers view digitalization as “essential to sustainability,” only 35% of surveyed firms have implemented IIoT solutions at scale. This gap shows that while many of today’s industrial leaders recognize the important relationship between digitalization and sustainability, the adoption of relevant digital solutions to enable better decisions and achieve sustainability goals needs to accelerate in sectors like manufacturing, energy, buildings and transport.  

 Further key learnings from the study    

  • 71% of respondents reported greater priority given to sustainability objectives as a result of the pandemic  
  • 72% said they are “somewhat” or “significantly increasing spending on Industrial IoT” due to sustainability  
  • 94% of respondents agreed the IIoT “enables better decisions, improving overall sustainability”  
  • 57% of respondents indicated the IIoT has had a “significant positive effect” on operational decision-making  
  • Perceived cybersecurity vulnerabilities are the #1 barrier to improving sustainability through the Industrial IoT    

Win-win scenarios with the Industrial IoT   

With 63% of executives surveyed strongly agreeing that sustainability is good for their company’s bottom line, and 58% also strongly agreeing it delivers immediate business value, it’s clear that sustainability and traditional priorities of Industry 4.0 efforts—speed, innovation, productivity, efficiency, customer-centricity—are increasingly intertwined, opening up win-win scenarios for companies looking to drive efficiency and productivity while making strides on climate change.  

“The International Energy Agency estimates that industry accounts for more than 40% of global greenhouse-gas emissions today,” said Terwiesch. “If we are to reach climate objectives such as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement, industrial organizations need to implement digital solutions as part of their sustainability strategies. Embracing these technologies at all levels—from the boardroom to the facility floor—is key, as every member of the industrial workforce can become a better decision-maker when it comes to sustainability.”  

ABB innovations for sustainability  

Over the past two years, ABB has reduced greenhouse gas emissions from its own operations by more than 25%, it claims, adding that, as part of its Sustainability strategy 2030, ABB expects to be fully carbon neutral by decade’s end and to support its global customers in reducing their annual CO2 emissions by at least 100 megatons by 2030, the equivalent of removing 30 million combustion cars from the roads each year.