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December 08, 2015
Choose Digital Carbon Disruption to Lower Emissions and Boost Innovation
By: Justin Keeble

Too many businesses make too few changes when it comes to reducing carbon emissions. They worry about compliance and operational efficiency without fully appreciating the role that new digital technologies can play.

Figure 1In Paris last week at a panel discussion held at Solutions COP21, executives were excited about the compelling business case that exists for using digital to not only reduce carbon but also to boost innovation and profits. After all, applying digital to a range of industries puts an estimated $11.4 trillion on the table as companies move to low carbon by 20301. The equivalent of China’s expected GDP in 2015.

Accenture research carried out with the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), a consortium of global information, communication and technology companies, found that digital is capable of offsetting all new CO2e emissions projected over the next 15 years2. This potential to decouple emissions growth from economic growth has far reaching impact.

From mobility and logistics, to manufacturing, agriculture and energy, digital cuts carbon and enhances competitive positioning. In mobility and logistics through faster, cheaper, safer mobility, real time traffic management, smarter logistics, and intelligent lighting. In manufacturing with virtual manufacturing, customer-centric production and circular supply chains. Smart agriculture, using techniques like geographic mapping, machine-to-machine connectivity and data analytics, drive water and energy efficiencies to boost crop yields, reduce food waste and ease access to markets. And in the electricity sector, where digital will enable the integration of renewables like solar and wind on the electricity grid, improving the efficiency of transmission and passing those savings onto customers. This unprecedented scale of digital disruption makes low-carbon business opportunities possible—opportunities that weren’t even feasible five to 10 years ago.

Figure 2To take full advantage of the benefits of digital carbon disruption, businesses need to grasp the need for increasingly blurred industry boundaries because the most high-impact disruption takes place at the intersection of previously disconnected disciplines—much as telcos join forces with energy companies or transportation connects with mobile payments.

As outlined in the Accenture Strategy report, Digital Carbon Disruptors: Speeding the journey to low carbon, high value business, three business models have emerged that underpin digital carbon disruption: optimizers, enablers and transformers.

  • Optimizers work to improve the efficiency of existing operations or reduce costs. Of the potential $11.4 trillion generated by 2030 from the move to low carbon, $4.9 trillion will be the result of cost saving opportunities. Typical goals include improved value chain connectivity and creating more visibility in order to reduce waste.

  • Enablers develop the technology and infrastructure that support innovative approaches. Consider an app that tells drivers where parking is available, saving time and fuel that otherwise would be burned during the search for parking. It also means reduced vehicle emissions.

  • Transformers create radically new offerings and entirely new markets while eliminating resource dependency with digitized customer offers and channels.

Digital technology has not only created new business models, it is changing customer experiences and behavior—and it’s happening in inherently resource efficient ways. Don’t be left in the wake of carbon disruption. Grab your slice of the profitability it offers.

1 From the 2015 study,” SMARTer2030 ICT Solutions for 21st Century Challenges,” by Accenture and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI)
2 From the 2015 study,” SMARTer2030 ICT Solutions for 21st Century Challenges,” by Accenture and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI)

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