RESEARCH REPORT

In brief

In brief

  • Virtual twins can drive sustainability and the circular economy while helping companies reduce their costs, resource use and carbon footprint.
  • Accenture and Dassault Systèmes partnered to think on how virtual twins can accelerate the sustainable transformation to a more circular economy.
  • They found that across 5 use cases virtual twins can unlock $1.3 trillion in economic value and 7.5 Gt CO2e emissions reductions till 2030.


Moving to a more circular economy

The benefits of virtual twins are numerous. From increasing speed-to-market to minimizing the risk associated with complex innovations and projects, these technologies can help companies across industries reduce costs and improve operations.

Virtual twins help by allowing users to design, test and model disruptive new sustainable products and processes in record time, all virtually, significantly decreasing time to market and risk. Because of this, they have already been used in the development of 85 percent of the world’s electric vehicles and have powered breakthrough sustainability pilots such as electric furnaces, the world’s first solar airplane and new biomaterials.

But most importantly perhaps, virtual twins also significantly support the transition to a more circular economy—where parts and products are designed in a way which makes for easy reuse and repurposing and eliminates waste from the lifecycle. This can help us achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals in the Decade to Deliver—an ever critical step to addressing the climate crisis.

Our research findings indicate that if industries, governments, and societies were to implement virtual twins, we could unlock additional benefits of USD $1.3 trillion of economic value and 7.5 Gt CO2e CO2e emissions reductions between now and 2030.

Virtual twins make real-world assets "machine-readable"—which means that AI can be used to optimize their design, manufacture, and operation.

Helping industries innovate

Virtual twins can help many different industries innovate operations and ultimately reinvent core business. Within our research, we looked across five key industries and use cases to demonstrate the potential of virtual twins:

  1. The construction industry could see a $288 billion reduction in building operating costs through reductions in energy consumption, maintenance, planning and commissioning costs. This is made possible using proven and commercially available virtual twin technologies.
  2. The consumer-packaged goods industry can leverage virtual twins to establish new ways of approaching sustainability by design. Virtual prototyping allows for faster design iterations and reduces the need for physical tests. This can result in a $131 billion reduction in raw material usage costs and a $6 billion reduction in product development costs.
  3. Major transport and mobility players are already using virtual twins to decrease CO2 emissions, primarily in the support of autonomous vehicle production. Using virtual twins, the sector could achieve a further 227 Mt CO2e emissions avoidance in autonomous vehicle development and 2 Mt CO2e emissions reduction from physical prototypes and test vehicles.
  4. Life sciences, and pharmaceuticals in particular, will greatly benefit from virtual twins, as virtual twin applications in production plants drive benefits for the environment. By simulating production processes, companies can drive a $106 billion reduction in cost of goods sold through lower operating expenses and a 61 Mt CO2e reduction in production GHG emissions.
  5. Virtual twins can also help the electrical and electronics industry overcome the many sustainability challenges it faces. These technologies help product designers embed and follow circular economy principles and guide waste management organizations as they tackle the e-waste problem. Virtual twins can enable $73 billion in additional revenue from the increase in refurbishment and reuse of equipment and 5 Mt CO2e emissions avoidance by decreasing the total amount of informally processed e-waste.

Delivering value and sustainability

If introduced at scale, virtual twins can deliver $1.3 trillion of economic value and 7.5 Gt CO2e emissions reductions between now and 2030 across these five use cases alone. However, it is clear that adoption has been limited to date, and we must work to accelerate the adoption of these technologies across industries. To do this, we encourage executives to follow our five key recommendations: clearly link technology and sustainability agendas; improve the understanding of these technologies; focus on disruptive systems-change use cases; deploy these technologies responsibly; and, rally ecosystem support.

Through our analysis, we have shown the potential for virtual twins to help us achieve our Global Goals, and deliver clear business value, and we hope we can inspire the next wave of leadership to think about these combined benefits, and accelerate our progress.

About the Authors

Justin Keeble

Managing Director – Strategy & Consulting, Sustainability Strategy Lead, Europe


Lauren Ing

Senior Manager – Accenture Strategy – Sustainability


Tony Murdzhev

Consultant – Accenture Strategy – Sustainability


Dhruv Malik

Senior Manager – Accenture Strategy – Sustainability


Simon Bentley

Senior Manager – Industry X


Jan-Willem Jannink

Managing Director – Global Industry X Sustainability Practice Lead and Industry X Energy Lead

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