3. August 2021
Sustainable digital – a contradiction in terms? (Part 2)
The way is the goal (Confucius)
Everybody is talking about becoming more digital. And about living and working more sustainably now. But combining digitization and sustainability sounds more like a well-intentioned attempt than an effective symbiosis. So what is it about digital living that is supposed to help us become more sustainable?
You can find the first part of our series Sustainable digital – a contradiction in terms? here.
In2019, we puffed about 805 megatons (MT) of CO2 into the air with our fleet-footed lifestyles. To meet our climate goals, we would need to reduce our C02 emissions to 543 megatons in 2030. That sounds pretty ambitious. But the view out of the window and the increasing headlines about the consequences of climate change remind us every day that it is now high time to sustainably turn our current lifestyle on its head. For us, our children and our children’s children. “It’s time for something to turn around” Herbert Grönemeyer would probably say now.
Luckily, we are in a time where innovation and technology are continuously evolving. The history of cell phones alone shows how quickly technology can evolve in just a decade. In the past, we were happy to use our Nokia 3210 to make phone calls, send text messages and play Snake. Today, our smartphone is much more than that. As a faithful everyday companion, it’s a mailbox, telephone, telex, camera, navigation device and marketplace all in one. Leaving home without this smart all-rounder has become unimaginable for many of us these days.
Of course, the speed of new technology can be seen as a source of danger. However, it can also be welcomed with open arms as an opportunity that helps us achieve our goals and adds precision and automation to our processes. Just as it is time to protect our blue planet, we must finally understand that digital technologies such as AIs, Big Data, and more are not final enemies that we must fend off and fight. AIs are still far from replacing humans and taking away their jobs. Rather, they are being built to streamline processes and take away repetitive tasks that keep us from finally devoting ourselves to our talents and actual activities.
Back to climate change and the many megatons of CO2 we still need to cut by 2030 to meet our climate goals. This figure is not a dystopian value that we cannot achieve anyway, but much more than realistic. The only condition is that we realize that the situation is serious and that digital technologies can help us reach our climate goals. A study by Bitkom shows that digital technologies can bring so much potential savings to our economy: In industrial manufacturing through automation and productivity (61 MT); in mobility through intelligent traffic control, smart logistics and sharing mobility (28 MT); in building technology through smart homes and networked buildings (19 MT); or in work and business through e-work (12 MT). In these four fields alone, around 120 megatons of CO2 can be saved. At the same time, these savings lead to greater sustainability.
By working from home, we work more mobile and print out less. In addition, through web conferencing, we ensure less traffic on the roads and thus contribute to the protection of our environment. With the help of intelligent control of material flows and equipment, but also through the use of AI, we help to work more productively and increase our efficiency. This not only saves us money and time, but also benefits the environment. In the area of building management, we are also acting in the interests of our environment through intelligent energy management. After all, smart route planning and the use of sharing models would also make our mobility a bit greener.
78 percent of companies see digitization as an opportunity to tackle climate change and are working with sustainable technologies to make their processes more climate-friendly – and strengthen their business success as a result.
By digitizing our processes, holding online meetings and living a minimalist lifestyle, we may not be able to shrink our overall carbon footprint. But these and many other acts are the first impulses on the way there.
And as Confucius says so well, “The way is the goal” – that alone is what counts and moves us forward collectively as a society.