How Technology Helps in Achieving Sustainable Development

By Gopikrishna Balijepally, Senior Vice President, Hitachi Vantara India


In today’s rapidly evolving world, the pursuit of sustainability has emerged as a pivotal goal for organisations worldwide. A staggering eight out of 10 companies have boldly declared their commitment to reducing emissions, with a remarkable 73 per cent of Indian businesses confident they are ahead in their carbon reduction journey. These figures, however, only scratch the surface. 

A sobering 40 per cent of Indian organisations lack a concrete sustainability strategy and implementation plan. The goal of net-zero carbon emissions remains distant, with an average target year of 2054, which is 31 years from now.

The ethical obligation to reduce carbon emissions continues to be a compelling driver for sustainability. Data and technology platforms emerge as a catalyst for reaching sustainability objectives.

However, Indian organizations face several significant challenges in their sustainability journey. Firstly, they must grapple with the task of identifying relevant material issues that directly impact stakeholders and align with their ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) strategies. Conducting comprehensive materiality assessments that consider a wide range of stakeholder requirements is crucial for developing a sustainable roadmap. Data collection also poses a hurdle, as the absence of standardized reporting rules can make it challenging to gather the necessary data for impactful ESG disclosures. 

Smaller and mid-sized businesses in India also struggle to absorb ESG-related costs. Determining the key focus areas for sustainability transformation and securing funding for this journey remain formidable challenges. As India transitions away from its heavy reliance on coal, fossil fuels, and biomass for energy production it presents a monumental task that requires strategic planning, value chain collaboration, and a steadfast commitment to sustainability at all organizational levels.

The Power of Data-driven Sustainability

To become a data-driven enterprise, organisations require a forward-thinking strategy Data and technology have the inherent potential to not only shape but also expedite the journey towards sustainability, ultimately conferring a significant competitive advantage in an increasingly competitive marketplace. 

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a compass for global sustainable development efforts. One of these goals, under SDG 9, calls for building resilient infrastructure and promoting sustainable industrialisation by 2030—a mission that necessitates technology-driven solutions.

Data-driven Initiatives for the Future

The future of sustainability depends on practical, data-driven initiatives that focus on intelligent data collection, management and analysis. Companies that adopt this fundamental approach, as highlighted in a recent study conducted by the Harvard Business Review (HBR), are poised to elevate all facets of their operations. The study found that organisations that took a data-driven approach during the COVID-19 pandemic were best positioned to navigate the upheaval of the past few years. In particular, the use of accurate, high-quality data integrated across the organisation proved instrumental in real-time decision-making at critical moments. 

Embracing data-driven strategies not only enhances sustainability efforts but also strengthens alignment with environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) targets, to equip organisations to meet ever-increasing regulatory requirements.

Unlocking the Potential of Data 

Enterprises must harness the vast volumes of data generated daily to meet social and environmental objectives. The data enables real-time decision-making for a sustainable future. By becoming data-driven, businesses can embark on a profound sustainability transformation journey.

Numerous organisations are already pioneering data-driven sustainability initiatives. An American multinational e-commerce company deploys sensors in its data centres to capture edge data, powering dashboards that offer integrated sustainability analytics. By using the insights derived from these analytics, businesses are trying to reduce carbon emissions and energy consumption.

Another enterprise, located near a World Heritage-listed region teeming with natural wonders, employs advanced data analytics, AI, ML and sensor technologies to predict the precise moment when fruits reach maturity. The proactive approach significantly reduces the use of fertilisers and water.

Smart farming drives data-driven sustainability as it employs a combination of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and Global Positioning System (GPS) tags, solar-powered sensors and weather stations to capture data. Solar-powered edge computing processes this data according to the farm’s specific needs, enabling managers to predict and proactively address challenges and risks.

Closer to home in India, a data-driven approach by Hitachi Infrastructure Systems Division has enabled AIIMS to enhance its energy management and reduce its carbon footprint. By installing a rooftop Solar Power System and Energy Management System, as well as upgrading the hospital’s power infrastructure, AIIMS has improved its existing infrastructure, resulting in a 30 per cent reduction in energy consumption.

The Power of Partnerships

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 17, titled “Partnerships for the Goals,” underscores the importance of cross-sector collaboration. It calls upon all countries, both developed and developing, to ensure that no one is left behind in the pursuit of sustainable development.

As enterprises navigate the path to decarbonisation and sustainability, support is essential for refining and executing their plans. Such support includes understanding the carbon footprint through insightful data, identifying “carbon hot spots” and prioritising effective mitigation strategies.

Technology and data-driven initiatives are not only integral components of sustainable development, but also the key to achieving our collective sustainability goals. As organisations embrace technology-driven approaches, they will play a pivotal role in shaping a sustainable future for all.