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Process industry: Sustainability is a must

How chemical, pharma, and energy companies are being made greener with digitalization and configuring their products and services in a more sustainable way

June 01 2022Dr. Gökay Ilgin

How can digitalization make businesses greener?

In process industry, sustainability is no longer a nice-to-have, but rather a must. Why? Because, with regard to sustainability, there are always new requirements that have a direct or indirect impact on strategy, processes, and product development. For example, stakeholders or compliance standards require companies to do business in a more sustainable way. Digitalization helps them to find, steer, and successfully implement the right sustainability strategy.

Societal and consumer pressure

Two hands hold a small globe.

The challenges facing companies from the chemical, pharma, and energy sectors today are enormous: rising energy prices, water shortages, and limited supplies of raw materials resulting from the disruption of fragile supply chains have forced companies to become more efficient, resilient, and sustainable. What's more, their stakeholders demand concrete evidence of their activities in sustainability reports.

With regard to providers and manufacturers, consumers are placing increasing importance on a green image, responsible use of resources, and sustainable products or services. McKinsey has conducted a survey on this topic. The results: Providers and manufacturers must act and take a greater interest in a circular economy, waste reduction, sustainable packaging, and recycling with regard to the lifecycle of their products.

Better protection for the climate and environment

Whether chemical, pharma, or energy industry: with regard to climate/environmental protection and social responsibility, these sectors must also adhere to certain laws and guidelines. On a global level, the Agenda 2030 and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations recommend the implementation of 17 sustainability goals. The initiative encompasses economic, ecological, and social aspects that are intended to enable a decent standard of living around the globe and preserve the natural foundations of life in the long term.

Will Europe become the world's first climate-neutral continent? This ambitious goal is the target of the EU Green Deal. The proposed measures are intended to pave the way to a modern, resource-efficient, and competitive economy. As an interim step, the "Fit for 55" program calls for a 55-percent reduction, in comparison to 1990 levels, in net greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. By 2050, the economy should no longer produce any net greenhouse gas emissions, its growth should be decoupled from resource consumption, and there should be a move towards a circular economy.

A constant concern: sustainable or not?

Digital solutions and technologies such as the cloud enable companies from the chemical, pharma, and energy sectors to become more sustainable and resilient over the long term. With high-performance, scalable cloud services, for example, they can map new requirements quickly and flexibly and develop innovative business models that make efficient use of resources.

An example: Our SaaS solution Syrah Sustainability gives businesses a clear overview of all sustainability indicators – aligned with the United Nations 2030 Agenda. A user-friendly dashboard supports them in gathering and evaluating all relevant data. In order to organize business processes in a more efficient and sustainable way, the status quo must first be ascertained. Following this, the effects of certain procedures are measured while processes are optimized and developed further. To this end, Syrah Sustainability delivers data history with trends and target values at the touch of a button. The analysis shows where customers need to improve or whether measures towards CO2 reduction, for example, are genuinely effective.

Green production, green office

Measuring, evaluating, optimizing – how digital solutions and technologies can help businesses to become more sustainable

Industrial processes: Digitalization can reduce the consumption of water and energy in chemical production and ensure more energy-efficient industrical processes within the pharma industry. In addition, digital processes are also simplifying the shift towards green energy and the implementation of Germany's Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG).

Internal processes: This could include, for example, reducing paper consumption in the office through digital document management. Or avoiding commutes to and from the office by embracing flexible working models – and with that saving CO2 emissions.

Supply chain: In order to structure their supply chains more sustainably, chemical, pharma, and energy companies must work with suppliers who implement specific sustainability goals. Among other issues, this is addressed in Germany's Supply Chain Due Diligence Act set to come into force in 2023, which should also serve as a blueprint for corresponding EU legislation in the future. Intelligent digital solutions allow businesses to find suitable "green" suppliers.

Key partner for the chemical, pharma, and energy sectors

As a strategic partner, we assist our customers from the chemical, pharma, and energy sectors with their digital transformations and help them to achieve all of their key sustainability goals. T-Systems itself is also a green business, closely aligning its strategy with sustainability aspects. Through this work and on the basis of many years' project experience, we support our customers in becoming more sustainable and responsible in their use of resources with the help of digitalization.

Our initiative with Shell Gas & Power Developments BV (Shell) shows just how successful collaboration can be. Together, we are pushing forward digital innovations in order to reach the goal of net-zero emissions even faster. Alongside other ideas, we are currently focusing on, for example, Europe-wide charging stations for electric vehicles and solutions for smart cities, which should help cities to decarbonize using aggregated traffic data.

Outlook: What does the future hold?

Which sustainability trends are driving change in the chemical, pharma, and energy sectors? What topic will be at the top of the agenda? The digital transformation is certain to continue gaining momentum. Climate change, but also geopolitical conflicts and associated delivery bottlenecks, require suitable measures to be taken to safeguard value chains and business processes.

What does this mean for you and your company? Be agile and always prepared to tackle new challenges promptly. In previous years, companies would create plans for three to five years; today these plans are more likely to cover one or two years. Short-term goals are even formulated for implementation over the course of a few months. Competition is fierce and your customers have limited patience. Be prepared for this and use all the opportunities presented by digitalization to ensure your growth and business success over the long term.

About the author

Dr. Gökay Ilgin

Head of Competence Center Chemistry & Pharma, Electronics, Utilities, T-Systems International GmbH

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