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Cutting-edge Technologies are Transforming Sustainability Management for Companies: Chittaranjan Meher, Country Leader, IBM Sustainability Software, Business Unit, India/South Asia

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In a recent exclusive interview with Chittaranjan Meher, Country Leader, IBM Sustainability Software, Business Unit, India/South Asia, conducted by Express Computer, the spotlight falls on the transformative shift towards sustainability and environmental responsibility within the business landscape. Meher sheds light on how these principles are no longer merely optional but have become integral to business operations, driven by the increasing expectations of diverse stakeholders.

As businesses navigate this transformative landscape, Meher introduces the concept of “environmental intelligence” and explains its pivotal role in reshaping how companies approach sustainability management. He emphasises the influence of cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics in revolutionising sustainability practices, providing tangible evidence of positive impacts with measurable goals.

Why has sustainability and environmental responsibility become increasingly important for businesses and organisations in recent years?

In recent years, sustainability and environmental responsibility have shifted from being optional and good to having to become an integral part of business operations. This change is primarily driven by the increasing expectations of various stakeholders, including customers, employees, regulators, investors, governments, and NGOs. A significant 60% of CEOs acknowledge experiencing increased pressure to enhance transparency regarding their organisation’s sustainability performance.

The move towards sustainability is not solely driven by compliance obligations but also due to its play of role in critical investment decisions. Additionally, creating a positive impact through sustainability initiatives can attract talent, acquire new customers, and provide the business with a compelling story to inspire.

Importantly, infusing sustainability into business strategy continues to gain prominence. According to the 2022 IBM Institute for Business Value study, organisations that prioritise sustainability as a transformation catalyst—integrating it into both strategy and operational processes—outperform others, in terms of revenue growth, so eventually sustainability leads to profitability.

Could you explain the concept of “environmental intelligence” and how it is transforming how businesses approach sustainability management?

Environmental intelligence involves gathering, analysing, and refining environmental information, enabling stakeholders to make informed decisions and take effective action. This includes understanding the complexities of ecological systems, along with the social, economic, environmental (e.g. weather) and political factors that impact them.

Data management plays a pivotal role in this transformation, as advanced technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) enhance the selection, processing, and application of the vast amounts of data available. This shift is reshaping how businesses approach sustainability management by offering a more nuanced comprehension of environmental dynamics and fostering data-driven decision-making.

How are cutting-edge technologies, such as artificial intelligence and data analytics, revolutionising sustainability management for companies?

Cutting-edge technologies like AI, hybrid cloud, and data analytics are transforming sustainability management for companies. This evolution extends beyond rhetoric, requiring tangible evidence of positive impact with measurable goals and transparent reporting.

This shift requires a fresh approach to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) data management. It involves consistently collecting ESG-related data, with results reported as clearly as any statutory financial disclosure.

Leaders are actively leveraging the potential of emerging technologies to scale, accelerate, and enhance ESG efforts. For instance, IBM’s ESG Data Conundrum Report identifies leaders are 58% more likely than laggards to have developed the hybrid cloud capabilities for ESG, 33% more likely to have made significant progress with AI for ESG, and more than twice as likely to have progressed significantly with the use of advanced analytics for ESG. This tech-driven strategy aligns with the imperative of making substantial contributions to sustainability goals while meeting the expectations of diverse stakeholders.

Technology is also providing means and ways to programmatically collect the data directly from the source systems (be it Information Technology systems such as CRM, ERPs, HR or Operational Technology systems such as BMS, SCADA, PLCs, metres and sensors).

How does IBM prioritise sustainability and environmental responsibility in its overall business strategy?

IBM recognises that sustainability is not merely a corporate social responsibility but a fundamental business imperative. The company adopts a two-fold approach by engaging in social impact initiatives such as the Sustainability Accelerator program and providing business solutions like Maximo, TRIRIGA, Environmental Intelligence Suite (EIS) and Envizi. These solutions support enterprises on their sustainability journey, underlining IBM’s commitment to integrating environmental and social considerations into core business strategies.

How do IBM’s Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) applications contribute to environmental sustainability, and what makes them potential game-changers in this context?

In the present era of sustainability-focused enterprises and businesses, there is a pressing need for intelligent asset management systems capable of monitoring, predicting maintenance, and ensuring reliability to thrive amidst constant change. IBM’s Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) applications, notably IBM Maximo, play a crucial role in meeting these requirements seamlessly through a unified, microservices enabled containerised technology platform. Fueled by cutting-edge technologies such as AI, IoT, and analytics, this platform optimises performance, prolongs asset life cycles, and substantially mitigates operational downtime and costs.

The integration of this leading-edge technology guarantees a user-friendly experience with configurable CMMS, EAM, APM, and RCM applications, accompanied by a simplified process for installation and administration.

According to the IDC Business Value of IBM Maximo report, organisations adopting these solutions experience substantial annual benefits, including an average of USD 14.6 million per organisation in business benefits, a remarkable 43% reduction in unplanned downtime, and USD 8.6 million in total equipment cost avoidances annually. In essence, robust EAM applications stand as a cornerstone for modern enterprises striving for efficiency, sustainability, and economic benefits.

In your opinion, how can businesses effectively integrate sustainability into their day-to-day operations, and what role does technology play in facilitating this integration?

Businesses can effectively integrate sustainability into their day-to-day operations by implementing practices such as energy conservation, waste reduction, and water management. These initiatives not only contribute to environmental responsibility but also enable businesses to be frugal. Sustainable operations often entail optimising processes and resources that lead to improved operational efficiency.

Technology serves as a key facilitator in this integration. Detecting quality defects early in the manufacturing process is critical for saving time and money, preventing rework, and avoiding recall costs. Similarly, Computer Vision-based quality inspection emerges as a game-changer, enabling organisations to identify defects promptly and take corrective actions, aligning with the zero-defect business imperative.

Furthermore, understanding equipment health through technology can prevent unexpected downtime, breakdowns, and enhance reliability. This proactive approach aligns with the zero-downtime business objective, ensuring continuous operations. In essence, technology not only enhances sustainability practices but also fosters cost-efficient and reliable day-to-day operations for businesses committed to environmental responsibility.

When implementing sustainability initiatives, how does IBM recommend companies measure and evaluate the impact of these efforts? Are there specific metrics or KPIs that you find particularly insightful?

IBM recommends a comprehensive approach for companies to measure and evaluate the impact of sustainability initiatives, aligning with the Industry 4.0 journey. Leveraging tools like IBM Envizi and IBM Maximo Application Suite, organisations can define robust sustainability strategies and facilitate ESG reporting for scope 1, 2, and 3, adhering to major standards such as CDP, GRI, BRSR, among others. To gauge the effectiveness of these efforts, specific metrics and KPIs play a crucial role:

– IBM Maximo Application Suite enables functions to optimise the business processes to achieve operational efficiencies. IBM defines this process in multi-stage starting with Maximo “Manage” to get a full visibility about the plant operations, working of equipment (assets), defining processes through a specialised asset management software solution.

– The next logical stage of condition monitor is enabled through Maximo ‘Monitor” by integrating OT systems (PLCs, SCADAs, BMS, metres, sensors etc) so that machine data can be collected in real time data and get analysed by an inbuilt AI engine.

– Organisations can also enable major KPIs such as MTTR, MTBF, OEE, and others with IBM Maximo “Health & Predict” which takes Industry 4.0 journey to next level by enabling reliability and predictive analytics based assets performance management and enables KPIs such as health index, RUL (remaining useful life), risks, failure probability, and other key performance indicators.

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1 Comment
  1. ESG compliance says

    Chittaranjan Meher highlights the transformative impact of cutting-edge technologies on sustainability management for companies, underlining the role of innovation in shaping a more resilient and eco-conscious business landscape.

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