8 Future Sustainability Trends For Industry

8 future sustainability trends for industry

Feb. 21, 2023
Technology providers and industry partners and leaders discuss the many faces of sustainability.

The increased focus on ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance) policies and global commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions have narrowed in on industry and its relationship with the environment.

In some cases, sustainability practices are reaching even further than green initiatives to employee safety, ethics, and diversity and inclusion. The tie that binds sustainability practices and the future is technology and data analysis. Technology gives industry the tools to understand, measure, and improve sustainability, supporting quick scale-up measures and laying an infrastructure foundation for the future. With the right tools, sustainability might even be profitable.

1.    Sustainability is more than the environment.

“We’ve integrated sustainability more broadly into our corporate governance, corporate strategy and risk management processes, and it is a key deliverable for senior-level leaders. Our board of directors as a whole has oversight of ESG and is responsible for understanding and addressing emerging trends, regulations, risks, and opportunities and the impact they can have on the methanol industry and our business and stakeholders.”
Katey Grist, director of corporate sustainability, Methanex.

2.    Sustainability will require transparency, so industry can tackle issues together.

“It was very encouraging to see ESG executives really embrace transparency. Companies can meet 80% of the long-term net zero goal, but the last 20% requires more transparency between end user communities, solutions providers, and the stakeholders and communities they both serve. … Transparency is going to help those solutions come forward and unleash the alliances and partnerships and creativity to address the 20% that we don't know how we're going to get there yet.”
Peter Manos, director of research, ARC Advisory Group.

3.    Sustainability isn’t sprinkled in at the end; it’s the foundation.

“In design, you're open; you're really creating new possibilities, creating new ideas, new opportunities, new products, new processes. In operations, you then push the asset to the limits of the performance. … It’s all working together to go forward for goals like profitability and sustainability, and increasingly these two need to be addressed together. You cannot just have sustainability without profitability.”
Dr. Vikas Dhole, general manager of sustainability, industry business unit of Aspen Technology

4.    Industry will need a deep understanding of how to measure the sustainability of energy.

“Can you give me the carbon footprint of a particular widget that we're delivering? Or what's the carbon footprint per tonne of paper? Or what's the carbon footprint per machined part that we're shipping? … As soon as they figure out which is more sustainable, there's a big percentage of consumers who are going to change their habits immediately.”
Spencer Cramer, founder and CEO, ei3

5.    Data is the key to better sustainability.

“A specific example is with SCADA or HMI systems that work very well on the production floor, if there is a speed, temperature, etc., out of tolerance. The issue is that many times this data is not stored for future analysis. With expiring data from the SCADA/HMI, it leaves gaps in the data for analysis and future machine learning. … Many manufacturers face the challenge of reconciling what should be produced (ERP) with what has been produced and how scrap and rework have affected the original order quantities. As a result, tracking their sustainability progress is nearly impossible.”
Nancy Finnegan, Vice President, Sales, FactoryEye North America

6.    Sustainability is no longer a question of if but when.

“Even if the regulatory landscape has been proliferated and somewhat vague up to this point, we are seeing developments unfolding quickly from now on. … In the U.S., the Securities and Exchange Commission is in the process of finalizing its Mandatory Climate Risk Disclosures legislation, requiring SEC registrants to disclose climate-related information in annual filings.”
Maggie Slowik, global industry director for manufacturing, IFS

7.    Sustainability can be good for business.

“External influencers like public policy makers and institutional investors, not to mention a large percentage of citizens globally, have made it clear: clean up our environment for the sake of future generations or you may lose the right to operate. Yet many companies are also realizing that sustainable operations are good for business. They are reducing materials consumption, lowering their energy costs, improving their personnel recruiting practices, mitigating the risk of fines for non-compliance and increasingly protecting their ability to earn lucrative contracts based on their environmental performance.”
Seth Harris, director of sustainability for the Americas, Emerson

8.    Sustainability will extend beyond the plant footprint.

“Everything that moves in a physical supply chain carries its carbon footprint with it, and that’s transformative. … We shift the focus to being able to look at the movement of materials through the supply chain, and through the factory floor.”
Doug Lawson, CEO of ThinkIQ.

About the Author

Anna Townshend | managing editor

Anna Townshend has been a journalist and editor for almost 20 years. She joined Control Design and Plant Services as managing editor in June 2020. Previously, for more than 10 years, she was the editor of Marina Dock Age and International Dredging Review. In addition to writing and editing thousands of articles in her career, she has been an active speaker on industry panels and presentations, as well as host for the Tool Belt and Control Intelligence podcasts. Email her at [email protected].

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