Digital transformation: a steppingstone towards Net Zero

Aiding in the drive to Net Zero is one of the greatest benefits of digital transformation. Still, advanced virtual meetings do not just reduce carbon footprints, but they also implement a vital steppingstone toward digital transformation, says Jocelyn Lomer

As the force of digital technology grows, changes in working practices are developing whilst businesses are beginning to understand the pace at which the technology industry is evolving. However, the introduction of new and exciting technologies come with a number of implications. Digital transformation in particular allows us to benefit from ground-breaking technologies, whilst also focusing on the issues at large, including the drive to Net Zero attainment. This refers to the balance between the amount of greenhouse gas produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere. We reach Net Zero when the amount we add is no more than the amount taken away.

At a time where climate change has become a primary cause for concern around the world, a focus on digital transformation and virtual practices can play a huge part in balancing the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Leaders need to remain aware of the overall business, technological and environmental factors in play; these not only include the ‘agile organisation’ that is enabled by digital technology, but increasingly their own contributions to Net Zero and required restructuring to meet the needs of the future.

Net Zero: solidifying shifts in working practice

The Climate Change Act of 2008 committed the UK to an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. In June 2019, legislation increased that target to 100%. Although it is unclear how these legal targets will be enforced, it is reasonable to think that the pressure will grow on Net Zero attainment in the coming years. This highlights the importance of introducing and solidifying more digital methods in working practice across many industries.

A major element of digital transformation is collaboration, as employers are keen to understand the best ways that they can keep their employees collaborating effectively without the need to travel and meet in person, which has been accelerated due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is much misunderstanding between collaboration and virtual meetings. In fact, they are differentiated by many elements, specifically time and processes. A virtual meeting happens now, but a collaboration software process may extend for several years. This shows that this method of software is long-term, and can reap benefits for the climate change issue.

The world of technology in the business space is constantly evolving. But what happens when this goes awry? Prior to the digital age, we used to discuss a solution in one room during face-to-face meetings, but now we have access to virtual meeting software. These media are key to digital transformation, as they provide the remote digital interface between ‘the world of humans’ and the ‘digital world’ without being in the same geographical place. It is necessary to understand that the medium utilised for remote meetings has a major effect on cognition, and for the best possible experience, meetings must use the richest possible medium that does not constrain comprehension.

Businesses need to focus on improving their processes rather than buying in technology and hoping for the best. Investment should be made to train employees, so that they fully understand how to use collaboration software, ultimately helping the transformation of a business to digital and aiding in the drive to Net Zero.

Transportation and fuel consumption

It’s evident that car mileage is a key emitter of greenhouse gases, and that travel and transportation are two of the key causes of climate change. BEIS (UK Government Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) states that we need to achieve a target 35% saving of current greenhouse gas expenditure in transportation. A car kilometre with one passenger is 171 grams/km, whilst rail is 41 grams/km, making it four times more efficient. However, due to Covid-19 and social distancing, rail passenger miles are not forecast to recover for around four years.

The reason for business travel and commuting is to gather in an office for meetings and share knowledge around the various projects that we are working on. ‘Natural meetings’ are favoured due to our bodies and minds evolving over millions of years to socially collaborate, and these important human factors should not be underestimated for we interrelate and infer meaning in many subtle ways. With the improvements in virtual meetings and the increased cognition that is now provided, a very large part of these journeys is obviated. In question are hundreds of millions of journeys and the associated major Net Zero gain.

This second largest category defined by BEIS is fuel consumption for electricity generation and other energy production sources. It is likely that a target of 18% reduction is feasible due to increased virtual meetings over a 10-year period. There has been great progress in wind power generation and the reduction in coal powered generation, however natural gas and imported gas are still supplying around 40 to 50% of our energy and emit associated greenhouse gas. With a reduction in business journeys and the requirement for offices, there will be a reduced demand for greenhouse gas energy.

‘Going digital’

We can see that business travel is one of the major contributors to carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, with carbon representing 95%. In this case, how then can we reduce business travel and what is business travel actually about?

Now, more than ever before, is the time to go digital. The increasing climate change issue and the effects of COVID-19 are essentially what have driven this. As the use of collaboration software rises, so does the need to emulate face-to-face meetings so that productivity stays at high levels. A ‘natural meeting’ is preferred due to millions of years of evolution, meaning our bodies and minds have evolved to socially collaborate and these important human factors should not be underestimated.

Current remote collaboration media does not emulate this required natural meeting and this is why we become uncomfortable and suffer from the so-called ‘Zoom’ fatigue, for it is a strain upon our minds to meet in this unnatural way. It is called ‘cognitive reluctance’ and in plain language, it is a hassle and quite tiring. A new generation of virtual meetings is now available, that understands how we work and engages our minds in a most natural way. This and other emerging remote meeting media now allow us to share knowledge in this knowledge economy, immediately without travel, sharing the most complex documents and apps.

Aiding in the drive to Net Zero is one of the greatest benefits of digital transformation. Still, advanced virtual meetings do not just reduce carbon footprints, but they also implement a vital steppingstone toward digital transformation, for it is the interface between the ‘world of digital apps and documents’ and the world of people. Through saving time, money and emission of greenhouse gases, this digital transformation is helping to bring a ‘New Age’ of knowledge sharing and allowing immediate decision making from anywhere in the world, collaborating over visualised Big Data. In terms of knowledge flow for innovation, the broader reach to external knowledge is simply revolutionary.

Jocelyn Lomer is an expert in cognitive technology, with many years experience in engineering, including his current role as the Chief Executive at nuVa Enterprises. He believes in enabling the competitively advantaged agile organisations of the near future. These near future structures are led by cognitive digital models remotely interpreted by rich cognitive media, allowing instant decisions on highly complex matters, immediately without travel. nuVa, in particular, is designed to deliver the richest remote collaboration experience by recreating face-to-face meetings virtually.

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