In the media

IT is at the forefront of tackling climate change

By Johan van Leeuwen

Executive People

28 June 2022


PA’s Mark Griep, financial services expert, comments in an Executive People article on how technology can make a major contribution to combating climate change.

Speaking to Executive People, Mark said: “We want to make the world more sustainable by leveraging the positive benefits of technology.”

He said: There are several ways IT can make the world more sustainable” adding that “companies can of course develop new products or services related to sustainability or social themes. Solar panels are one example. We are working on an alternative to plastic packaging with a food manufacturer that sells a lot of dairy products.”

Mark explained that innovation is central to all these activities: “We help customers innovate when it comes to new services or to changing their organisation. We make use of technology in a broad sense. This applies to IT technology, but we also have a laboratory where, among others, medical, biological and process technologists work. This in-house knowledge makes us truly distinctive as a consultancy. In addition, we place a great deal of value on end-to-end customer support. To do this, we combine all kinds of specialist skills and we can help with many different challenges.”

Regarding another side to sustainable technology, Mark said Technology can increase awareness by providing insight into how we manage energy. A smart thermostat is an example of a product that provides insight.”

And, in the arena of providing insight, there are many opportunities for IT professions, Mark continued: If IT is not the core product you sell, it is often an important additional service. Behind that thermostat is software that provides information. In the same way, banks provide customers with insight into how green a loan or investment is. Data is needed to supply that information and IT professionals can provide those kinds of products.”

Mark explained that at the same time, technology in general and IT in particular can also contribute to making your own business processes greener: “The idea of a digital twin is very popular at the moment. You use this to make a digital copy of your production process with the help of artificial intelligence, among other techniques. This is done by extracting data from the machines. This simulation makes it very easy to look for more efficient ways of producing and making better use of energy. We used this approach with a customer in the nuclear industry. We looked at how we could better regulate the supply and removal of heat, for example by using cooling water as effectively as possible. This is all connected with IT.”

Mark commented on how large companies have taken many steps forward in this arena: “They are also providing more and more insight into how they meet their own objectives on climate and the energy transition, or the broader objectives drawn up by the UN. They are also measuring that performance much better, they have the data and can substantiate it. That is necessary. For example, pension funds want to be able to assure their clients that the money they receive comes from investments that are energy efficient or ethical. There is a lot of IT and technology behind being able to do that.”

He believes that for smaller companies, much of this is already possible too: “The great advantage of today's technology is that it is very user friendly. Previously when you wanted to use software to do something it was often a big and complex task. There were only small software packages available for smaller companies to buy. For example, building a dashboard yourself was a challenge. Now there is much more open-source software available. You can put things together much faster with the right components. Finding the right skills to develop things, though, remains crucial within technology. Expertise will only become more important. If you don't have the skills in your organisation, you will have to find an effective way to manage that.”

Government rules are also playing an increasingly important role, he continues: “Think of the discussion about nitrogen and how that affects farmers' business models. You should not only be looking at the possibilities of technology, but you should also be responding to the regulations. Regulations have drawbacks, but you can also bend them. As Johan Cruyff said, "Every disadvantage has its advantage," concluding that it’s a hopeful sign that young people are full of good ideas: “Every year we organise our so-called Raspberry Pi competition for high school students. This has resulted in very impressive inventions, such as a mobile deposit box for returning empty bottles. The money can also be donated directly to a good cause if you want. That’s brilliant!  Fortunately, young people have a lot of energy, motivation, and skills – in a generation that is stuck with a world that does not look that beautiful. But that certainly also applies to the IT world.”

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