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New ABB study unveils critical relationship between digitalisation and sustainability

ABB has released the findings of a new global study of international business and technology leaders on industrial transformation, looking at the intersection of digitalisation and sustainability. The study, ‘Billions of better decisions: industrial transformation’s new imperative’, examines the current take up of the Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) and its potential for improving energy efficiency, lowering greenhouse gas emissions and driving change. The goal of the new ABB research is to spur discussion within industry regarding opportunities to leverage the Industrial IoT and empower companies and workers to make better decisions that can benefit both sustainability and the bottom line.


‘Sustainability goals more and more are a crucial driver of business value and company reputation, and Industrial IoT solutions are playing an increasingly important role in helping enterprises achieve safe, smart and sustainable operations,’ said Peter Terwiesch, president of ABB’s Process Automation business area. ‘Unlocking insights hidden in operational data holds the key to enabling literally billions of better decisions throughout industry and acting upon them, with significant gains in productivity, reduced energy consumption and lower environmental impact.’



The study, commissioned by ABB, found that an organisation’s ‘future competitiveness’ is the single greatest factor – cited by 46% of respondents – in industrial companies’ increased focus on sustainability. Yet while 96% of global decision makers view digitalisation as ‘essential to sustainability’, only 35% of surveyed firms have implemented Industrial IoT solutions at scale. This gap shows that while many of today’s industrial leaders recognise the important relationship between digitalisation and sustainability, the adoption of relevant digital solutions to enable better decisions and achieve sustainability goals needs to accelerate in sectors like manufacturing, energy, buildings and transport.


Further key learnings from the study:

  • 71% of respondents reported greater priority given to sustainability objectives as a result of the pandemic.

  • 72% said they are ‘somewhat’ or ‘significantly’ increasing spending on Industrial IoT due to sustainability.

  • 94% of respondents agreed the Industrial IoT ‘enables better decisions, improving overall sustainability’.

  • 57% of respondents indicated the Industrial IoT has had a ‘significant positive effect’ on operational decision making.

  • Perceived cybersecurity vulnerabilities are the number one barrier to improving sustainability through the Industrial IoT.


With 63% of executives surveyed strongly agreeing that sustainability is good for their company’s bottom line, and 58% also strongly agreeing it delivers immediate business value, it is clear that sustainability and traditional priorities of Industry 4.0 efforts – speed, innovation, productivity, efficiency, customer centricity – are increasingly intertwined, opening up win-win scenarios for companies looking to drive efficiency and productivity while making strides on climate change.


‘The International Energy Agency estimates that industry accounts for more than 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions today,’ said Peter Terwiesch. ‘If we are to reach climate objectives such as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement, industrial organisations need to implement digital solutions as part of their sustainability strategies. Embracing these technologies at all levels – from the boardroom to the facility floor – is key, as every member of the industrial workforce can become a better decision maker when it comes to sustainability.’


ABB is committed to leading with technology to enable a low carbon society and a more sustainable world. Over the past two years, it has reduced greenhouse gas emissions from its own operations by more than 25%. As part of its Sustainability strategy 2030, the company expects to be fully carbon neutral by decade’s end and to support its global customers in reducing their annual CO2 emissions by at least 100 megatons by 2030, the equivalent of removing 30 million combustion cars from the roads each year.


ABB’s investments in digital capabilities are core to this commitment. With more than 70% of ABB’s research and development resources dedicated to digital and software innovations, and a robust ecosystem of digital partners, including Microsoft, IBM and Ericsson, the company has established a leading presence in Industrial IoT.


The ABB Ability portfolio of digital solutions enables a host of industrial use cases to power improvements in energy efficiency, resource conservation and circularity, including condition monitoring, asset health and management, predictive maintenance, energy management, simulation and virtual commissioning, remote support and collaborative operations. Examples of more than 170 Industrial IoT solutions include ABB Ability Genix industrial analytics and AI suite; Ability Energy and Asset Manager; Ability Condition Monitoring for Powertrains; and Ability Connected Services for industrial robots.


To continue the conversation on this important topic, ABB will host an industry webinar on Wednesday, March 2, focused on the convergence of digitalisation and sustainability, and how the Industrial IoT and related technologies can help save energy, conserve resources, and improve safety for personnel and communities. Leading technology journalist and climate investor Molly Wood will moderate this virtual panel discussion featuring senior executives, best selling authors and other thought leaders to explore this convergence and how industrial organisations can empower better, more sustainable decision making throughout the enterprise.


You can find out more about the webinar here