Making sustainability profitable with intelligent Automation

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Guest comment by Ben Tamblyn

The government has admitted with its revised Net Zero Strategy that it will fail to meet 2023 emission targets. even with a ‘best-case scenario’, the revised plan would only deliver 92 per cent of the emission reductions needed to meet these goals.

The strategy has been criticised for needing more clarity and setting out where necessary investment is to come from. Many felt disappointed by the ‘business as usual’ approach, especially as the original strategy was deemed unlawful for its lack of transparency on how emissions were to be met.

Due to the uncertainty on energy prices, sustainability is taking a back seat to energy security. While the government needs to catch up on green objectives, there is an opportunity for private companies to take the lead.

Some have already started implementing sustainable measures. A recently published study showed that 62 per cent of shoppers said they would not cut down on spending on sustainable products and services despite ongoing economic uncertainty. Sustainability is important for B2B businesses as well.

Research shows that 72 per cent of B2B buyers are more likely to purchase from companies that do well on socio-political issues they consider important.

This sentiment is also reflected in business leaders’ perception of their business’s role in achieving sustainable development goals by 2023.

The UN and Accenture’s Global Compact CEO study found that four in ten CEOs believe businesses play an important role in meeting SDG goals. Sixty three per cent also report launching new products and/or service offerings for sustainability to meet evolving global challenges.

On both the client and business side, there is a great appetite for sustainability and a realisation that the private sector can drive efforts to meet sustainability targets.

To create a real impact, business leaders must avoid viewing sustainability as a driver of higher costs. They must recognise that embedding sustainability into their strategic objectives is a prerequisite for profits and long-term growth.

The case for intelligent automation in sustainability

Emerging technologies, such as intelligent automation, leverage the power of AI and automation to streamline business processes resulting in more efficient practices that save both money and resources.

Intelligent automation helps business leaders by focusing on three key areas:

Optimising processes for lower emissions: Using artificial intelligence and robotic process automation to analyse existing processes, it’s possible to identify and even mitigate environmental risks.

A major benefit of intelligent automation is the reduction of paper consumption. Going paperless can reduce CO2 emissions by around 250,000 kg. Most organisations still have many manual and paper-based processes that are ready to be digitised.

For example, by using RPA, pharmaceutical manufacturer Clariant analysed a business process that was historically taking 3-4 weeks to run. Through process automation, they eliminated 40,000 printouts by digitising the invoice production. These results have had a significant impact on their carbon emissions.

Improve carbon reporting: Cutting carbon emissions starts with a commitment to improved reporting. Data collection and aggregation are often time-consuming and prone to human error.

But the combination of RPA and intelligent document processing can automate multiple steps required in carbon reporting to speed up the process and improve accuracy. Accuracy is achieved by analysing existing processes and mitigating environmental risks wherever possible.

A British motor racing team was able to cut down 50% of its time spent on carbon reporting by incorporating automation into the process. Having greater visibility into their carbon-emission data leads to more informed decision making about reducing emissions.

Driving growth through intelligent automation: Cutting down on time to complete processes means valuable human resources can be used efficiently on higher value-added tasks.

Skanska, a multinational construction and development company, has automated 35 business-critical processes, accounting for over 10,000 hours returned to the business. Shorter implementation times, low, upfront capital requirements, and solution versatility mean business leaders at Skanska can scale-up and scale down their operations to meet customer needs.

Businesses must commit to building responsibly

As inflationary pressures buffer the global economy, organisations are trying to strike the right balance between prioritising operational efficiency and investing in building a more sustainable business.

It’s not about doing more with less but looking critically at business processes, identifying opportunities to eliminate manual tasks, and making decisions that are not only aligned with both short-term and long-term growth but also building a responsible and ethical business.

Ben Tamblyn is VP Global Communications, for Nintex