Better adoption of digital processes will help construction sector reduce its role in greenhouse emissions. And the time to do it is now. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

There are many factors that have impacted our present and certainly affect our future and of our planet, from soaring inflation to the threat of food security and squeezed supply chains. Climate change sits on top of this list.

To slow down and potentially reverse its impact, digital transformation across industries can facilitate sustainable operations through the adoption of digital processes while meeting the ever-increasing demand on the environment.

With the numerous risks to the global economy, participants at this year’s World Economic Forum summit had their work cut out for them. Business leaders recognised the need to act, broaden their view of corporate responsibilities, leverage technologies to adopt greener practices, and develop long-term financing strategies to optimise the growth and climate courses we are embarked on.

This is, in part, bolstered by a secular shift in expectations from consumers. Business leaders face a growing demand to do right by people and the planet. Consumers have power with their purchasing purses and are increasingly attracted by purpose. Employees choose jobs with organisations that prioritise diversity and are conscious of their environmental impact.

Investors are also favouring sustainably minded companies. There’s a push for the corporate world to have greater accountability and awareness, and companies are beginning to rise to this challenge.

First Movers Coalition

This year, we also saw the formation of the First Movers Coalition. Its purpose is to stoke demand for green versions of materials that have proved challenging to manufacture without significant carbon dioxide emissions. The group now has 50 signatories, including Ford Motor Company and Volvo Group, both of which have pledged to manufacture 10 per cent of their primary aluminium purchases with little to no carbon emissions by 2030.

Alphabet, Google’s parent company, Microsoft and Salesforce have pledged to invest $500 million in technology to capture and store carbon emissions. Autodesk, who recently shared its FY22 Impact Report, outlined its approach and performance across important environmental, social and governance issues.

Notably, it neutralised greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across operations and the entire value chain for a second year in a row. In October 2021, Autodesk had issued its first sustainability bond, totalling $1 billion, to further align its financial and impact strategies.

The UAE is among the countries prioritising sustainability initiatives. It has forged its path with a focus on achieving net zero emissions by 2050. This starts through a coordination of efforts at a national level of all relevant stakeholders who will plan and implement strategies and policies to achieve the ambitious goal.

UAE sights clear goals

A pillar of the effort is renewable energy with the UAE recording a significant increase in its renewable energy capacity to reach 14GW by 2030, up from about 100MW in 2015 and 2.4GW in 2020. The UAE is making a real difference, firmly establishing itself as a world leader on one of the most critical social-economic topics in recorded history: climate change.

To take meaningful climate action, the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) and manufacturing industries are a great place to start. According to the UN Environment 2021 Global Status Report For Buildings and Construction, the sector accounted for 36 per cent of global final energy consumption and 37 per cent of energy-related CO2 emissions. 40 per cent of total GHG comes from the built environment. While accounting for 13 per cent of global GDP, construction consumes more than half of global extracted raw materials.

The manufacturing sector has benefited from a wider digital transformation, but it still accounts for 19 per cent of global GHG emissions. It is estimated that due to the population growth and the associated increase in demand, the manufacturing sector will require at least twice the energy and the material by 2050.

As this global shift toward sustainability gains momentum, digital transformation is accelerating across AEC and manufacturing. As a result, companies not only become greener through gained efficiencies and reduced waste but also save money and enhance their business model.

When AEC companies embrace digitalisation and manufacturers incorporate Industry 4.0 tools and practices, they are on track to deliver better projects for the world, and enhancing their bottom line in the process.

How do we accomplish all of this?

A very impactful next step is to create a public-private sector collaboration where policymakers engage with businesses to understand their needs and craft policy that rewards milestones in digital transformation eventually leading to net zero.

Autodesk remains committed to advancing sustainable business practices as a net zero carbon company. We have an even more vital role in empowering our customers and other innovators to understand the impact of design better and make decisions on energy and materials used.

Digital transformation, done right, is part of a larger solution aimed to measure, manage, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve global health and resilience, as well as provide the talent of the future with opportunities for engagement, growth and learning.