4 Positive Effects of Digital Transformation on the Environment
Technology offers many benefits, including potential solutions to many pressing human problems, including climate change. How can people use existing tools to embrace today’s digital transformation to positively affect the environment?
Humankind might not yet be able to teleport around the world, but it can transmit information via electronic means. This rapid exchange offers promise to multiple industries that significantly impact rising global temperatures, including transportation. Such progress may have arrived at the perfect moment, as experts warn that little time remains to stop the worst of the devastation.
What strategies currently work to decrease total emissions and encourage humans to live greener? Here are four positive effects of digital transformation on the environment.
- Reducing Traffic to Decrease Emissions
The transportation industry contributes the largest percentage of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States and likely the world. However, pandemic strikes and labor actions demonstrated the disruption that occurs when there aren’t enough people and resources to transport goods from point A to B. How can existing technology make the process cleaner and greener?
The transportation sector accounted for 27% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 — but automated solutions and electric vehicles can reduce the industry’s environmental impact. Consider these four ways technological innovation can decrease emissions by ensuring only necessary trucks are on the road.
Better Supplier Management
Part of the technological transformation has entailed digitizing inventory, using tools like scanners to update counts in real time. Improved inventory management allows retailers to order only what they need to meet current demand. This reduces unnecessary shipments that linger in back storage, which would be wasteful if they’re perishable or timely.
Process and Route Automation
Companies can use technology to determine the best placement of goods on trucks and trains to maximize available cargo space without adversely affecting fuel efficiency. Anyone who has used the Waze app or a similar competitor knows that the digital world can also map out the most sustainable routes, avoiding delays like road construction that can increase idle time and emissions.
Improved Last-Mile Delivery With Fewer Emissions
Once trucks and trains transport manufactured and imported goods to distribution centers, they still need to reach customers’ hands. Unpiloted aircraft can help. Drones create far fewer emissions when performing last-mile deliveries than diesel trucks. If one hasn’t buzzed by your front door yet to drop off a package, expect it to happen shortly.
Conversion to Electric Fleets
Drone delivery won’t be the most feasible option in every case. Distribution centers must also supply large orders to retail stores.
Switching to this technology has multiple advantages for small and large companies alike. Consider some of the perks that go well beyond environmental protection:
- Increased sustainability policies and incentives: Both local and national governments offer various perks for companies to switch to electric fleets. For example, the United States federal tax incentive is $7,500 per vehicle.
- Decreasing cost of ownership: EVs used to cost far more than combustion engines, but improving battery technology has reduced the purchase price significantly.
- Lower fuel costs: Somebody has to pay for the diesel in a semi, typically the company.
- Improved public image: Your reputation matters in business. Most consumers support companies that take corporate social responsibility seriously and are willing to pay more for sustainability.
You might recognize some familiar names on this list of corporations making the switch to electric fleets:
- Best Buy
- Waste Management
Decreased Commuter Traffic
Although this factor is often overlooked, guarding company secrets once meant commuting to an office to access locked file cabinets. However, businesses can now protect their proprietary information electronically, meaning team members can log in from anywhere instead of making an unnecessary drive. The COVID-19 pandemic illustrated the staggering effect of telecommuting on climate change — is there truly a need to return to the office daily?
All these innovations result in fewer vehicles on the road daily. Those that do hit the highway contribute far less to climate change, thanks to improved electric technology.
- Increasing Accuracy for Fewer Mistakes
Mistakes don’t only waste unnecessary human time and money to correct. They also exact an ecological toll. For example, it takes a special call to environmental health and safety personnel to dispose of hazardous materials like paint, as throwing such substances into the trash invites catastrophe. Can you imagine the ecological impact of a contractor who accidentally ordered 30 pallets of the wrong industrial paint color?
Fortunately, this positive effect of digital transformation means fewer mistakes due to human error. For example, electronic ordering alone eliminates input errors — and blockchain leaves little doubt about who made the request. Consider these additional ways technology can eliminate costly and environmentally hazardous mistakes:
- Guiding surgeons in practice: Many procedures now use digital tools and lasers instead of human hands. The medical industry creates tons of single-use plastic waste with every operation. Correcting errors causes unnecessary pain, suffering and resource use.
- Safeguarding construction site safety and deterring theft: The built environment contributes the second-leading percentage to climate change. Preventing accidents on job sites protects humans and prevents possible environmental nightmares like chemical spills. Areas are surveyed to identify and correct minor errors before they become big problems.
- Minimizing product defects: Returning non-complying goods doubles the shipping costs and emissions. Using automated assembly processes reduces the risk of product defects.
- Employing Technology in Environmental Cleanups
The ocean is so awash with plastic waste that microparticles even exist in the Marianas Trench, the deepest spot on earth. The seas cover nearly 70% of the planet, making cleanup a monster chore.
Drones aren’t only good for deliveries. They can also scan the globe for garbage patches — then the fun begins. These unpiloted aircraft dispatch yet another team of drones to handle the cleanup effort.
Such technology can also prevent trouble before it starts, helping thwart some of the effects of climate change already occurring, like stronger hurricanes. For example, 2018’s Hurricane Florence overflowed countless swine ponds, contaminating area waterways with toxic waste. Drones and remote sensing technology can detect potential agricultural runoff before disaster strikes so owners can shore up protection.
- Decreasing Deforestation
Decreasing deforestation is a final positive effect of digital transformation on the environment. Currently, manufacturers make most paper from trees, although 2018’s Farm Bill passage paves the way for hemp.
Each living tree removes more than 48 pounds of carbon from the atmosphere each year. Planting enough of them while maintaining the current supply could go a long way toward keeping temperatures from rising more than 1.5 F.
Fortunately, digitization means less need for paper. More offices have transformed into a paperless environment, saving supply costs while greening their carbon footprint.
Positive Effects of Digital Transformation on the Environment
The world has changed, thanks to technology. This innovation could help, not harm, the planet.
Consider the positive effects of digital transformation on the environment. Encouraging more global business leaders to take these steps could provide the push to stop climate change’s worst devastation — just in time.