New Accenture report highlights the importance of digital transformation and connectivity to achieving Canada’s sustainability goals and fighting climate change

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The need for a sustainable economy that provides a good quality of life while also protecting the planet is a concern for everyone. Canada’s current approach to sustainability focuses largely on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through the adoption of renewables and developing alternative energy sources.

While important, these steps will not be enough to meet Canada’s sustainability goals and must be complemented by other measures.

In 2020, Accenture published Accelerating 5G in Canada: The Role of 5G in the Fight Against Climate Change. It focused on the role 5G serves in making Canada’s wireless networks more energy efficient, and its role in the creation of new innovative technologies that will help reduce Canada’s carbon footprint.

As a follow up to its 2020 white paper, Accenture has published a new report, Canada’s next sustainability frontier: Powering digital transformation with connectivity, that examines the importance of digital transformation to combating climate change and other environmental harms. In simple terms, digital transformation involves industries using data and technology to become more productive, while reducing waste and lowering energy consumption.

In examining how digital transformation can drive both productivity and sustainability, the report focuses on three of Canada’s most important industries, the Oil & Gas, Mining, and Agriculture sectors. Using potential use cases in these industries, Accenture illustrates how connected devices and sensors, along with technologies such as digital twins, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing, can be used by businesses to operate more efficiently and safely, and in turn reduce energy and fuel consumption as well as produce less waste.

A few of the use cases highlighted in the report include:

  • the use of sensors and drones in predictive maintenance of oil rig equipment can significantly limit unnecessary downtime and energy consumption, while digital twin technology can help optimize drilling parameters and reduce wasted fuel use by 20%;
  • connected technologies can help manage mining tailings ponds 25% more efficiently and with a 90% decrease in environmental compliance safety incidents; and
  • water and fertilizer use in the agricultural sector can be reduced by 20-40% using sensors and drones to monitor crops.

Critically, each of these use cases requires advanced wireless and wireline networks to support the exponential growth in bandwidth, speed, simultaneous connections, and reliability needed to power the devices and technologies that enable digital transformation and greater sustainability.

But realizing the full benefits of this intersection of connectivity, industry modernization and sustainability will not happen without the right policies and collaboration. Accenture concludes that achieving the productivity and sustainability benefits of digital transformation depends on four key enablers:

  1. A regulatory approach that maintains incentives for Canada’s communications service providers to continue to invest in the expansion and enhancement of their wireline and wireless networks;
  2. Solution provider ecosystem collaboration and innovation to ensure that industry verticals have the devices and software that meet their digital transformation and business requirements;
  3. Embracing of digital transformation by industry verticals, including investing in the tools and processes needed to share data across their businesses, and developing and hiring workers with the necessary advanced skillsets; and
  4. An expansion of government approach to addressing environmental challenges, including extending incentives beyond clean technology investments and renewables to include incentives for digital transformation. This approach should also employ a strong emissions measurement strategy so both government and industry can focus on the specific type of digital transformations that have the largest impact.

Canada must look beyond renewables and alternative energy sources to meet its sustainability objectives. Canadian businesses must modernize and transform themselves, not only to become more productive and competitive, but also to reduce their impact on the environment. With Canada having some of the world’s most advanced telecommunication networks, now is the time for governments, communication service providers and industry verticals to leverage this connectivity advantage and work together to build a more sustainable Canada.

Download a copy of the new Accenture report here.