If you ask almost any business what their long-term strategic goals are, Sustainability and Digital Transformation are probably both near the top of the list. While these might seem like two very different issues, they are in fact closely linked.
Companies that are serious about making their operations greener need data to fully understand their energy consumption and pollution output. This ‘big data’ is acquired through digital transformation, which digitalizes operations and makes it possible to track green metrics.
These are challenges all industries face, but they take on particular importance in Retail. Consumers are increasingly conscious of the environmental impact of the products they buy, but it’s the large footprint of retail that poses the biggest problem. A single store can produce more than a thousand metrics tons of CO2 a year, and most retailers will have hundreds if not thousands of stores in the US alone.
So how can retailers track sustainability?
The answer lies in data consolidation, which is the practice of integrating disparate data streams to create a complete picture of operations. Consolidation means
tearing down data silos, having a centralized database and ensuring that all store systems are fully connected, whether that’s measuring the power draw of a bank of refrigerators, or monitoring the store HVAC.
This database needs to be properly structured and interfaced with full data visualization to make it easy for stakeholders and management to interrogate, compare and understand the data being presented to them.
Practical and Green
Digital transformation has some immediate and practical benefits that also reduce environmental impact considerably.
Using mobile works management applications to complete and evidence compliance can save millions on paper costs alone. The ease and speed of completing checks using a smart phone also saves time for busy shop floor staff.
This mobile way of working also reduces response times significantly. Refrigerators and freezers left open by customers can drain huge amounts of energy, but an alert from your sensor network can let your colleagues know where the problem is so they can resolve it quickly.
Data collected on every action is uploaded to the cloud automatically for visualization in dynamic dashboards that provide assurance and insight to senior stakeholders.
This transformation facilitates strategic and operational thinking on sustainability: are instore assets running efficiently and in good repair?; Could we turn our HVAC system down in the autumn when the weather is more temperate?; Can we compare footfall to refrigerator door opens counted by a sensor?
Although reporting does not equal progress, accurate and detailed data gives upper management the critical facts and backing to make better business decisions – without this any commitments to sustainability are simply speculative.
This also makes it far easier for companies to demonstrate their sincerity to third-party agencies that verify Corporate Social Responsibility reports.
A new way
It’s commonly perceived that sustainability and green projects come at a significant cost that won’t be recouped, that its impact on the bottom line can only be negative and that radical change in a company only comes with a lot of pain and loss.
However, the digital transformation that’s required to get there can be implemented gradually, and offers the opportunity to work more efficiently and effectively. Retailers who have already digitized their store logbooks have saved thousands of trees, and millions in paper and printing costs; And those who have analyzed their asset data have been able to choose assets that maximize efficiency and value.
When executed with a clear vision, digital transformation contributes significantly to greener operations, and facilitates the use of big data to innovate, adapt and plan for the future, which can be both more sustainable and more profitable.