New research: ICT Roadmaps to Enhanced Sustainability

The IoT Coalition Canada (IoTCC), the Canadian professional community devoted to developing best practices guidance to accelerate the adoption of IoT, has released its third report, ICT Roadmaps to Enhanced Sustainability.

The IoTCC is composed of Canadian thought leaders from across the industry, including consultants, representatives from technology associations, media, academics, practitioners from government and the private sector, as well as experts from channel and IoT solution vendor organizations. Based on collaborations in a series of working group sessions, IoTCC members have published on IoT Privacy and Security, on Intelligence in Community Ecosystems, and look forward to the launch of an additional four papers on customer experience, intelligent industry, building the IoT stack and IoT systems delivery in the coming year. A subset of this group, representing IT, IoT and sustainability experts with deep knowledge of advanced infrastructure solutions and requirements around compliance, risk and the regulation have come together to deliver their collective wisdom on the potential impact of advanced ICT on sustainability outcomes. While the report considers the contribution that the full range of ICT solutions can make to help improve sustainability, analysis is presented within an ICT framework that places strong focus on new reporting and control capabilities unleashed by IoT across a range of industries.

About the report

This framework, represented in the figure below, details the primary technology categories examined in ICT Roadmaps to Enhanced Sustainability. With ‘Energy & Emissions’ taking centre stage, the report focuses on the carbon and cost benefits enabled through advanced ‘green IT’ solutions, such as cloud and virtualization technologies, but also on the application of IoT and other advanced technologies to produce new efficiencies and waste reduction in ‘Business operations’ – the “other 98” that the GeSI wrote about so positively in the seminal Smart 2020 report. In this schema, the ‘Network’ functions as a key enabler, with relatively little carbon impact but huge ability to deliver the connectivity needed to support carbon mitigation strategies, and ‘Client devices’ serves as an important means to lowering carbon impact and raising social awareness. ‘Monitoring and reporting’ occupies a prominent position in this outline, as they represent both the basis for measuring progress on sustainability initiatives and the revolution in data generating capabilities produced by new IoT solutions.

Following a standardized format developed for IoTCC and sister communities the TCBC and CABC, the report is divided into four sections. The first provides Definition and Context – what are the linkages between sustainability and ICT, what is current state of deployment, and what is ‘in’ and what is ‘out’ of the report. For example, sustainability is a broad ranging term that includes issues around social justice – the ‘people’ piece in triple bottom line concepts. With its focus on technology, the working group has gravitated to the business and environmental sides of this equation, with an expectation that more work can be done in future to draw in social impacts beyond carbon, integrating this with economic and environmental considerations. The relationship between the latter two factors is explored in the Business Objectives section of the report, which details the business benefits that can be gained by using technology that aligns the “twin ecos” (economy and environment) in five areas that are increasingly important to the sustainable Canadian economy: agriculture, resource extraction, urban development, power industries and the sharing economy. A third section offers Best Practices guidance to help organizations “Bridge the Abstraction Gap” between vague awareness of sustainability potential and successful implementation of technology solutions that can help the organization achieve better outcomes. In this section of the report, ‘people’ do emerge as the prime mover of sustainability investments, and working group guidance is designed to provide support for sustainability professionals who are engaged in building ongoing initiatives in this area. A final section is devoted to Metrics and Monitoring, a critical topic that is matched in importance only by its complexity.  While new real time monitoring, control and reporting capabilities achieved through IoT, AI and advanced analytics have created potential for continuous innovation – as opposed to a project management end game – Big Data output must be managed, and when properly aligned with sustainability strategy can produce continuous innovation. According to the working group, there are no specific metrics that serve as the sustainability gold standard, rather identifying the right metric for each initiative is the key to effective sustainability strategy. This is the first stage in a process designed to accelerate sustainability outcomes, outlined in the figure below.

InsightaaS would like to thank IoTCC sustainability working group participants, including Elizabeth Mansfield of Bloomberg Environment, Brian Fry of PodTech, Jean-Jerome Baudry of TA Networks, Bill Munson of Munson Consulting and Paul Montaigne of Cogeco Peer 1, for their keen insights. We would also like to thank report reviewers Michael Proulx of Pride Conflict Risk Management, Frances Edmonds of HP Canada and Jay Illingworth of the Electronic Products Recycling Association for their additional contributions to ICT Roadmaps to Enhanced Sustainability.

Working group, left to right: Bill Munson, Elizabeth Mansfield, Michael O'Neil, Paul Montaigne, Jean-Jerome Baudry, Mary Allen and Brian Fry.
Working group, left to right: Bill Munson, Elizabeth Mansfield, Michael O’Neil, Paul Montaigne, Jean-Jerome Baudry, Mary Allen and Brian Fry.

Launch event

ICT Roadmaps to Enhanced Sustainability launched at a community meetup co-hosted by InsightaaS, Cisco, Ingram Micro, and Workhaus, the work space sharing company. The event featured a spotlight presentation delivered by Kundan Joshi, founder and CEO of AppLabb, a Toronto-based designer and developer of custom mobile apps that now boasts six offices in Canada, the US, Australia and Hong Kong. A panel discussion designed to draw out themes developed in the report followed, after which the group broke out into a broader conversation between presenters and fifty plus attendees. Feedback from the larger group was enthusiastic – several guests observed that they had formerly been unaware of the complexity and potential in sustainable technology solutions. These comments reinforce the success of the meetup’s key goal, which is to build understanding of the issues involved in deployment of advanced technologies.

Joshi’s presentation, entitled “Tech vs. Climate,” was especially timely and a grim reminder of why sustainability action matters. During report launch month, Ontario pulled out of the Western Climate Initiative cap-and-trade system, replacing this with an incentive program in which the provincial government rewards businesses it deems worthy of government funding; during launch week, COP24 met in Poland without recognizing the inadequacy of most countries’ current GHG reduction targets, and without acknowledging warnings in the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Sustainability is no longer a ‘nice to have’, but as Joshi pointed out, already wreaking massive havoc and amassing huge financial and human cost in climate related events – such as storm and fire incidents which are building in frequency and intensity. Despite these bleak prospects, however, Joshi remains optimistic about tech innovation potential to help mitigate some of the worst climate change impacts, and he pointed to some of the more interesting, IoT-focused applications that are making a difference in key sectors of the economy – in agriculture, transport, manufacturing, smart city, etc., which aligned with many of the deployment areas discussed in ICT Roadmaps to Enhanced Sustainability.

Michael O’Neil, report co-lead analyst and panel facilitator

The session also benefitted from the insights delivered by panelists, who represented a diverse group in terms of interest and industry perspectives. Paula Bernardino, a corporate communications, CSR and sustainability professional who now lectures on this topic at McGill University, was able to expand on the need for clear communication with recognizable language on sustainability objectives, the need for common standards, and the importance of dedicated staff resources to successful achievement of goals. Michael Proulx drew on his consulting experience with large mining companies to describe the financial penalty associated with non-compliance with regulatory requirements and/or failure to act on sustainability risk assessments, and the need for global standards that are recognized across industry and geographic border. Brian Fry and Savio Lee of Ingram Micro provided the IT infrastructure perspective, with Fry pointing to the energy/carbon impact posed by the coming development of massive compute infrastructure that will be built to support applications such as AI, IoT and crypto mining, and to technology options, such as high efficiency, edge infrastructure solutions, that can help address this challenge going forward. For his part, Savio Lee discussed the challenges that technology users may encounter as they look to deploy end-to-end solutions and how solution providers can help, as well as strategic discussions his firm has with clients as they work to refine their sustainability goals, metrics and technology roadmaps. As co-lead analyst on the report, Mary Allen, was able to outline the report framework and intentions, and present the working group’s views on managing processes around metrics and monitoring of sustainability initiatives. The audience was fortunate in having as panel facilitator, Michael O’Neil, who shared the co-lead analyst role for the report, and who was able to work with humour and efficiency in the panel discussion to continuously align the presenter’s points on challenge and opportunity in sustainability with business requirements.

Panelists, left to right: Paula Bernardino, Michael Proulx, Savio Lee, Mary Allen and Brian Fry.

Obtaining the report

The IoTCC’s aim is to share its best practices research positions as broadly as possible.  ICT Roadmaps to Enhanced Sustainability is available at no charge to professionals who would like to develop their understanding of how to drive sustainability initiatives within their organizations. Please follow this link to access the report.


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