Time: 11:00am – 12:00pm
Room: Brandenburg Gate
Session 5: Leveraging Digitalization to Drive Sustainability
Presenter: Martina Prox, ifu Institute für Umweltinformatik Hamburg GmbH / iPoint Systems GmbH
Finding the way from the throughput economy to a circular economy with the aim to improve resource efficiency and reduce up to eliminate negative environmental impacts is one of the great challenges of today’s decision makers in industry and policy. Digitalization, Industry 4.0 and Internet of Things (IoT) are generating more and more data, within companies, along supply chains, and also during the use phase. Whenever a new machine is purchased in a company it comes fully equipped with sensors and metering abilities and generates data while operating. Major manufacturing companies work on the digital twin for each of their products. Not only production systems become digital, also physical products get their digital counterpart – the digital twin. Currently the developments of the digital twin or digitalization in general are linked with the main target for further gains in productivity. To make use of the data for enabling sustainable and circular production systems is at least not mainstream. The concept of the digital linked to the pupose of reaching a digital circular can generate an enable access to useful life cycle information, allowing for sustainability and circularity assessment. Products and components are linked already today to related compliance information, which is transferred throughout the supply chain. Further supply chain challenges like conflict minerals, modern human slavery are subject to mandatory and voluntary reporting schemes, which require also the transfer of specific and trusted information from the original source to the industrial user of the respective material or component up to the marketed product. Consumers are no longer only in the role of demanding information about the products on social and environmental aspects, but also share more and more use phase information over fully connected devices. This contribution will provide insights how this great variety of paths for information flows along a life cycle that is being established can be used to realize the vision of the digital twin for products and components which provides access to compliance, environmental and social information. This is one precondition for a digital circular economy which enables to close the loops and eliminate wastage from production systems.
Presenter: Eric Mieras, PRe Consultants
Co-Authors: Caspar Honee, Anne Gaasbeek
It is really encouraging to see how many efforts are made to make sustainability initiatives more fact based. With many of these initiatives requiring LCA-based metrics, the scale at which LCA’s are performed needs to be increased. At the same time, we have to assure that all these studies are still robust and scientifically sound. Otherwise the results will lose its credibility. Qualified experts are needed to ensure that. As the application of LCA grows, sufficient expertise might become a point of concern. Therefore, the question becomes: “How do we make results available on a larger scale?” Is training and educating more people sufficient or is there a more efficient way of scaling up?
The use of technology might be the ally for LCA experts to go. To scale up the use of LCA, the use technology is instrumental to make expert knowledge available to a much broader audience and make the work process more efficient through self-service solutions. A few examples: gathering data, going back and forth with emails, making small changes in models or reports. This kind of work can be automated or outsourced to a high extent. Technologies from other fields, like big data, collaboration platforms and artificial intelligence, will allow LCA experts to focus on the quality of the LCA. For credible results you will always need a qualified expert for the advanced work, like building a model, selecting the right background data, making methodological choices and so on. Through technology this knowledge and experience can be made available to a much larger audience. With the help of smart tools and platforms, we have opportunities to focus our talent, time and energy on the things that are crucial and cannot be done by any tool or automation. This approach is also an inclusive approach, as it enables smaller companies that generally cannot afford an in-house expert to work with quality LCA studies.
In the presentation this will be illustrated by a number of cases, most notably via the case of the KringloopWijzer. It is a great example how a couple of experts worked on a highly parameterised model to ensure its quality and to enable 16.000 farmers to calculate their GHG footprint. That is the lever we are looking for to make sustainability metrics more widely available – so they can be used for all kinds of decision-making and integrated in the tool set that is being used.
Presenter: Klaus Wiesen, sustainabill GmbH
Supply chain transparency brings major benefits to manufacturing companies, retailers and consumers: It empowers companies and retailers to identify sustainability risks in their supply chain. Moreover, they can monitor the sustainability performance of their materials and products based on specific supplier data. Without such a monitoring throughout the complete supply chains, strategies and targets to reduce scope 3 emissions will most likely fail.
Consumers on the over hand benefit from supply chain transparency for their sustainable buying decisions. While today the majority of companies still lack insights into the sustainability of their supply chains this is about to chance within the next years: Driven by tragic scandals such as the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh and by regulations such as the UK modern slavery act companies start to disclose their supply chains.
The presentation shows the approach of supply chain mapping with help of state-of-the-art software technology allowing to efficiently disclose the complete supply chain step by step.
Based on experiences from case studies in the textile and nutrition sector it is presented how a fully “digital” supply chain mapping is the prior condition to1) collect and manage granular sustainability data and 2) gain deep insights in the sustainability performance and calculate supply chain specific footprint indicators.
Presenter: René Itten, Zurich University of Applied Sciences
Co-Authors: Matthias Stucki, Karen Muir
The use of digital media has become an integral part of our everyday life. In the interdisciplinary project “Digital Sufficiency”, the environmental impact of digital media use by Swiss adolescents was modelled with a life cycle assessment. The project was funded by the Mercator Foundation Switzerland.
Modelling was based on digital media behaviour data of 800 Swiss adolescents aged between 12 and 25. These data were adapted to represent the average Swiss young person . The survey focused on the use of devices that have multiple uses and are widespread: mobile phones, tablets, laptops, desktops and televisions. For each type of digital media use (i.e. sending text messages), the following aspects were included: the electricity demand for charging the devices, the electricity and equipment needed for data provision (data centre) and transfer (WLAN, mobile antenna, international network). In addition, manufacturing of the devices was included. The environmental impact was calculated with the ecological scarcity method . As background data, the Swiss database ecoinvent was used .
The analysis showed that the manufacturing of the devices including the supply chain accounts for more than three quarters of the environmental impact. Devices owned by the adolescents themselves as well as those that are shared within the family (pro-rata) were accounted for. About half of the impact results from televisions, since almost every family (96%) and nearly one in three adolescents owns a television. Another reason is that televisions need more energy than smaller devices both for the production (higher material demand) and use phase (direct energy use; larger data transfer due to high image resolution.)
The devices’ direct electricity consumption contributes approx. 5% to the total environmental impact. The transfer of data from the device to the data centre and within the internet is of little relevance. Processing and provision of data in data centres is negligible for all activities, except for televisions (15%) and video viewing (3%).
We conclude that if digital innovation is aimed at reducing the environmental impact, the following aspects are important to consider: (1) The purchase of additional devices should be avoided. (2) the use of small devices like smart phones shall be preferred over the use of energy-intensive devices like desktops, and (3) data-intensive use such as HD video streaming shall be substituted by less data intensive uses.
 G. Waller and L. Suter, ‘Förderung einer öko-suffizienten Nutzung digitaler Medien. Erste Befunde aus einer repräsentativen Befragung von Jugendlichen und jungen Erwachsenen in der Schweiz : Tagungsreferat’, presented at the SGKM-Conference, Chur, Switzerland.
 R. Frischknecht et al., ‘Implementation of life cycle impact assessment methods’, Swiss Centre for Life Cycle Inventories, Dübendorf, CH, (2004).
 ecoinvent Centre, ‘ecoinvent data v3.2, Swiss Centre for Life Cycle Inventories’, Zürich, (2015).
 R. Frischknecht and S. Büsser Knöpfel, ‘Swiss Eco-Factors 2013 according to the Ecological Scarcity Method. Methodological fundamentals and their application in Switzerland’, Federal Office for the Environment, Berne, (2013).