Delivering sustainable innovation with cloud technologies

Cloud and data are helping organisations reach sustainability goals while protecting profits. Microsoft solutions and those of its partners are playing a key role

Elly Yates-Roberts
Elly Yates-Roberts
By Elly Yates-Roberts on 28 September 2022
Delivering sustainable innovation with cloud technologies

Winning market share is no longer the only driver for leaders of modern enterprises. Along with the requirement for companies to compete in challenging commercial environments, an ability to operate sustainably – and to be able to demonstrate that fact – is paramount.  

Microsoft made its Cloud for Sustainability generally available in May 2022 to help businesses meet this challenge. The platform will enable enterprises and public sector organisations to leverage an increasing number of environmental, social and governance (ESG) capabilities from Microsoft and its global ecosystem of partners, helping them to accelerate sustainability progress and business growth.  

At the time of launch, Microsoft said: “Organisations need more accessible, centralised data intelligence to make the high-stakes decisions that are required right now to address complex issues, weighing both business and ESG criteria to direct capital toward investment opportunities that balance growth and impact. Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability solutions will provide the intelligence and data management capabilities that organisations need to respond to changes with agility and confidence.”   

The Cloud for Sustainability aims to help businesses become more sustainable in four key ways. Firstly, it can help organisations to unify data intelligence by streamlining data ingestion, integration and calculations, and enabling them to easily analyse and report environmental impact and sustainability progress. 

Secondly, the platform can be used to build a sustainable IT infrastructure by helping businesses to identify opportunities to replace tools, systems or activities with cleaner options. This could be done by adopting technologies that are sustainable by design, and assessing and improving compliance with global, regional and industry standards.  

In addition, the Cloud for Sustainability helps users to minimise the environmental footprint of their operational systems and processes, by transitioning to clean energy, leveraging the cloud to reduce the environmental impact of buildings and equipment, and enabling seamless collaboration about sustainability goals and progress.  

Finally, businesses can use the Cloud for Sustainability to create sustainable value chains. This includes increasing transparency, developing more sustainable products and services, and optimising materials and product logistics. 

“Much of this important work is being achieved through collaboration with our global ecosystem of partners who have helped us land our ambitions and transform our business,” said Alysa Taylor, corporate vice president of industry, apps and data marketing, and Elisabeth Brinton, corporate vice president of sustainability, at Microsoft. “Today, they’re also pivotal to helping customers advance sustainability through robust, innovative solutions powered by the Microsoft Cloud.”  

Launch partners for the Cloud for Sustainability include ABB, Bentley Systems, Blue Yonder, EcoVadis, Honeywell, ICONICS, Johnson Controls and Transparency-One.  

ABB has built its Ability solutions on the platform to empower real-time, data-driven decisions for safer, smarter operations that maximise resource efficiency and contribute to a low-carbon future. EcoVadis has created a Sustainability Intelligence Suite to help businesses measure and demonstrate their own performance – and the performance of their trading partners – and share it with optimal credibility, confidentiality and control.  

Honeywell is also building on the platform with its Forge Energy Optimization and Predictive Maintenance solutions. The former helps building and real estate managers use heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system data by leveraging advanced internet of things (IoT), analytics, and machine learning technologies. The latter analyses asset performance to identify issues before failures occur, improving performance, reducing downtime and minimising maintenance costs.  

ICONICS and Johnson Controls are working to improve building sustainability too. Smart Buildings by ICONICS helps facility, real estate and digital transformation managers optimise operations by integrating traditional building management systems with modern sensors and end-user productivity tools. Its virtual replications of the physical environment enable customers to model the relationships between people, places and devices using a digital twin. And Johnson Controls’ OpenBlue Enterprise Management solution analyses building data to find areas for improved performance.  

The Cloud for Sustainability is only the tip of Microsoft’s sustainability iceberg, though. Much of its own sustainability efforts and those of its partners centre around other cloud solutions, including Microsoft Azure. For example, energy company BP uses Microsoft’s Intelligent Data Platform and Azure Synapse to consolidate data from multiple cloud and on-premises sources, accelerate production of data products, and train artificial intelligence and machine learning models. So far, this has helped the company track and manage carbon emissions and supports its ambition to become a net-zero business by 2050 or sooner.  

While the cloud is central to the future of sustainability for many organisations worldwide, its true value lies in its data capabilities, which Taylor and Brinton believe will be increasingly important moving forward.  

“To stabilise our future and build more quickly toward a global net-zero carbon economy, organisations of all types, sizes and sectors are facing the need to transform common practices,” they wrote. “This includes more effectively managing their environmental footprint, embedding sustainability through their organisations and value chains, and making strategic business investments that drive value. And this starts with solving the data problem.” 

A variety of Microsoft partners also contributed to this feature: Akamai, Augury, AvePoint, AVEVA, Brillio, Formpipe, Gamma, ICONICS, Johnson Controls, Publicis Sapient, Skkynet Cloud Systems and Synergy Technical. Read about how they are using Microsoft’s cloud technologies to help customers drive environmentally sustainable business operations, while protecting profits. 

This article was originally published in the Autumn 2022 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.

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