To what extent does the digitalisation of industrial and manufacturing processes (Industry 4.0) improve energy efficiency and thus reduce energy intensity? A team from the Research Institute for Sustainability (RIFS) analysed developments across ten industrial manufacturing sectors in China between 2006 and 2019. Their findings show that contrary to the claims of many policymakers and industry associations, digitalisation may not automatically lead to anticipated energy savings in manufacturing and industry in China.
It is widely assumed that digitalisation improves the capacity of companies and sectors to cope with crises. But is it the case that digital intensive sectors proved more resilient during the Covid-19 crisis? Researchers from the Research Institute for Sustainability (RIFS) investigated this by analysing data relating to various socio-economic indicators pre- and post-crisis. Their findings are surprising: In some cases, less digital-intensive industries were actually more resilient. Pandemic-related assistance provided by the German government is one possible explanation for this.
The ninth United Nations Sustainable Development Goal aims to promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation. Digitalisation is expected to influence market access and the positioning of companies within sustainable value chains. Individual countries or sectors that are slower to adopt digital technologies risk being left behind in this transformation. A new study offers insights into the uneven uptake of digital technologies and its implications.
Company representatives expect that digitalisation will improve the environmental sustainability of their organisations. However, actual experience paints a less positive picture: new technologies have so far largely failed to deliver anticipated improvements in resource efficiency. According to the researchers behind a new study, more political support is needed to harness the potential of Industry 4.0.
Can digitalisation contribute to the development of a more sustainable economy? Sustainability has emerged as a key concern for many DAX companies – but only insofar as their customers call for improvement. Most are reluctant to make more sweeping changes. However, a few pioneering companies are using their digital prowess to help tackle some of the challenges facing society.
Satellite data have played an important role in efforts to monitor the rate of deforestation in the Amazon Basin for decades. But the way these data are used has changed under the government of President Jair Bolsonaro. His supporters are questioning the validity of scientific findings as a means to propagate a worldview that puts profits first.
The measures imposed to contain the coronavirus pandemic have hit children and young people especially hard, including in the town of Lauchhammer in Brandenburg, Germany. A new survey reveals how children there have fared since the outbreak of the pandemic and sheds light on their experiences and where and how they spent their time. Youth participation around local issues and projects is common in Lauchhammer and the survey also looks at how civic engagement could be jumpstarted again after the pandemic.
Digitalisation can support transitions towards a more sustainable society if technologies and processes are designed in line with suitable criteria. This requires a systemic focus on the risks and benefits of digital technologies across the three dimensions of sustainable development: the environment, society, and the economy. This is the conclusion of a study prepared by a team of researchers at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam. Applying this precautionary approach to digitalisation requires the active involvement of developers, users, and regulators.
How can digitalisation serve sustainable development? At the Digital Summit hosted by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, Ortwin Renn presented a paper outlining concrete steps to improve the sustainability of the digital transition.
Micro-financing is an important tool to advance the growth and reach of modern energy systems in developing countries. With her start-up HEDERA Sustainable Solutions GmbH, engineer Natalia Realpe Carrillo has created a digital toolbox that enables micro-finance institutions to take stock of the sustainability impacts of their investments in clean energy systems. She will be joining the IASS as the new Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellow on 1 November 2020, where she will continue to develop and improve these tools.
The EU wants to cooperate more intensively with Africa in five key areas: the green transition and energy access, digital transformation, sustainable growth and employment, peace and governance, and migration and mobility. A new Policy Brief makes recommendations for the successful implementation of the EU-Africa Strategy proposed in March 2020.
Faced with the challenges of digitalization and the climate crisis, many companies are keen to improve their sustainability. In a new study, researchers examine the potential uses of data analysis to strengthen corporate environmental management in the automotive industry. The study reveals that Big Data could enhance corporate environmental management in a variety of ways and that many of these opportunities are going untapped.
Digitalisation is changing how we live, but not only for the better: In addition to giving rise to new products, opportunities and services, it’s also having unintended side effects. The project “Digital Data as a Subject of Transdisciplinary Processes” (DiDaT) focuses on both the opportunities and the undesired consequences of digitalisation. It aims to identify and analyse side effects and make concrete proposals for coping with them. At an event to kick-start the project at the end of March, researchers and practitioners came together in Potsdam to define the main areas the project will focus on and outline potential solutions.
Democracy, science, and the rule of law are increasingly coming under pressure. How can we defend them? How can we harness new technologies and use our knowledge, ingenuity and wealth to achieve the goal of sustainable development: a good life for all? To mark the eightieth birthday of former Minister of the Environment and IASS Founding Director Klaus Töpfer, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the IASS held a symposium titled “Friends of the Open Society” on 21 November 2018.
To take stock of industry’s real-world experience with digitalization to date and the expectations that exist with regard to sustainability impacts, the research group “Digitalisation and Sustainability Transformations” conducted an international study in China, Brazil, and Germany. Their results clearly show that the moderate gains made thanks to digitalization lag far behind the high hopes that many hold for it.
The digital transformation is in full swing, touching economies around the world. This far-reaching transformation is distinguished by three change processes affecting value creation models, information flows and resource flows – the latter two will be examined more closely in this post.
Many countries are riding a wave of digitalization in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, with office staff working from home, friends meeting on video conferencing platforms, online trade booming and governments rolling out tracing apps to track infection chains. However, developing and emerging countries could suffer setbacks in their efforts to strengthen their economies and societies through the adoption of digital technologies. Now more than ever, states must double down on efforts to ensure a globally just digital transition.
The issue of digitalisation and sustainable development has – finally! – reached a wider public. When IASS launched a research project on digitalisation five years ago, only a few researchers were concerned about the relationship between the digital transition and sustainability. However, the number of publications and events on this topic has increased noticeably, especially in the last year. In April of this year, the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) then presented its flagship report entitled "Towards our Common Digital Future". Just a few weeks later at the annual re:publica conference the duo of digitalisation and sustainability was already inseparable. There, the Federal Minister of the Environment, Svenja Schulze, presented a green paper outlining a digital policy agenda for the environment.
The term Industry 4.0 has been bandied about increasingly since it was established in 2011. Also referred to as the fourth industrial revolution, Industry 4.0 describes the growing use of digital technologies to link manufacturing technologies and facilitate continuous real-time data exchange. These manufacturing systems are based on interconnected cyber-physical systems with the capacity to independently organize and optimize their performance. Industry 4.0 promises to fundamentally transform manufacturing industry.
Wouldn’t it be a big leap forward for climate and environmental protection if we could let a machine, a powerful artificial intelligence (AI) manage our consumption of natural resources? Remind – or even compel – us to buy local food instead of products from overseas? Tell us to take the bike instead of the car to work when air quality levels are low? Shut off streaming TV series when we have exhausted our weekly carbon budget? Or maybe even advise the government on the conversion of urban areas into much-needed cropland or the preservation of wilderness areas?