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Can IoT Propel Your Business Towards Carbon Neutrality?

As today’s executives focus on business sustainability management and set goals, many of their aspirations centre on carbon neutrality. Achieving that aim means the company removes at least as many carbon emissions from the atmosphere as it produces. Some businesses get closer to carbon neutrality by relying on the IoT for sustainability. Doing so can increase their visibility while curbing some of the most problematic emissions sources.

Reduce Energy Usage With Connected Sensors

Many companies use tremendous amounts of energy. That’s especially true for businesses such as manufacturers with production lines running 24/7. Fortunately, one easy way to use the IoT for sustainability is to apply sensors to common energy sources.

Smart lights are easily accessible, and people can set them to turn on or off at specific times. Those are great solutions if some parts of the building are unused in the evenings. Sensors can also prevent situations where someone is the last occupant and forgets to turn a room’s lights off. Sensor-equipped lights promote safety by automatically turning on when someone enters the area.

Another possibility for facilitating business sustainability management is to use sensors to keep equipment operational during shifts or other necessary times and turn it off otherwise. Some people get in the habit of putting machinery in standby mode, not realizing the energy that approach may waste.

As decision-makers investigate options for cutting energy consumption, they can simultaneously pursue renewable energy options. Possibilities exist where IoT sensors monitor solar panels, showing real-time statistics about power generation, environmental characteristics and more. Executives can then use that data to verify if their companies are moving closer to carbon-neutrality ideals.

Minimize Waste With the IoT for Sustainability

Waste reduction is an important part of business sustainability management that often gets overlooked. Garbage has numerous emissions sources. Some come from the vehicles picking up waste and transporting it to specialized facilities. Others result from the processes needed to handle the garbage after collection.

There are also emissions associated with waste as it decomposes. Municipal solid waste landfills are the third highest source of human-linked methane emissions in the United States. In 2021, that emissions source equalled the outcome of 23.1 million gas-powered passenger vehicles driven for a year.

Using the IoT for sustainability in an industrial setting might mean encouraging workers to recycle and putting sensors on the waste bins to get more accurate data about when garbage pickups must happen. Alternatively, if product-related waste is among a company’s top challenges, the best approach may be to equip the assembly lines and critical machinery with sensors to see why the excess occurs. Is it because of misaligned equipment, employee errors or something else?

Waste reduction is also possible if decision-makers use cloud-based tools to improve predictions about client needs. Too many products on hand hurt profits and could generate more waste, especially if the affected companies can’t even sell the items at deep discounts. Producing goods once clients order them — or after feeling highly confident they will — improves resource utilization. It also creates opportunities for customized products people may pay more to have.

Target Travel-Related Emissions

The movement of goods and people produces approximately 27% of the total greenhouse gas emissions. Fortunately, addressing related activities in a business sustainability management plan is relatively easy. For example, do your company’s representatives frequently have face-to-face meetings with clients?

A potential workaround might be to use remote meeting tools instead, except when dealing with urgent issues or those impossible to resolve from a distance. Transitioning from a gas to an electric-powered fleet is another practical solution. Even if the switchover happens over the years, the gradual improvements are meaningful steps to reaching carbon neutrality.

People can use the IoT for sustainability by equipping shipping containers with smart sensors. Then, they’ll get real-time data about what happens to products as they move. Receiving notifications about perishable medicines being out of the optimal temperature range or delicate fruits getting handled too roughly allows company leaders to take prompt actions and prevent goods from arriving in an unsellable condition.

Another emissions-curbing opportunity comes from installing sensors on the vehicles used to transport products. Driving too fast and with quick acceleration can increase pollution and fuel consumption. However, IoT products can show when these events occur, presenting an opportunity for driver education.

Use Sensors to Improve Maintenance Strategies

The emissions associated with machine maintenance can be substantial. For example, many industrial freezer and refrigeration systems require compressed chemicals to work. However, the emissions associated with those substances are thousands of times more impactful than carbon dioxide.

Leaks often occur due to poor installation or maintenance strategies. Relying on the IoT for sustainability can bring meaningful improvements by telling the responsible parties when leaks or other issues occur. That way, they won’t persist unnoticed and unaddressed for weeks.

Similarly, IoT sensors allow people to shift from reactive and preventive maintenance to a predictive strategy. Primarily handling equipment needs once issues become evident can result in urgently ordered parts or technicians coming from out of the area, increasing the associated supply chain and transportation-related emissions. People following preventive maintenance timelines or manufacturers’ recommendations risk changing parts prematurely or not in line with actual usage statistics.

A predictive approach involves getting real-time data from connected sensors and using it to customize when and why maintenance and repairs happen. This is a critical change because humans can’t always detect the signs of impending failures. Sensors can detect strange vibrations, unusual performance statistics and other factors that could push decision-makers to take a closer look before an outage occurs.

Additionally, the IoT provides valuable information about time spans since specific maintenance measures happened. People can use it to make more informed choices about when to handle certain tasks.

Start Addressing Business Sustainability Management

Reaching carbon-neutral goals is not easy, and efforts to do so must happen as part of a dedicated strategy and over many months. However, these compelling examples show why the IoT is often a critical part of company leaders’ plans. IoT sensors gather relevant information to show current statistics and historical trends, both of which can highlight necessary room for improvement.

One possibility is to install IoT products on essential equipment or in key areas of the business first. Then, when executives see how those devices contribute to measurable progress at the company, they’ll be more motivated to broaden the connected infrastructure.

Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized Magazine. She has over six years experience writing articles for the tech and industrial sectors. Subscribe to the Revolutionized newsletter for more content from Emily at https://revolutionized.com/subscribe/

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