On Friday, April 22, people around the world will celebrate Earth Day, now in its 52nd year. This year, Earth Day’s theme is “Invest in Our Planet,” which the organization says will focus on “accelerating solutions to combat our greatest threat, climate change, and to activate everyone—governments, citizens, and businesses—to do their part.”
But how can automation play a role in supporting sustainable goals? And where should organizations start? Automation isn’t only a solution for accelerating digital transformation and boosting operational efficiencies. It can also be used for good, and—more specifically—to enhance sustainability. Here’s how.
Globally, companies are responding to employee, consumer, and investor sentiments, by being more responsible and transparent in how they operate. To do so, organizations are aligning profit with purpose goals while increasing investments in improving their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance. As purpose and ESG become more and more intertwined, companies must find solutions for a wide array of topics and rethink systems to create higher and longer-term value for their stakeholders.
To accelerate such goals with automation, organizations should:
Identify goals and metrics related to environment and sustainability
Pinpoint processes that can be automated
Tweak processes to support ESG goals
Gather data and track progress to aid in overall ESG reporting
With this plan at the forefront of ESG initiatives, companies can meet their sustainability and environmental goals faster. One example is Helse Vest, a health authority based in Norway. They leveraged automation to lower the number of letters mailed to patients with a confirmed appointment. Instead, software robots intercepted each letter, preventing letters from being printed and mailed. Helse Vest was able to minimize their environmental footprint by using less paper with an expected savings of more than $500,000 in postage alone.
Every organization has a duty to reduce waste. Although RPA isn’t the only way to reach sustainability goals, it can help accelerate the process through innovation and enhanced efficiencies.
For example, energy providers could use RPA to automate the process of reading and extracting usage data. That would allow providers to more easily and quickly identify opportunities to reduce waste, as demonstrated by the Regional Authority of the Moravian-Silesian region. The Regional Authority is located in the northeast territory of the Czech Republic. They provide public services to 1.2 million citizens and oversee 53 internal departments. The Regional Authority’s goal is to improve inhabitants’ quality of life while saving citizens’ time and money.
In 2018, the Department of Regional Development and Tourism faced an overwhelming number of applicants for boiler replacement grants. The applications were a time-intensive and repetitive process for employees. To help speed up this activity, the Regional Authority leveraged RPA to verify applicant information, send emails, and more. By leveraging automation, the Regional Authority successfully accelerated providing green boiler grants to its citizens, which improved the air quality in surrounding areas.
At the same time, at the core of every ESG strategy lies data that needs to be identified, collected, processed, reported, and monitored. According to a recent survey from Deloitte, “more than half of senior executives (57% of survey respondents) indicated that data availability (access) and data quality (accuracy/completeness) remain their greatest challenges with respect to ESG data for disclosure.”
RPA can be easily deployed to:
Streamline auditing procedures
Collect data from various applications and systems
Support data management
Track and report on progress against specific environmental targets, such as carbon emissions
Companies will likely start their automation journeys with process mining. With process mining, software obtains available data about what is occurring in a process (and when), and then transforms the process data into visual workflows. From there, companies can accurately view where there are bottlenecks that can be streamlined, and where waste can be eliminated.
Companies can also reduce their carbon footprints by:
Decreasing computing energy
Saving paper by restricting excessive printing
Automating and streamlining supply chain operations
Digitizing purchase orders and invoice processes
The calls to organizations to cut their waste won’t be going away any time soon. By leveraging Automation for Good, companies can accelerate their commitments to building and maintaining a cleaner, greener planet.
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