5G and sustainability: a corporate responsibility

The COVID-19 pandemic has acted like an incubator, pushing many businesses to accelerate digital transformation and embrace emerging technologies like 5G. A recent study reveals that productivity and efficiency gains enabled by the roll out of 5G will drive business, skills and service change worth £43 billion to UK GDP by 2030. As businesses begin to reap the benefits of 5G, there now exists an opportunity to leverage its capabilities by investing in sustainability solutions that will successfully reduce overall carbon emissions.

Climate change is a phenomenon that will threaten all aspects of our lives, with global energy-related carbon emissions expected to increase by 5% to 33 billion tonnes in 2021. For businesses that can leverage the rollout of 5G to embed sustainability at all levels, a reduced carbon footprint and a boost in profitability will be theirs for the taking.

Embracing a sustainable future

Across the globe, governments have recognised the importance of combating climate change. As a result, the UK government has pledged to follow Climate Change Committee recommendations and cut carbon emissions by 78% by 2035. For the UK government to achieve this however, it must work collaboratively with businesses to accelerate the adoption of 5G across all sectors. With this in mind, more needs to be done to bring out the strong links between digital transformation and sustainability so that sustainability becomes integral to transformation.

On the other hand, consumers and employees increasingly demand the companies to demonstrate stronger commitment to sustainability which is no longer just a ‘nice to have’ for businesses but progressively becoming a critical decision making criteria.

Recent research shows that 26% of UK employees would be willing to take a pay cut in exchange for working with a business that was environmentally responsible.

It is therefore important for business leaders to understand the potential of 5G’s low latency, ultrafast connectivity and huge network capacity to increase automation and enable completely new use cases at every level of business. In doing so, businesses will see an improved efficiency, reduced streamlined operations and new revenue lines while delivering on consumer and employee expectations of corporate sustainability.

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The power of 5G across industries

5G is not just a technology upgrade, it also opens up possibilities for various use cases. that takes the sustainability benefits way beyond just the carbon footprint into future-proof economy. O2’s ‘A Greener Connected Future’ predicts that application of 5G and connected technology, such as smart grids and autonomous vehicles, could see the UK save up to 269 megatonnes of CO2 by 2035, almost equivalent to England’s total emissions in 2018 (280 megatonnes).

It is important that 5G is deployed in an intelligent way, to ensure that it consumes less power to ensure optimum use of energy. Dynamic artificial intelligence-enabled processes which can turn base stations off when idle, or can allocate network resources only when required by an application – possibly in a virtual dedicated slice – can help MNOs (Mobile Network Operators) meet their commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with an industry goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

5G will also help combat climate change in smart farming. 5G-enabled precision farming will allow farmers to reduce adverse impact on farm yields as a result of the rise in temperature or onslaught of new pests and diseases. Research by The United Nations Development Program predicts that the collective ability of farmers to produce more food more efficiently may be how the world feeds the global population by 2030.

5G’s network capacity will enable better connectivity across farm equipment, instant two-way communication, and real-time access to precise information. Smart agriculture will reduce the industry’s use of water, fertilisers and pesticides through a more accurate application. With agriculture irrigation accounting for 70% of water use worldwide, this presents a significant opportunity to combat climate change.

These examples indicate the duality of 5G networks, proving the impact it can have on both business performance and sustainability across almost every sector.

The future of sustainable businesses

Experts predict that 5G solutions have the potential to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by up to 15%. Its capacity to streamline operations across every level of a business will accelerate the adoption of emerging technologies throughout all sectors. There is now a perfect opportunity to embrace digital transformation and align it with sustainability.

As we look to the future, it is in the best interest of business leaders to take responsibility for their organisation’s impact on the environment and to promote a positive change. Organisations that leverage 5G networks to embed sustainability into the very core of their business will definitely become game changers.

Written by Bhushan Patil, senior vice-president EMEA at Tech Mahindra

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