Sustainability at Hannover Messe 2022
With the coronavirus situation calming down, manufacturers and their partners finally met again at Hannover Messe 2022. The fair was visibly smaller than in previous years, with about half of the exhibitors and visitors returning, and international participants being fewer as well. Still, several major players from the software & IT services (SITS) market used it as a platform to present their solutions in the areas of industry 4.0, supply chain resiliency, AI, and sustainability.
Sustainability is a trend topic that has quickly gained traction over the past 3 years. Changes in legislation (e.g., EU Green Deal) and higher customer awareness of how consumption affects the environment are definitely among the strongest drivers behind this. At Hannover Messe, many eagerly displayed the word sustainability at their booths. However, looking at the offers presented, there were clearly two groups - those that had been putting substantial efforts into the topic for many years and those that were merely riding the wave created by the topic.
Among IT services companies, Capgemini and Atos are clearly among the most mature in this regard. Both have developed clear frameworks for how they approach the challenge and have been investing in related capabilities (e.g., Atos acquired climate strategy consulting firm EcoAct in 2020; Capgemini announced its Net Zero Strategy, which covers the company’s sustainability offering, in 2021). At Hannover Messe, both firms gave an overview of their ability to support their clients with regard to different aspects, from projects aimed at improving the energy consumption and the carbon footprint of individual elements (e.g., a machine or a product) to the development and implementation of new business models that have sustainability at their core.
Hannover Messe also presented major software companies displaying their latest solutions for sustainability. Microsoft showcased its Cloud for Sustainability, which was officially released on June 1st. As an industry-agnostic solution, Cloud for Sustainability incorporates data coming from different applications (e.g., ERP, CRM, etc.) and focuses on a company’s carbon emissions as well as waste and water management. Salesforce, on the other hand, presented its Net Zero Cloud, which is fully integrated into the Salesforce platform. The solution focuses more on carbon and waste management. It uses an underlying data calculation method to determine a company’s footprint based on its bills and is able to address all 3 Scopes. Although the solution was launched back in 2018, Salesforce is increasing its investments in it and will significantly increase the amount of dedicated personnel in the coming months. Another notable player is SAP. The German software specialist decided to take a broader view and put stronger emphasis on the SAP Sustainability Control Tower, which is a monitoring and reporting tool not only for sustainability, but for ESG goals. Apart from this, SAP’s product portfolio includes other applications related to carbon emissions, the circular economy, and social responsibility.
To further advance the reduction of CO2 emissions, tech giant Siemens created the Estainium Network together with 14 partners from the industry (e.g., Merck, Weidmüller) and academia (e.g., Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg). The goal is to enable a secure and standardized exchange of climate-related data across the entire supply chain and to improve the quality of the shared data. The network has already identified blockchain technology as one of the means to reach this goal.
While the SITS companies mentioned above already have a certain degree of maturity when it comes to sustainability, the same cannot be said about user firms. Multinational companies are under more pressure to tackle the issue as pressure coming from governments and clients alike is building, but this is not the case with SMEs. While legislation has so far been more lenient toward them, many do not have the capacity or expertise to make their businesses more sustainable with the help of IT.
Additionally, Hannover Messe has shown that one of the major pain points of promoting sustainability within firms is lack of transparency. Many SITS companies say that their clients are having a hard time collecting the data required to fully leverage the solutions that will then help them create the transparency needed to at least track their footprint. It is important to mention that this lack of transparency does not only concern what happens inside one business, but affects the entire value chain. This means that in the long run, companies will need transparency across their whole supply chain to better understand the origins of their emissions across all Scopes and make better-informed business decisions (e.g., supplier selection).