The first industrial revolution created modern industry, embracing machines, assembly lines, and factories in order to maximize production efficiencies. The second, third, and now fourth revolutions have brought innovations to refine these tools—with present-day factories and companies using automated machinery and millions of sensors that output data points for artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to crunch. Machines today can not only be taught the task at hand but can also be used to learn the best way to perform it. We have come a full circle.
Industrial revolutions have gone down in history as milestones of human progress. Strong and efficient industries led to robust economies, wealth creation, scientific and technology prowess, better education, as well as more opportunities to succeed. Today, the world was able to come up with not just one but multiple Covid-19 vaccines in record time.
A little-known by-product of the first industrial revolution was environmentalism. “It was the first time that people had started living in concentrated cities, and they were getting sick as they had never been before as industries contaminated the air and water,” explains Mike Rosenberg, author, Strategy and Sustainability, and professor of the Practice of Management in Strategic Management Department, IESE Business School.
Every industrial age has made companies more efficient, productive, and profitable. The impact of industries on our environment, however, has continued unabated.
The fourth industrial revolution or Industry 4.0—the process of digitisation of everything—has been underway for some time now. And as the world went indoors to stay safe, the Covid-19 pandemic acted as a catalyst for an accelerated shift to digital. Everything from AI-ML to robotic process automation, cloud computing, smart sensors, and interconnected machines are making our companies smarter and more efficient. But as millions of dollars are invested into new technologies and as companies look for ways to recoup losses for getting back on the path of growth, there is an economic, competitive, global opportunity for companies that will transition to become sustainable. This will mean assessing and investing in not only their financials and profits, but also in their workforce, environment, and community.
“The efficiencies brought about by Industry 4.0 will lead to very limited—about 5 to 10 percent—gain. Today every company has to find ways to expand or grow without increasing environmental impact. Industry 4.0 should be as much about technology as it should be about using sustainable solutions,” says Chaitanya Kalia, partner, Climate Change and Sustainability Services Leader, EY India. And there are benefits of being an early adopter. “It’s like a cricket match, like T20 or a one-day international, if you don’t score your runs now, you have to score faster towards the end, and there’s a risk of losing. So, companies have to do it now, have to do more, and have to do it fast so that even the cost of doing everything is controlled.”
INDIA—LAND OF CLIMATE PARADOXES
The Covid-19 pandemic was a rude wake-up call for India and the world, however, “it is not even a fraction of what’s going to happen when the climate crisis hits us”, says Rahul Munjal, managing director, Hero Future Energies. To avert the next crises, many countries are taking to stricter environmental and socioeconomic regulations.
India’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are the third highest in the world after China and the US. However, due to India being the second-most populous country, its per capita emissions—the figures often used by industry and government— are four times lower than China and over eight times lower than the US. “We’re not announcing legally binding [net zero] targets because our position is that our emissions divided by population are less compared to many other countries,” says Kalia.
Meanwhile, hesitant to stifle growth in a developing economy, many in the industry also opine that India is a poor country, and those who are imposing stringent environmental regulations are developed giants, rich enough to now start cleaning up their mess.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
Home-Cooked Meal Is Now Greatly Valued
The pandemic has also brought with it an improved focus on hygiene, use of technology in dining, rise of cloud kitchens and resurgence in popularity of Indian ingredients
Paytm 3.0 - Reaching Near Breakeven In Two Years
As of 2020, Vijay Shekhar Sharma’s super app for financial services had run up losses in thousands of crores. Now, as digital payments gets yet another boost courtesy Covid-19, he’s hopeful of reaching near breakeven in two years
THE PANDEMIC HAS CAUSED WOMEN GREATER LABOUR PAIN
Covid-19 has shown that women are more likely to face the brunt of job losses than men, and find fewer opportunities when they want to resume. That apart, several have to deal with increased hours of unpaid work at home and even domestic abuse
LEADERSHIP WILL BE ABOUT SEEING THE BIGGER PICTURE
Leaders must not only guard their teams first during a crisis, but also deal with stakeholders with respect and dignity. And apart from pursuing business goals, they should remain committed to our planet and the environment
PHILANTHROPY SHOULD BE HUMBLE, BUT NOT MODEST
Apart from building a flexible and resilient framework for the future, philanthropists, civil society and the government must work in tandem so that every rupee is absorbed on the ground
INTEGRATED HEALTH CARE, TECH WILL DISRUPT SECTOR
While clinical research will get a boost, having a skilled workforce and public spending on health care will be challenges in the near term
DIGITALISATION WILL HELP IN VALUE CREATION
As the pandemic brings technology and innovation to the core of business and daily life, the next decade will see about 150 million digital-first families in India
Industry 4.0: Climate Revolution?
Augmenting sustainability alongside digital capabilities is an economic, competitive and global opportunity for India’s businesses, but regulations need to reflect intent
EV Dream Still Miles Away
Electric vehicles have remained a buzzword in India for years. But not much has moved on ground due to high upfront costs, range anxiety and charging infrastructure
A virus has caused us to scramble for oxygen but our chokehold on the environment is slowly strangling the very waters that breathe life into us. The virus is a timely reminder: We are merely consumers, not producers of life’s breath on this planet