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The System Integrator’s Role in Sustainability

Because system integrators work with many of the technologies that support the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, industry should be aware of how integrators can help them achieve their own sustainability goals.

Luigi De Bernardini

In 2015, the United Nations (UN) adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is intended to guide the global economy in light of social equality and ecological boundaries. The agenda consists of 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs):

1. No poverty

2. Zero hunger

3. Good health and well-being

4. Quality education

5. Gender equality

6. Clean water and sanitation

7. Affordable and clean energy

8. Decent work and economic growth

9. Industry innovation and infrastructure

10. Reduced inequalities

11. Sustainable cities and communities

12. Responsible consumption and production

13. Climate action

14. Life below water

15. Life on land

16. Peace, justice, and strong institutions

17. Partnership for the goals

The goals are supported by 168 targets and 330 indicators, detailed on the UN website. The 193 member states of the UN have committed to implementing these ambitious goals by 2030.

 Recently I’ve been exposed multiple times to articles and speeches about how Industry 4.0 technologies can impact achievement of the SDGs. It’s clear that some of these technologies (such as IIoT, Big Data and analytics, cloud computing, simulation, augmented reality, additive manufacturing, autonomous robots, and cybersecurity) can have a direct impact on some of the goals. And it’s pretty easy to imagine that they can help innovation in industry and infrastructure (SDG9), creating more sustainable cities and communities (SDG11), and supporting a more responsible production and consumption (SDG12).

Not only we can see a direct correlation between these technologies and initiatives, but it has been proven in the study, “Mapping Industry 4.0 Enabling Technologies into United Nations Sustainability Development Goals” by Mohammed M. Mabkhot, Pedro Ferreira, Antonio Maffei, Primož Podržaj. In this study, the authors scientifically determined, with a well-documented and repeatable statistical process, which enabling technology impacts each SDG.

Since most system integrators’ main activity involves implementing some or many of these enabling technologies, it's clear that integrators can play a big role in helping end users achieve these SDGs. And not just the three mentioned above. Others that are less affected by Industry 4.0 technologies but are still impacted by automation projects include clean water and sanitation (SDG6), which is directly impacted by traditional water and wastewater integration projects; climate action (SDG13) is impacted by any project related to energy management, renewable energy, or cogeneration; life below water (SDG14) is again impacted by water treatment projects as well as projects related to fish feeding or breeding; and life on land (SDG15) is impacted by any project related to animal feeding and breeding and water treatment.

This gives system integrators a substantial role and responsibility in helping industry achieve its sustainability goals, and both integrators and end users should be aware of it.

These UN SDGs even map to one of the core values of the Control System Integrators Association: Partnership for the goals (SDG17). It’s important today for us to work together and collaborate to sustain any initiative aimed at creating a sustainable world.

 Luigi De Bernardini is CEO at Autoware, and President of Autoware Digital, certified members of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). For more information about Autoware, visit its profile on the Industrial Automation Exchange. 


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