You are reading this, so the chance is high that you’ve heard of climate change. You’ve overheard it on the news, you’ve seen it on billboards. It’s a big deal, it’s controversial. Some say: keep mining coal and driving the economy. Others say: drop everything and cuddle some goats. At ProcessGold we say: mine some processes and cuddle some robots, because climate change isn’t the only millennium defining blockbuster: Greening your business with automation could be the hero of this story.
As philosopher Rosi Braidotti puts it, we are at the intersection of two superhuman forces. Anthropogenic mass extinction and the 4th industrial revolution. There’s no getting around the fact that the current extinction rate is 1000 times higher than normal, and that as Homo sapiens migrated to colonize the virgin wilderness thousands of years ago, large land animals went instinct wherever we settled. We as humans have been global super-predators for millennia. It can be argued that this is largely the result of our mastery of tools, and that human ability scales non-linearly with the size of the group. In other words: we are social, and we are technological, we always have been.
The socio-technological evolution that allowed us to take position as super-predator is ancient history, and probably had negligible impact on the climate. But as technological innovation started to accelerate during the industrial revolution 150 years ago (a moment ago, in ecological time), our collective impact on the biosphere has grown large and complex. It is difficult to map and to trace. We are caught without a rudder in the storm of these non-human, distributed and unpredictable processes.
Why should you care about a green business?
It’s quite simple really, not going green is risky and expensive, and those who don’t jump on the green train soon risk an expensive and chaotic transition if regulation kicks in. That is on top of the existential risk posed to businesses in the form of political upheaval, demographic transitions, inflation, and food supply insecurity that climate change could bring.
Even if one ignored the long-term risks of not going green collectively, there are abundant short-term reasons to green your business. If you’ve been in a hotel recently, you probably recognize signs like this:
The conceit is that hotels do this because they are altruistic. The fact is that going green is a smart business strategy. When a process becomes more efficient, you are using less time, energy and materials to accomplish the same goals. Improvements in efficiency are improvements in sustainability, and they are almost always good for your bottom line.
It is also good for branding. Sustainability is a hot topic for consumers. According to data from Nielsen, in 2017, 80% of global respondents said that it is “extremely” or “very” important that companies implement programs to improve the environment. This may be highly relevant for consumer facing brands, but as companies start to compete with one another for green points, B2B will be affected also. Philips, the Dutch consumer electronics behemoth, has stated its intention to partner exclusively with “green companies”, choosing Rabobank over the competition because it’s the only “Green bank” in the Netherlands.
So, what do we do?
In ecological circles, an equation that is sometimes seen is: Environmental burden = Population x Affluence x Technology, or EB = P x A x T. It’s obviously an oversimplification of the situation, but it does break the problem into parts. There are a lot of us now (7.8 billion), we all want to live well, and our technology has a direct impact on how our burden falls on the environment. So, according to the equation, how do we decrease EB? Decreasing affluence increases population, so that’s not an option, so we must assume technology has a key role to play in future developments. The question is whether we can harness the 4th industrial revolution to undo the damage done and to become resilient, without losing what makes us human.
Greening a business is a complex process. There are many factors to consider. Think energy consumption, supply chain efficiency, cooperation with green vendors and partners and even interpersonal changes with regards to, for example, company culture. We have identified four interdependent goals that we need to address:
- Identify the problems
- Increase efficiency
- Humanize work
- Pass it on
We believe that process mining and automation are crucial to accomplishing these goals.
Identify the problem
The first step is always identifying the problem. Mapping the facts is the first step towards making informed decisions, and process mining does this incredibly well. Our software helps corporations map their processes and, by proxy, their environmental impact.
The second step is increasing efficiency through sustainability. After our process mining tools allow our customers to map their processes, we identify sites for the introduction of interventions that increase process efficiency. These can range from saving paper by digitizing your purchase orders and invoices, to streamlining your supply chain operations to reduce waste and environmental impact (think half empty trucks, unnecessary airfreight shipments). It is important to note that these changes don’t only help the planet, they work wonders on your bottom line!
Benefits compound exponentially when you start to automate. As part of the UiPath family, we believe that one robot per person will change the world for good. This is because software robots can do repetitive, mind numbing tasks at the speed of light and they never get tired. These astronomical increases in efficiency mean you can do more work with less time, less money, less space and less energy.
Many people have a cartoonish perception of how automation will impact their lives, but many forget that bots do the mind-numbing tasks that no-one wants to do, which liberates employees. A sea change of human capital is set loose, free to tackle the wicked problems. The gritty, complex and social and meaningful tasks that need a human touch.
Robots will humanize work, and humanizing work is the hidden gem when you green your business with RPA. It means more creative potential to change company culture. It means more time to design and implement high level strategies that put sustainability first. Greening your business is one of those challenges that cannot be fixed by a robot alone. Greening needs grit, wit, creativity and cooperation, which you will have in spades when you work with UiPath’s bots.
Pass it on
Step 4 is everyone’s favorite. Going green is like going to the gym or eating healthily (or being happy!) – it is contagious. As more consumers go green, companies will adapt in response, and there may be a race to the top. As going green becomes trendy, thinks like green indexes or scorecards will become more important, as companies compete with each other to be the most sustainable option for their customers and partners. As Patti and Jack Phillips note:
“A reliable measurement and evaluation system will help organizations manage green and sustainability projects so that they improve and thrive. In addition, the measurement approach should provide credible data for decision makers. Organizations must adopt a results-based, return on investment (ROI) focus that helps them identify, develop, and implement green projects that add value from an economic, environmental, and societal perspective. They need a green scorecard.”
Process mining and RPA don’t only help with increasing efficiency. When you green your business with process mining, its traceable. You can track improvements and publish the results. You can illustrate them with our industry leading data visualization dashboards. This information can be essential in documenting your green transition.
Proof of monitoring and documentation will be essential to score well on performance indicators such as the Green Index. And these indexes will become critical when trying to stand out to climate conscious consumers as they will allow you to brag with facts. A well-documented, digitally assisted green transition could set an example, starting a chain reaction and making you a green leader in your industry.
Just as we saw in the equation above, EB = P x A x T. Process mining and automation have the potential to revolutionize the ‘T’. Our software can do thousands of hours of heavy lifting, we can map the problems and the potential. We help you increase efficiency and humanize work with our industry leading bots. Finally, our data–driven approach gives you the proof you need to be a proud leader in the transition towards a green economy.
If you can’t wait to improve efficiency, sustainability and your bottom line, drop the coal and start mining your processes. And if you can’t wait to tackle wicked problems with a human touch, leave the goats to graze and meet our latest bots. Better yet: do both.