The journey to net zero requires industry transformation

By | 4 minute read | November 11, 2021

“What’s measured or rewarded gets done.” This is a fitting approach for organizations on the path to net zero, a commitment to reduce net emissions to zero in order to stabilize global temperatures. As stakeholders, consumers and investors increasingly demand that companies take action, industries must respond and show progress on meaningful efforts to transform their approach to climate change.

Consumers demand change to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions

A recent UN report shows that more than 130 countries have committed to net zero emissions by mid-century and an up to 45% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the end of this decade. Many countries created nationally determined contribution (NDC) plans which set targets to mitigate the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change and associated impacts. NDCs, along with consumer and investor demand, are now the driving businesses to achieve net zero.

Encouraging business and ecosystem partners to join the net-zero journey

Companies are already responding. BP entered the electric-vehicle power distribution market with its pulse platform and the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries CO2NNEX ™carbon capture ecosystem platform is enabling the green economy. These are just two examples of companies mitigating business risk while also looking to transform existing business models. They are also creating new opportunities for themselves, their clients and ecosystem partners as they journey to net zero. But the path ahead is not simple.

Collaboration and platforms on the path to net zero

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries worked with IBM to create CO2NNEX, a digital platform designed as an interconnected ecosystem of CO2 emitters, carbon capturers, storage providers and CO2 users. This ecosystem is underpinned by a digital platform that links partners together.  

Currently, CO2 data is only visible in individual stages. For example, the total amount captured, or the amount that is transported, traded and stored. Linking and visualizing this data and providing traceability encourages investment as it provides visibility and provenance.  

The system expands the scope of CO2 use by matching CO2 emitters with companies that are able to use it. The system provides supply for new applications in sectors including agriculture and alternative e-fuel. 

Image 1 – C02NNEX platform eco-system


IBM has also worked with LafrageHolcim to develop the 
ORIS platform. The platform’s smart project design helps decision-makers, road infrastructure authorities and project investors improve road construction, reduce inefficiencies and contribute toward more sustainable practices. 

Road design varies depending on location, climate, vehicle types and traffic volumes. This makes defining the most sustainable, cost-effective mix of building materials and technologies challenging–particularly in the early design phase. ORIS assesses road pavement designs from different perspectives. It then recommends efficient construction and maintenance patterns which take advantage of the availability and capabilities of local materials. ORIS supports public policies that conserve natural resources, leading to a more local and circular economy in road construction. 

The ORIS platform uses IBM technologies including hybrid cloud, digital-design services, expertise in machine learning, artificial intelligence, industrial Internet of Things (IoT) and data analytics. Together, these technologies advance LafrageHolcim’s materials knowledge in cement and ready-mix concrete products, precast concrete, asphalt, mortar and building solutions.

Four tenets for transforming value chains

These two examples highlight the four key tenets in transforming value chains:  

  1. Trust: Visibility, transparency, provenance and clear ownership are critical. IBM blockchain and smart-contracts technology ensures all parties meet required standards while intellectual property is protected across the value chain. 
  2. Insight: Finding insights within vast quantities of structured and unstructured data is essential. Artificial intelligence and machine learning help participants find key insights in large amounts of data which must be shared across the end-to-end value chain. This helps all parties serve customers better, optimize operations, reduce costs and allocate capital for strategic initiatives. 
  3. Affordability: Finding and bringing data together is crucial. Capturing data using IoT allows easily integrated data system and reduces the cost of joining platforms. 
  4. Scalability: Ease of implementation and expansion is a key enabler. Building on an open hybrid cloud framework eases implementation of new solutions and portability encourages the on-boarding of new ecosystem categories and organization. 

The power of platforms

These tenets can be seen in other organizations IBM has worked with to drive large-scale change:  

  • TradeLens, developed with IBM and Maersk, delivers a single connected ecosystem that digitizes trade and reduces waste and redundancy. This project was started to reduce the cost of transaction and increase the trust–through blockchain–between various participants of Maersk’s value chain. There are now hundreds of partners including Maersk competitors in shipping industry, third-party logistics providers, intermodal operators, financial service providers and software developers.  
  • Plastic Bank enables recycling ecosystems in developing communities fight plastic pollution in oceans and high poverty levels. The digital platforms use blockchain to prevent potential abuse and corruption in vulnerable regions of the world–increasing trust–to establish a marketplace where pickers can exchange plastic waste for financial incentive including reducing plastic in the ocean. The platform has grown to more than 32,000 members, 516 collection points and has recovered approximately 32 million kilograms of plastic.
  • The Delfi platform was created in a collaboration between Schlumberger, IBM and Red Hat. It’s an open, secure, scalable and fully managed platform that seamlessly connects people, data and leading software applications across exploration, development, drilling, production and midstream in the oil and gas industry. Built on a hybrid cloud environment, it enables the platform to be scaled easily and integrated into most clients’ environments without any difficulty–which improves scalability and reduces implementation costs. 

IBM Garage is the first step in large-scale transformation

Starting large-scale change is daunting. Companies such as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries have used the IBM Garage for Sustainability methodology to design and accelerate sustainability transformation. The approach helps companies refine and focus ideas, quantify the value of initiatives using business and sustainability measures and deliver results in weeks.