The Role of 5G in the Sustainability Fight

    The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has left many organizations developing strategies for environmental sustainability and for running an eco-friendly enterprise.

    A sustainable business looks forward to a broader horizon that includes present and future generations. Additionally, it devises innovative business strategies to bring positive social and environmental impact while accelerating business performance.

    With 5G and other data-driven technologies, organizations can begin moving toward both environmental and enterprise sustainability.

    The Rise of Sustainability Efforts

    Today, preserving nature and fighting environmental issues like atmospheric pollution and climate change has become a business imperative rather than a corporate social responsibility (CSR) activity.

    There is no doubt that risks and opportunities associated with environmental issues pose challenges to the strategies and operations of all enterprises in all shapes and sizes. But on the positive side, the ecological sustainability strategy on a broader scale will define an enterprise’s prospects in the current competitive marketplace.

    Environmental challenges are plenty, and it stands among the top five risks for a business. So, these days investors and entrepreneurs can’t shy away from implementing sustainability ideas and strategies in their organizations.

    In 2020, Blackrock, the largest fund manager globally, declared sustainability as their new standard for investing, and it embarked on a mission to make their customers and employees more environmentally conscious.

    In addition, 80% of respondents in a recent IBM research study personally favor environmental sustainability, while 60% are ready to change their consumer behavior to bring down environmental impact.

    However, while it is easy to talk about environmental sustainability efforts, putting them into practice is much more difficult.

    Digital Transformation and Sustainability

    Luckily, today’s digital transformation (DX) initiatives by most enterprises worldwide will make a huge difference in environmental sustainability. This is because there are several innovative technologies like the fifth generation of cellular networks (5G), artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), cloud, and blockchain that drive DX. 

    These technologies accelerate sustainability in three ways:

    • They utilize data to attain new insights and reach new solutions to existing problems.
    • They transform business practices and operations, creating a sustainable enterprise.
    • They create a new enterprise governance model forging public, private, and non-profit collaboration with environmental sustainability.

    In short, since all these technologies are data-driven by nature, DX brings greater transparency and insights into business operations.

    It transforms the way enterprises, investors, consumers, and governments buy, sell, produce, consume, transform, and operate businesses. This transition can even positively influence how economies function all over the globe and, in turn, bring improved environmental sustainability.

    Also read: Top Digital Transformation Companies & Services 2022

    Ways 5G Influences Environmental and Enterprise Sustainability

    Energy efficiency

    It is proven that fourth-generation cellular network (4G) stations consume more energy than the 5G base stations. Telecommunications giant Huawei reports that nearly half of the energy consumption of 4G base stations is used to cool down the transmission equipment.

    Another recent research reveals that 5G technology brings down carbon emissions by nearly 80% and reduces operating costs by almost a third.

    Streamlined water management

    With just 3% of the water resources being consumable and just two-thirds of it being accessible makes water a valuable resource. Moreover, the lack of streamlined water management can lead us to face water shortages by 2025.

    The World Bank found that the agricultural sector consumes an average of 70% of the world’s freshwater per year. But unfortunately, farmers worldwide use obsolete irrigation systems that use water inefficiently and impact climate change.

    IoT devices paired with 5G technology helps transfer, monitor, and analyze agricultural data like soil moisture levels, pesticide levels, weather conditions, and other valuable information at record speeds. In addition, 5G grants farmers access to multiple technologies like GPS systems, chlorophyll sensors, and sprayer control to manage crops and water resources more efficiently.

    The technologies leveraging 5G help farmers and the field of agriculture streamline water management. And, it can also do the same in cities.

    5G technology set the ground for large-scale IoT sensor deployments that streamline water management. These inexpensive IoT devices detect dangerous chemicals, manage leaks in the water supply, alert people of possible health hazards, early flood warnings, and transform the agriculture industry.

    Enhanced traffic management

    As per a recent WHO report, the environmental pollution from vehicles kills over 3 million people globally every year. With 5G technologies, we can monitor traffic operations and devise more effective and scalable traffic designs to reduce carbon emissions.

    Another 5G-enabled innovation that reduces carbon emissions would be driverless, or connected, cars. These fully automated cars connected over a 5G network, with streamlined cruise control and automated driving features, can improve energy efficiency up to 20–30%.

    Energy efficient smart buildings

    The heating, lighting, cooling, and other operations of buildings use up to 40% of the energy consumed globally. Smart buildings connected with 5G networks using automation will save energy, bring down carbon emissions, and fight climate change.

    IoT sensors over a 5G network automatically turn lights off when not needed and adjust the lighting per the natural lighting. As a result, it reduces energy consumption by up to 70%.  

    Beyond lighting, automated temperature control will also reduce energy utilization. Sensors connected to a high-speed 5G network monitor temperature levels, ventilation, and air conditioning automatically adjust the temperature.

    A real-life example of a smart building is the Empire State Building in New York City. It has implemented sensors and meters that measure each tenant’s energy usage, letting them optimize energy utilization. These automated meters and sensors bring down energy costs by nearly 40% and cut the building’s carbon emissions by more than 100 thousand tonnes within a year.

    Challenges of Implementing 5G for Sustainability

    While 5G technologies offer several benefits to environmental and enterprise sustainability, there are still a few challenges for the effective implementation of the technology in our daily lives. 

    Information technology (IT) is currently accountable for roughly 4% of global electricity consumption and nearly 2% of global carbon emissions, according to the 2020 report of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. And it has been anticipated that the rollout of 5G technology and devices can increase the current rate of IT energy consumption and carbon emissions.

    Another 5G challenge is associated with the increased electronic waste, or e-waste, generation with the increased adoption of 5G devices and networks all over the globe. However, solutions like decarbonization, implementing more efficient cooling systems, recycling, and network sharing can overcome these challenges.

    It is doubtless that 5G technology has the capability to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to a more significant extent and to efficiently streamline business operations at any level.

    From a futuristic point of view, every business leader must take responsibility for their enterprise’s environmental impact by embracing 5G technology as a positive change. The businesses that leverage 5G technology to bring sustainability will definitely become trendsetters in this age of digital transformation.

    Read next: Best Enterprise 5G Network Providers 2022

    Kashyap Vyas
    Kashyap Vyas
    Kashyap Vyas is a writer with 9+ years of experience writing about SaaS, cloud communications, data analytics, IT security, and STEM topics. In addition to IT Business Edge, he's been a contributor to publications including Interesting Engineering, Machine Design, Design World, and several other peer-reviewed journals. Kashyap is also a digital marketing enthusiast and runs his own small consulting agency.

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