How digital transformation helps your organisation tackle climate change

Digitisation is a leading priority in the UK public sector and beyond, often due to its advantages in process efficiency, financial savings, and data risk reduction. However, an often-overlooked benefit of digital transformation is its ability to deliver real climate change business impacts. In this edition of For Social Good, we uncover a range of ways digitisation can help your public sector organisation tackle climate change.

The public sector’s response to the UK climate emergency

It’s clear the UK public sector is beginning to accelerate its efforts in tackling the current climate crisis. Since the UK’s commitment to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050 back in 2019, over 300 councils have declared climate emergencies, while the NHS established its NHS Net Zero Expert Panel – whose mission stands to reach net zero in directly controlled emissions by 2040, and second hand emissions by 2045.

However, implementing climate change business strategies in the public sector has proven to be a difficult feat – especially in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Climate Emergency UK, 84 local authorities don’t yet have climate action plans, and 139 haven’t set a target date for net zero. Similarly, NHS Trusts across the country have been too overwhelmed by COVID-19 service delivery to implement new climate change solutions.

However, as the public sector moves from COVID-19 response to recovery and management, climate action is regaining its priority. As highlighted by the COP26 Glasgow Climate Pact and UK Presidency, the nation’s leaders now plan to deliver emission reductions in line with the “1.5 degrees” initiative – as well as increase finances dedicated to environmental projects.

The advantages of digitisation in facing climate change

When looking for ways to reduce carbon footprint, many organisations first consider larger contributors first, such as building and travel emissions. And while those are excellent, high-impact areas to tackle, their solutions can be expensive and take a long time to implement.

Digitisation can offer additional impacts in often a much shorter time frame – an advantage the public sector could exploit as it commits to rapid climate action. Alongside larger projects, such as electric car charging facilities and efficiency improvements to infrastructure, digital transformation projects can help to alleviate significant carbon emissions and negative environmental outputs generated within business processes, such as:

  • Digitisation of paper-based processes for significant reductions in paper wastage
  • Elimination of rekeying administration, reducing mileage emissions
  • Removal or reduction of printing resources and document storage
  • Streamlining of processes for efficiency and reduced energy usage

How to reduce your carbon footprint with digital processes

Transformational technologies such as robotic process automation (RPA), mobile apps and eForms are a great way to digitise processes to reduce carbon emissions and environmental impact in the public sector.

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Also known as automation, RPA emulates human interactions within a virtual environment to complete tasks with little to no human interaction. Capable of completing repetitive, logic-based tasks much faster than we can, RPA is often used to drastically accelerate processes across the breadth of the public sector.

In terms of climate change, RPA is an excellent tool in replacing paper-based processes and reducing energy consumption throughout long digital procedures. A recent example could be found at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, with the automated processing of GP referrals, saving just short of one million sheets of paper every year.

Mobile apps

Already a part of our everyday lives, mobile applications can be used in a variety of ways across public sector operations. Allowing employees to input data directly into back-office systems and databases (where integration applies) through handheld devices, apps can help to significantly reduce carbon emissions.

In digital transformation, mobile apps have the ability to replace paper-based processes and capture information to remove rekeying. These benefits can result in drastic savings in mileage, paper wastage and energy usage in contribution to net zero targets.

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Also known as web forms, eForms are electronic questionnaires accessible via internet browsers. Across the public sector, eForms have almost unlimited replicability, commonly used for everything from patient consents to residential waste bin ordering. Allowing users to input information remotely, eForms deliver a number of environmental benefits.

The implementation of eForms often delivers a significant reduction in paper waste and mileage, as well as other benefits such as improved data quality, response rates, and efficiency. As eForms usually interact with back-office systems, they can save power through the removal of rekeying too.

Reduce your carbon footprint with digitisation

Interested in implementing emission reducing digital transformations within your public sector organisation? Don’t hesitate to get in touch with a member of the team.