Using environmental data and technology-driven processes to unlock more value for businesses

An interview with Kent Espersen, Vice President, EMEA, Envirosuite. By Ross Falconer

Over the last few decades, we’ve witnessed a shift from environmental monitoring to environmental management and now to Environmental Intelligence (EI). More recently, we’ve seen the increasing impact environmental considerations are having on all businesses, including airports.

It is in this context that Envirosuite decided to partner with Frost & Sullivan to understand global perceptions about environmental management, the emerging market of EI, and how organisations are planning on using environmental data and technology-driven processes to unlock more value for their businesses.

“Frost & Sullivan polled 272 senior executives across various geographies and sectors to understand the challenges and approaches to environmental management in airports, cities, mining, construction, waste and wastewater, as well as a range of industrial sites such as heavy manufacturing, ports, smelters, and agribusiness,” says Kent Espersen, Vice President, EMEA, Envirosuite.

Kent Espersen, Vice President, EMEA, Envirosuite: “Intelligence to me is an ability to collect information and synthesise it to derive actionable insights that improve your business outcomes. This is what I see airports doing by collecting qualified data, gathering trends, identifying outliers and sharing that information with different stakeholders to create awareness, understanding and options to improve their impact for the benefit of the organisation and the community.”

In the report, Environmental Intelligence: driving business growth in a changing climate, it’s evident that the environment is increasingly impacting business. “Over the last three years, 53% of respondents said they experienced dramatic impacts on their business from environmental factors,” Espersen explains. “Nearly 86% of the airports’ respondents mentioned facing significant or dramatic impacts from environmental factors.”

Almost 80% of respondents from airports cited public complaints and site proximity to the public as a major factor that impacts their organisations. “As previously presented in the white paper, Exploring the Aviation industry in the “new era”, it was highlighted that community beliefs around the environment and noise, in particular, have shifted as a result of COVID-19 and that it will be an ongoing challenge for airports as the industry emerges,” says Espersen.

He notes that there are also internal challenges for airports, including driving the focus for environmental management within their organisations. “The main challenges for those polled were little or no incentive internally to improve environmental performance, and inadequacy of current environmental analytical tools used. This shows that there is room for both airports and technology providers to do more.”

The report also identifies EI as critical to unlocking business growth. There is a discernible shift from viewing EI as a compliance exercise, to using EI as a powerful tool to add value to a business’ operations. “However, only 34% of total survey respondents indicated that they were familiar with the concept of EI and were currently applying it within their organisations, while 44% suggested they were planning to implement it in the next two years,” Espersen notes. “There’s good reason to adopt an EI approach and technology, with 48% of respondents citing key benefits such as reducing operating costs, reducing health, safety and environment (HSE) breaches, and improved community engagement.”

COVID-19 has also brought the bottom line firmly into focus for organisations across the world, and EI is something that isn’t just good for communities and the environment, it is a growth driver that Espersen describes as “a competitive edge”.

“Organisations are slowly starting to realise that EI is so much more than a tick-box exercise; it’s now, more than ever, business critical,” he says. “Those who underestimate the importance and impact of EI are potentially putting their organisations at risk. The early adopters who are already implementing EI practices are seeing significant results.”

One of the megatrends identified by Frost & Sullivan as driving the need for environmental management is ‘connectivity and convergence’. “By 2025, there will be over seven connected devices per human, over five billion mobile internet users, 1.2 billion 5G subscribers, and a tenfold increase in data generation,” Espersen explains. “We are seeing this megatrend of connectivity and convergence, which will uncover new opportunities to address social and economic challenges, including environmental issues.”

He highlights several key technological factors driving improvements in environmental management: data analytics, sensor technologies, integration of multiple environmental parameters, and improved data connectivity and the use of cloud technology.

Looking ahead, Envirosuite believes that airports should be looking to refocus their noise and climate offerings to provide the data stakeholders need when they need it. This will be done by leveraging technologies that will allow aviation to grow in a sustainable way. “In addition, the insights and trends coming out of the data need to be trustworthy to ensure the focus can be on the outcome needed. You can only manage what you are measuring,” Espersen concludes.

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