The changing face of sustainability and the role of mixed reality technology

Yan Simard
20 June, 22

The meaning of sustainability has expanded in recent years. It is now a multi-faceted term, made up of the three pillars of environmental, business and human impact. It used to be the case that if a business wanted to focus on one of them, the others had to be put to the wayside.

Compromise was a prominent feature of this model. If a business for example wanted to focus on environmental initiatives, such as the reduction of carbon emissions, the business or human side of the equation would suffer. The tide however is turning. Where these pillars would have been competing before, more businesses are exploring how they can support each other.

The organisations failing to make headway in the new age of sustainability are those that are not taking this view. Many are viewing it as an expense rather than a driving force to adapt to today’s challenges. Organisations that have been running the same way as they did twenty years ago need to consider transformations in sustainability.

Three pillars working in tandem

The organisations that are adapting to the importance of the complementing three pillars are frequently forming their entire strategic plan on sustainability, while considering people and the wider business in equal measure. It’s a positive step and one that more businesses and the technology providers that service them need to embrace, which will allow them to be more agile and keep pace with societal developments.

The combination of physical reality and digital content to bring real-world and virtual objects together, otherwise known as mixed reality technology, is now playing a role in all three of these pillars. This technology also plays a role in business productivity by reducing the requirement for subject matter experts to undertake travel, while also reducing production downtime.

Mixed reality also makes a difference to the environmental aspect of sustainability. Where more output can be achieved with the same level of input, greater efficiencies can be achieved and more environmentally friendly initiatives can be encouraged. When looking at the direct carbon footprint, avoiding the need to send an engineer physically to site is beneficial in reducing this.

When looking at the human pillar, mixed reality technology also has its part to play here. Technology can provide the basis for field workers to perform tasks correctly the first time, on every occasion. This then has positive implications for morale and staff wellbeing in a time where they may be questioning their relevance in the automation era. It’s another example of how the pillars are able to reinforce each other, with mixed reality a key component.

The ESG aspect

With the three sustainability pillars coming together, more organisations are able to achieve their primary environmental, social and governance (ESG) targets. ESG is a concept that has risen up the priority list in recent times, and it’s little surprise when considering that around 33% of all global assets under management are predicted to have ESG mandates by 2025.

Mixed reality can help the ESG cause. A focus on sustainable initiatives can enable businesses to reduce energy and materials waste via a reduction in production downtime. Reduced consumption of metals, minerals and energy will only support the three pillars.

In the context of carbon emissions, mixed reality is helping to reduce the associated footprint of organisations. Any business that is sending experts out to other countries via air travel is going to accumulate a troubling number of air miles, particularly if they have a large team regularly making such trips. Eliminating this need via technology can drive significant environmental benefits.

A bright future for mixed reality technology

The ability for mixed reality technology to enhance sustainability and allow businesses to meet ESG targets has become clear. It however remains the case that while progress is being made, few have yet realised the potential of what the technology can facilitate, with small scale projects still being undertaken. While this is bringing measurable success, it’s likely that more businesses will start to reap the benefits in future. While it’s not a silver bullet that can solve every single problem that organisations are facing today in the world of sustainability, it’s a key component in the bigger picture solution for ESG.

Adoption of mixed reality technology is currently being driven by sectors that have had a historical reputation for not being as green in their operations, particularly defence, aerospace, energy and advanced manufacturing. While this is helping to drive adoption, more companies will soon take note of mixed reality technologies and their ability to support the three pillars of sustainability and help ESG targets to be met.

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