Accelerating Sustainable Production

Production activities are responsible for significant social and environmental impacts. Global manufacturing consumes about 54 percent of the world’s total energy and a fifth of its GHG emissions. With global temperatures remaining catastrophically on course to exceed the 2-degree Celsius goal of the Paris Climate Agreement, action by the manufacturing sector remains slow and incremental.

Amidst a volatile geopolitical environment, as well as calls for unprecedent action around climate change, now is the critical moment to bring global leaders together to collectively drive sustainable manufacturing and production. If the world is to realize the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and specifically Sustainable Development Goal 12 on Responsible Consumption and Production, it is imperative that manufacturers to move towards more sustainable production systems.

By harnessing the combinatorial power of digital, physical and biological technologies, however, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) presents a way for manufacturing to increase its competitiveness and contribution to regional economies, while at the same time helping to deliver on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). 

The Accelerating Sustainable Production project serves as a guide for optimising the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in production, helping countries and businesses achieve sustainable growth and contribute toward the achievement of the UN SDGs. In 2017, the project team published a white paper on the technological opportunities presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution to generate triple bottom line value across four manufacturing industries, including qualitative sustainability assessments of technological developments, regional considerations, case studies and an initial quantitative model linked to the UN SDGs and metrics.

The work in 2018 focused on creating tailored economic models and quantitative output of the value presented by Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies for specific regions. The project conducted regional deep-dives in India and the U.S. to quantify the potential impact (economic, social and environmental) of the adoption of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies on specific sectors. In Andhra Pradesh, India, a $5billion annual opportunity for the automotive and electronics industries has been identified, while a $7billion annual opportunity was identified for the automotive sector alone in Michigan, USA. A similar deep-dive collaboration is set to begin in Guangdong, China in 2019.

The project is now working with local public and private stakeholders on new models of collaboration to ensure effective and scalable implementation of these innovations.