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Digital transformation is a key enabler
Harnessing the power of digital to measure the ESG impacts of infrastructure will lead to better outcomes for communities and the environment.
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Demonstrating ESG benefits can unlock investment in digital

Leading asset owners and operators know that propelling digital transformation requires significant investment, according to the Infrastructure Client Group’s latest digital benchmarking report. One way to unlock it will be to show how digitalisation can support the delivery of sustainable outcomes for society and the environment, writes Kerry Scott.

Diverse drivers of change – climate change, disruptive technologies, population growth, rapid urbanisation and now the COVID-19 pandemic – are combining to make the environmental, social and governance (ESG) agenda increasingly important.

All this change is challenging organisations to recognise they are not only responsible for service delivery and economic performance, but for addressing global issues and local priorities, too.

To continue to succeed, private and public organisations will have to deliver profit and value for money while committing to long-term, sustainable benefit creation that aligns with the wider demands of society. This is particularly true when it comes to infrastructure assets, due to their long lifecycle and their potential to impact the environment and the lives of large numbers of people.

Digital transformation is a key enabler for asset owners and operators looking for solutions to these challenges.

Digitalisation will enable them to analyse data, more effectively and efficiently, so that they can fully understand their environmental and social performance. Integrating ESG and digital strategies improves organisations’ ability to pursue positive environmental, social and commercial outcomes, manage risks and communicate with others – colleagues, communities and investors.

By enhancing ESG performance through digital technology, an organisation will also be demonstrating the value of investing in digital transformation.

The power of digital

How much the industry still finds it difficult to secure investment in digital transformation is one of the key findings of the Infrastructure Client Group’s (ICG) 2020 digital benchmarking report, published in March this year.

The assessment involved 450 respondents representing 14 organisations – all of them leading UK asset owners and operators from the transport, energy, defence and water sectors, collectively responsible for over £20bn/year of infrastructure investment. Responses were gathered and analysed for the ICG using the Smart Infrastructure Index, our digital benchmarking tool.

Nine tenths of respondents recognised that investment is needed to drive their digital transformation, but three quarters of them said they are struggling to demonstrate the value required to unlock that investment. Only half of respondents said they can quantify the benefits they have already realised through their digital strategies.

If we harness the power of digital to measure the ESG impacts of infrastructure, the data can be analysed to inform and improve decision-making, leading to better outcomes for end-users, stakeholders, communities and our natural environment. And, in turn, this can boost the business case for further digital investment.

To meet the increasing demand from our clients for this detailed insight, we have developed a new data-driven solution to support them with forecasting and assessing the environmental and social impacts of their assets.

Better outcomes for people and planet

People and Planet is part of an emerging suite of digital solutions to support the delivery of more socially inclusive and sustainable outcomes by the infrastructure sector. It is hosted on our technology platform, Moata, which provides the muscle to draw in, cleanse, order and interrogate data. It analyses client and publicly available information to rapidly calculate the impacts of new and existing assets, as well as proposed designs and interventions.

Moata People and Planet uses live data feeds and can automatically recalculate as assets or environmental conditions change. A customisable dashboard makes data interrogation easy, while interactive maps visualise impacts geographically.

Use of the tool is informed and overseen by environmental and social specialists, so that the most appropriate data and indicators are selected, achieving ‘value in, value out’. It analyses data against the criteria set out in our Social Outcomes Framework and can assess the contribution of assets and projects to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. It can also align to other international non-financial reporting frameworks, such as the Equator Principles, the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures and the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulations.

Moata People and Planet is tailored to the needs of each organisation. It is designed to add value for users and enhance their digital maturity.

Greater insight will benefit everyone

We know our clients want and need their projects to deliver better outcomes for communities, customers and voters.

Digitalisation, by providing greater insights into the impact of infrastructure on the environment and society, is the vehicle that can accelerate our journey to this destination. It is how outcomes can be integrated into decision-making. It can help us to design infrastructure to be as inclusive as possible. It can drive the delivery of projects that support national and global efforts to recover from the pandemic, reduce inequality and achieve net-zero.

This benefits all of us. This is the true value of digital transformation.

Read our executive summary of the ICG’s 2020 digital benchmarking report ‘National recovery, digitally driven’.

Learn how Moata People and Planet can provide insights into the impact of your assets on environment and society.

Kerry Scott

Mott MacDonald global practice leader for social outcomes

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