By Professor James McCallum, (pictured)Co-founder and Chairman of Proteus developed by XergyAt the turn of the millennium, the energy industry faced a deep crisis. With oil and gas prices plummeting, the continued existence of hydrocarbon supply from the North sea was under threat, exposing the fragility of our economy. Unprecedented levels of collaboration across industries, government and academia brought the changes needed to survive. 

As we learn to live with the impact of the global pandemic, it is fundamental we do not lose the Herculean collaboration spirit in what can be achieved. 

The need for us to address the immediate requirement for decarbonisation means we must drive the transition faster. When much of the world’s energy infrastructure functions to support fossil fuels and traditional heavy industry operates with outdated business practices, this is easier said than done.

Technological and environmental challenges have been at the forefront of innovation and reinvention of UK businesses for over fifty years, hence why digital transformation is crucial at this very moment.

A lack of new digital methods 

The benefits of digitalisation can come into effect almost overnight. The application of work management automation tools optimise business processes and combat the challenges businesses face, such as the development and productivity of existing IT infrastructure. 

The digital tools to replace the old with new and improved technology are already out there, but unfortunately, the sense of urgency to adopt new digital methodologies is still lacking. 

Companies are not yet convinced. Whilst digital transformation may be paramount to efficiently decarbonise the UK economy and continue to operate effectively in the future, the key question remains how to increase adoption? 

Engaging a new generation of talent

From an operational perspective, investing in carbon-efficient digital technology that maps business processes is one way to drive the innovation needed to support a complete digital transformation. However, a shift in mindset is also essential.

Management may be stuck in their ways and not just unwilling to make the changes needed, but also incapable. The younger, digitally enabled generation are perhaps more adept to embrace such advances. Businesses need to focus on attracting such talent, particularly in the energy industry, to help identify, adopt and manage the new systems and technology. 

Careers in the energy sector once solely reliant on hydrocarbon energy resources are no longer considered an attractive prospect to young, environmentally savvy talent eager to change the world. The industry’s objective must be to demonstrate a meaningful cultural shift to invest in low-carbon solutions which support the global energy transition agenda. It is imperative that companies recruit with the emphasis of decarbonising businesses in mind and genuinely convey that they need help to reach this goal with the support of fresh, young talent. 

The power of software

Specialised talent software is an excellent, simple, low capital expenditure for businesses to start their decarbonisation journey. Talent software can offer an efficient way to access new talent and allow companies to post ads for specific low-carbon projects, search for rated talent and engage gig workers. Hiring can be challenging and lengthy, but recruiting software platforms can help access and inform some of the reluctant knowledge from the best green energy talent available worldwide.

Attracting and retaining talent in a way that reflects decarbonisation goals is now an essential component of the discussion. The adoption of remote, flexible workplace systems that embrace the aspirations of the gig economy will be an increasing part of the mix and the solution. This is hugely important, as the next generation of talent is looking for an attractive work environment without frustrating processes and slow decision making anchored around a long commute or decisions made at the pace of multiple committees. 

In a nutshell, businesses need to adapt to a new way of working or risk being labelled dinosaurian or worse consigned to the history books. 

The foundation of a low-carbon future

As the climate crisis looms, businesses must reflect on strategies to improve the utilisation of hardware, software and intellectual assets. This will improve capital and carbon efficiency and give them a platform for continuous improvement.

As we come out the back of a global pandemic, striking a balance between energy security, decarbonisation and growth are the challenges businesses face. Without addressing the low-carbon dimension of running a business, not only will the demise of our environment continue, but intellectual and capital investment will relent. 

Digital transformation will be pivotal in enabling our economy to transition. Streamlining processes to reduce waste and energy consumption and improve resource utilisation will be key. Finally, a willingness from leaders to change will be essential. Investing in decarbonising businesses may prove to be both the currency of a business’s right to exist and the foundation of a viable low-carbon future for our planet.