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IoT is a critical tool for addressing UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

SEP 20, 2022 | Suruchi Dhingra
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Increasing awareness of issues related to sustainability is changing behaviour amongst consumers, who want to purchase green products, and investors who prefer to invest in companies with good ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) practices. Enterprises are increasingly going beyond traditional metrics of success such as product performance, profits and affordability and are also focussing on burnishing their social and environmental credentials. In so doing they are also going a long way to meet UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This blog post looks at the ways in which disruptive technologies, particularly IoT, can be used to meet to improve ESG performance and meet UN SDGs.

ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance)

The recently published Transforma Insights report ‘Sustainability enabled by digital transformation’ examines the sustainability and wider ESG benefits derived from the adoption of selected digital solutions. The three main elements of ESG are:

  • Environment: Environment criteria include climate change policies, energy and fuel use, water use, GHG emissions, waste control, biodiversity, pollution control, recycling, natural resource conservation, and treatment of animals.
  • Social: Social criteria include diversity and equality, employee relations, health and safety of employees and citizens, non-discrimination policies, training and education, security, human rights, working conditions, child labour.
  • Governance: Governance criteria look at board diversity, bribery and corruption, ethics, risk management, procurement practices, taxation and transparent accounting methods, integrity, political lobbying, compensation and remuneration.

It is largely in the environmental aspects that the technology solutions have the greatest application. In particular, the use of IoT-based use cases, such as building management and smart grid, are very effective at reducing energy and fuel consumption, and CO2 emissions. Further to this, the report also considered the wider ESG landscape including areas such as fair labour practices, wildlife protection, and saving life of aquatic animals.

UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Probably the most prominent framework related to ESG is the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) published by the United Nations. These 17 goals (illustrated below) are a blueprint for countries, companies and other organisations to achieve prosperity for people and the planet. They cover a wide range of major thematic goals including water, energy, climate, transport, equality, diversity, resource conservation, hunger, economic prosperity, infrastructure development, science and development, amongst others.

UN Sustainable Development Goals [Source: UN, 2022]


The Transforma Insights report identified a range of key areas (the ‘Clean Dozen’) where enterprises can use disruptive technologies such as IoT and AI to have a positive ESG impact. The chart below illustrates the ways in which the key IoT-focused solutions can have an impact on the 17 UN SDGs. The reason for focusing particularly on IoT solutions is that IoT has overwhelmingly the biggest impact. The reason is simple: IoT represents the interface between efficiency-enabling digital transformation solutions and the ‘real world’ (which is where sustainability savings can be made).

Impact of key IoT solution areas on SDG goals (indicative) [Source: Transforma Insights, 2022]


As depicted in the chart, most of the solutions discussed in this document contribute towards sustainability goals related to climate action, responsible consumption, clean energy, clean water, life on land, life below water, sustainable cities and communities, and good health. For instance:

  • Agriculture and Supply Chain contribute towards ‘No Hunger’ as they reduce food wastage (the former one in production and the later in transit). Agriculture also contributes towards it by improving the yield of crops grown.
  • Fleet Operations, Smart Cities, Smart Public Transport, Smart Buildings, Healthcare, and Agriculture contributes towards ‘Good Health and Wellbeing’. The first three contribute towards well-being of citizens by reducing stress and improving quality of life due to time spent in traffic, Fleet Ops additionally monitors drivers’ fatigue and hours of service (HOS), and Smart Public Transport promotes bike sharing that improves wellbeing. Smart Buildings contribute by monitoring air quality, reducing light pollution, managing ventilation etc. Agriculture contributes by decreasing fertiliser consumption and the harmful effects caused by fertiliser consumption.
  • Solutions that contribute towards ‘Clean Water and Sanitation’ are Smart Buildings, Smart Grids and Agriculture. Smart water meters are the major contributor as they are helpful in maintaining water quality.
  • Smart Grids and Campus Microgrids are major contributors to ‘Affordable and Clean Energy’. Campus Microgrids enable smooth integration of renewable energy, additionally, they promote electricity consumption in non-peak hours when it’s cheap which makes it more affordable.
  • All of the solutions contribute in some way to ‘Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure’ by building more sustainable infrastructure and fostering innovation.
  • The majority of solutions discussed in this document impact ‘Sustainable Cities and Communities’, ‘Climate Action’ and ‘Responsible Consumption and Production’ as they decrease GHG emissions, reduce material wastage and positively impact in reduction of one or more than one form of energy.
  • Agriculture is a major contributor towards ‘Life Below Water’ as it prevents cases of overfishing, monitors health of fishes, predicts the optimal level of feeding requirement.
  • Healthcare and Smart Cities contribute towards ‘Life on Land’. Smart Lighting (part of Smart Cities) solutions decrease light pollution that contributes towards wildlife protection.

The conclusion is clear. Across 11 of the 17 SDGs, the Internet of Things has a positive impact. In several SDGs, including particularly those related to environmental sustainability, they have widespread applicability. If enterprises and governments are serious about pursuing SDGs, then IoT-based solutions will have to be part of the mix.

Learn more

This blog post was written based on Transforma Insights’ recently published ‘Sustainability enabled by digital transformation’ report. The 112-page report focuses on the sustainability benefits of a range of digital transformation (DX) solutions, and related ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) benefits. Overall, the report identifies twelve key areas (the ‘Clean Dozen’) where digital transformation can significantly help an organisation achieve sustainability goals. These include Fleet Operations, Supply Chain, Smart Cities, Smart Grid and Smart Buildings. For each of those solution areas, the report draws on a wide range of case studies to identify the impact that implementation of such projects might have for enterprises, including reducing electricity, fuel and water consumption, in meeting wider ESG goals, and in terms of business impact.

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