From Governance to immersive technologies: how to build a sustainable future?

Writer Manon Loison
ict spring 2023 sustainability
© Sabino Parente

On June 29 and 30, LuxExpo hosted a highly anticipated event: ICT Spring Global Tech Conference, where business innovation makes a difference.

This year, the conference revolved around the theme “Time for Change”, attracting experts, decision-makers, start-ups, and investors eager to engage in meaningful discussions and explore emerging trends across multiple sectors.

The two-day event featured an impressive lineup of keynotes, roundtables, meetings, and networking opportunities. These activities provided an invaluable platform for attendees to connect, exchange ideas, and delve into pressing issues and prospects within their respective fields.

The first morning on the main stage offered a captivating program centered around sustainability, impact and immersive technology.

In today’s world, where environmental concerns and resource scarcity are becoming increasingly pressing, integrating sustainable practices has become imperative for businesses and societies. Collectively, we need to be more responsible but also broaden our horizons. Lisa Burke, the Master of Ceremony this first ICT morning, welcomed the audience under this motto: sustainability will drive transformation.

The starting and end point of Sustainability: IMPACT

During the morning session, Julia Zhou, Co-founder of Tidal Impact, discussed the true meaning of impact and the importance of measuring our actions. There is no sustainability policy without monitoring your impact. Sustainability is a widely discussed topic, yet only some truly comprehend the related concepts. It has become a jumble of terms or “alphabet soup” such as Impact, Sustainability, ESG, Responsible Investing, CSR, Green Investing, and Purpose, each lacking a clear definition. Impact involves intentionally creating positive social and environmental outcomes as an integral part of a business model or strategy. Both ESG and Impact are crucial for every company.

As Alex Lancee, ChromeOS Lead Benelux at Google, explained in his keynote speech on Sustainable IT with ChromeOS, we can only effectively manage what we can measure. For instance, data reveals that end-user computing devices contribute to 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This data is a starting point for companies to address their actions and accurately measure their impact. Being at the forefront, Google became the first major company to achieve carbon neutrality and a 100% match with renewable energy. Looking ahead, Google aims to achieve 24/7 carbon-free energy by 2030.

Unleashing Sustainability through Technological Innovation

Following the initial keynotes, the next speaker was Florence Verzelen, Executive Vice President of Industry, Marketing & Sustainability at Dassault Systèmes. Her presentation titled “The Power of Virtual Twins: Unleashing Sustainable Innovation” provided an insightful statistic: 80% of the environmental impact is determined during the design phase. At Dassault Systèmes, they have made a dedicated effort to address climate change through the use of virtual twin technology.

Virtual twins are dynamic, virtual representations of products, processes, or entire systems used for modelling, visualisation, prediction, and feedback on properties and performance. Consequently, physical prototypes are no longer necessary to assess the viability of a product, conserving valuable resources and reducing environmental impact. Moreover, virtual twin models allow for testing countless possibilities for products or processes, facilitating the creation of sustainable and environmentally friendly options that minimise our planet’s impact.

After this captivating presentation, Florence remained on stage and was joined by Jean-Paul Lorrain, Head of Environment, CO2 and CAPEX at ArcelorMittal, Royce Dalby, President of Hydrosat, Louis Neltner, Chief Operating Officer at GFBiochemicals, and Lisa Burke as the moderator. They engaged in a round table discussion titled “Growing Sustainable to catalyse transformations”. The industrial sector’s sustainability levels vary globally, with sectors like motors and aerospace advancing while construction lags behind. Nevertheless, there is a collective global effort towards sustainability.

Jean-Paul Lorrain of ArcelorMittal, representing the steel industry, highlighted the various approaches to steel production and the company’s commitment to reducing carbon intensity. ArcelorMittal has assumed a leadership role in decarbonising the steel industry and, in Europe, particularly through its Luxembourg activities, aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 35% by 2030 and ultimately achieve carbon-neutral steel production. Louis Neltner, COO at GFBiochemicals, further emphasised the importance of communication and education in achieving carbon neutrality. In the biochemical industry, there are misconceptions about certain solvents being polluting when, in reality, they are not. It is essential to inform people about what truly contributes to pollution so that appropriate solutions can be implemented.

Additionally, larger companies must rely on startups to drive sustainability, as innovation often stems from these new and smaller enterprises, unburdened by legacy effects. Finally, Royce Dalby, President of Hydrosat, reminded the audience that progress towards sustainability and corporate accountability necessitate governmental policies. Institutional and political commitment are paramount to aligning efforts, going all together in the same direction.

Digitalisation, Sustainability and Public commitment

After the round table, Carlo Thelen, the Director General of the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce, reiterated the sentiments expressed by Royce Dalby, the President of Hydrosat. He emphasised the importance of collaboration between private and public institutions to foster a sustainable future. Interestingly enough, Thelen opened his speech with a poem, revealing later that he had built it using ChatGPT. The purpose of reciting a poem created by an AI like ChatGPT was to highlight that we should embrace new technologies, such as AI, without fear.

Carlo Thelen conveyed that these new technologies, including AI, are instrumental in driving productivity and are not incompatible with sustainability but quite the contrary. He then gave the floor to Mr Franz Fayot, Luxembourg Minister of the Economy, for his opening speech at the ICT Spring.

Mr Fayot acknowledged the shifting times in his address, highlighting the conference’s “Times for Change” tagline. However, he emphasised that these changes were ultimately positive. Today, we face a choice: either deny the transformative power of technology and its impact on our world or embrace these advancements and their challenges.

The reality is that the consequences of inaction are unbearable, compelling us to forge ahead a path that the Luxembourg Government has already embarked upon. Mr Fayot reminded the audience about his latest mission in California, which he considered pivotal. With unity, Europe can achieve great things. Luxembourg possesses remarkable potential, boasting a robust data-driven economy, a sovereign public cloud, and a thriving and innovative startup ecosystem.

Expressing confidence, Mr Fayot asserted that by working together, we can navigate this era of change and construct a civilisation aligned with our core values. Instead of resisting AI, he advocated for integrating it harmoniously with our European principles and values, referring to the proposed AI EU act—the first major regulation of AI, because we are stronger if we are together.

AI and the future of immersive tech: a new patch towards sustainability

After Mr Carlo Thelen’s and Franz Fayot’s speeches, we moved to our last sessions of this first morning around the themes of AI and immersive technologies. John Acunto, CEO of global metaverse entertainment and innovation leader Infinite Reality, entered into a discussion with Jenny Hällen Hedberg, Head of International Relations from Luxinnovation, explaining that Luxembourg is the natural home of the metaverse as it offers the security, infrastructure and government support needed. With no surprise, John Acunto announced live on stage the release of a pioneering solution in the next few weeks, enabling anyone to create their own metaverse.

Following this announcement, the first morning of the ICT Spring concluded with a thought-provoking round table discussion titled “How can responsible IT lead to financial gains?”. The panel featured esteemed industry experts: Nicolas Sanitas, Senior Advisor and Digital Community Coordinator at Luxembourg Digital Innovation Hub; Auban Derreumaux, Board and Exec Advisor, Independent Non-Executive Director, and Entrepreneur at innov’ICTion; Cédric Pontet, Chief Technology Officer at Agile Partner; and Brent Frère, Founder, co-owner, administrator, and manager of Abil’I.T.

One significant aspect highlighted during the discussion was the role of responsible IT in driving financial gains. By reducing costs and prolonging the lifespan of a company’s materials, reliable IT offers tangible operational and IT-related benefits that every organisation should pursue. This approach emphasises the importance of quality, resource optimisation, and accountability within companies.

Interestingly enough, the four panellists unanimously agreed that young talents are increasingly reluctant to work for companies without a clear sustainability commitment. These talents seek comprehensive knowledge about each product and demand transparency from organisations. Therefore, embracing responsible IT practices becomes a compelling argument for attracting top talent and establishing a reputation for transparent product development and governance.

This enlightening round table session effectively concluded the morning segment of the first day at ICT Spring, dedicated to exploring various themes: How to build a sustainable future: from Governance to immersive technologies, and creating impact.