Jean-Louis Chaussade, CEO of SUEZ, discusses the impact of the digital revolution on our modes of production, work, consumption and, ultimately, on resource management.
The industrial and cultural revolution heralded by digital technology is also impacting another revolution: the resource revolution. The resource revolution requires every player to fundamentally rethink their modes of production and consumption. We have redefined our corporate mission: from “network managers” to “managers of newly scarce resources”. We are helping our customers to manage their resources intelligently and sustainably. The digital revolution and the resource revolution are inextricably bound together by the need to take up this challenge and to respond to public opinion, which is demanding new growth models that consume fewer resources.
To begin with, the digital revolution has allowed for the emergence of this “new citizen”, who can use unlimited access to knowledge and new means of expression to play a role in our cities. New forms of organising our cities are being developed, where everyone can join the debate and take part in the decision-making process. As a long-established player in the delivery of services to local authorities and industry, our Group is helping to design these smart cities that are looking to open data to renew participative democracy, to improve the quality of the services delivered to city-dwellers, to manage their resources more efficiently and to make substantial savings. This is the project that we, and other partners, built with the city of Dijon, rooted in the conviction that a smart city is a city designed for its inhabitants, and that contributes to sustainable development and the region’s appeal.
Innovation is gathering pace everywhere in order to rise to environmental challenges. Our customers want to improve their economic and environmental performance. Digital technology is now inseparable from the technologies used to manage water and waste. As is illustrated by smart network management, capable of detecting leaks in real time and significantly improving performance. Some of our digital platforms will soon be capable of remotely managing the energy consumption of factories. Even our waste collection trucks are now smart! They now collect waste and data at the same time, measure the air quality and draw thermographic maps of the city. As existing services are being transformed, new ones are also emerging, such as digital marketplaces that connect waste producers and the users of secondary raw materials. We recently joined the Prairie Institute, whose goals include shifting the focus of its research into artificial intelligence to enterprises and industrial applications.
While digital technology opens up a swathe of new possibilities, it also requires us to fundamentally rethink our organisations, because the digital transformation must be inclusive. Since this applies to almost all our activities, it is essential to bring all our employees onboard. Everyone needs to rediscover their activity through the prism of digital technology, and at an ever-increasing speed.
The pooling of new knowledge and know-how on a worldwide scale offers a great opportunity to achieve cohesion, provided that we prepare for the risk of a digital divide. In an industrial services company, this involves thinking about the conditions under which these new technologies are used and accepted, continual training and a common project and vision.
A point made all the more important by the fact that internal transformations precipitate change, facilitate the integration of new skills and contribute to the success of the now essential open innovation. A large part of digital innovation takes place outside our major groups. By working hand in hand with start-ups, we can serve the interests of every party. They are more quick-footed and agile, but they need the funding required to develop their projects. It is our role to invest in these companies, to support them and, most importantly, to create an ecosystem that favours the inclusion of their innovations in our activities.
I am convinced that these exciting transformations will be effectively implemented in enterprises, if they have a clear meaning and purpose for all. At SUEZ, the digital revolution is working for the resource revolution. Our 90,000 employees take pride in their contribution to an essential mission, consisting of providing sustainable access to the resources that are essential to life and to development. Digital technology plays a key role in this process.