Three Key Lessons from the “Digital for Net ZERO” Virtual Summit

In June, Ecolab and Microsoft co-hosted a virtual summit, “Digital for Net ZERO.” The event brought together companies from a variety of industries to learn more about how digital tools can help them future proof their operations and meet increasing consumer demands amid mounting global threats posed by climate change and water scarcity.

Large computer with swirling lines moving over the image along with zeros and ones, text on image reads Digital for Net Zero.


Ecolab CEO, Christophe Beck, and Microsoft’s Chief Commercial Officer, Judson Althoff led a discussion focused on the power of digital technology to help companies tackle resource challenges while harnessing opportunities for growth and efficiency. Major companies in food and beverage, manufacturing and data center operations shared how they’re using new cutting- edge digital strategies to build resilient operations and advance their net-zero goals in a profitable way.

Here are three key lessons we learned from the summit.

Pursuing Net ZERO in industry will help solve the global water crisis

Water plays an essential role in our daily life. We take easy access to clean water for granted, and it is hard to imagine that this could change. In reality, we are currently facing a global water scarcity crisis due to climate change and population growth. What’s more, as countries develop, industry becomes the main user of water, not individuals. According to the United Nations Environmental Programme, half of our world will face severe water stress by 2030.

Beck reinforced the urgency of water scarcity and pointed out that carbon and water are inextricably linked. Most people treat climate change and water scarcity as separate issues when they are really two sides of the same coin.

“The first tangible effect you feel with climate change is water impact … The most immediate way to address climate change today is to address the water crisis,“ Beck said. “Water usage ultimately means power usage — roughly 25% of the power that’s being generated is used to manage water.”

Companies that want to make a measurable impact on reducing climate change must consider both their water and their carbon use. By improving their water management strategy, they can decrease total water use and increase the amount they reuse and recycle, thus saving on energy used to pump, heat, cool and treat it. The result is a net reduction in water, lowered CO2 emissions, and significant operational savings.

New sustainability challenges require a new water management strategy

The traditional water management model involves optimizing the “take, use and dump” process. Ecolab proposes that there is a better way. Their three-step execution plan includes three key components: reduce, recycle and replenish to maximize efficiency and minimize water waste. 

Beck and Althoff explain more about the process in this video.

What makes this new model more sustainable and effective than the old model is that it follows a natural water recycling and replenishment process.

“It’s doing what nature has been doing for millions of years,” Beck explained. “It basically reuses then recycles water in a way that we can keep growing while protecting the environment.”

The roadmap provides more insight into this strategy. Each step provides abundant opportunities for companies to significantly reduce water and carbon footprints. With advanced digital innovations, companies can exploit these opportunities to pursue their sustainability goals.

Enterprise visibility of water data is key to achieving net-zero goals

To operationalize net-zero goals in an economically viable way, companies need an enterprise view of water use so they can track real-time performance and make data-driven decisions on the go.

Ecolab has developed ECOLAB3D™, a secure, cloud-based digital platform built on Microsoft Azure, to equip companies with real-time enterprise visibility of their performance data.

“The partnership between Microsoft and Ecolab has been a rich one,” said Althoff during the Summit. “We’ve done a lot of co-engineering and co-innovation together to be able to deliver solutions that we feel are very tangible and adoptable right now by companies around the world.”

New digital solutions built on the ECOLAB3D platform use advanced algorithms and predictive analytics to distill complex data and provide new levels of visibility into industrial operations. This includes tracking water, energy, sanitization, finances and more, enabling companies to deliver smarter performance across a single facility or an entire network of facilities.

Ecolab’s Water Flow Intelligence, Water Quality and Financial Impact solutions elevate data insights from the plant to enterprise level so companies can improve the speed and quality of their decision-making. This enhanced visibility empowers companies to take the right action at the right time to not only reduce water and carbon, but to unlock operational savings.

It’s what Althoff likes to call a “have your cake and eat it too” opportunity.

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