Just How Green & Sustainable Are Bots?

Bots are helping to revolutionise the way companies operate, but did you also know that by automating repetitive and time-consuming tasks, Bots can very likely help companies to also become more environmentally and digitally sustainable? But just how green and sustainable are they?

In this article, we will explore the benefits of Bots on sustainability, the limitations of measuring impact, a simple way to estimate impacts and provide recommendations for companies looking to adopt Bots themselves.

Benefits of Bots for Sustainability

  1. Reducing Paper Use: When combined with digitisation, Bots can automate many manual processes that typically involve printing and handling paper. By reducing the need for paper and automatically handling digital data, Bots can therefore help companies become more environmentally friendly.
  2. Increased Efficiency: Bots can increase efficiency and productivity by reducing the time and human resource required to complete tasks. This in itself can lead to less energy consumption, as well as a reduction in the number of resources required to perform tasks.
  3. Digital Transformation: Bots could help companies transition to a more digital and sustainable operating model, by making more effective use of cloud computing, which can reduce energy consumption, and increase the adoption of more sustainable business practices.

Limitations of Measuring Impact

While Bots have the potential to provide many benefits for sustainability, it is important to understand the limitations of accurately and reliably measuring its impact. Some of the limitations include:

  1. Difficulty in Measuring Energy Savings: Aside from the inherent problems of measuring sustainability in general, the energy savings resulting from Bots are even more difficult to measure accurately or objectively, as it depends on many factors such as the type of processes being automated and the energy consumption of the networks, servers and devices used.
  2. Challenges in Measuring the Reduction in Paper Use: Measuring the reduction in paper use resulting from using Bots can be challenging as it depends on factors such as the number of paper documents being replaced and the frequency of use.
  3. Lack of Standardised Metrics: There is currently no standardised method for measuring the impact of Bots on sustainability. This makes it difficult to compare the sustainability benefits of different Bot technologies and how they’re used and deployed.

Estimating Bot Sustainability Benefit

Despite the challenges and subjectivity of measuring sustainability benefits, there are a number of reasonable assumptions that can be relied upon, or at least tested in practice and incorporated into your sustainability framework:

  • Bots can reduce or eliminate the need to replace or optimise existing systems and applications
  • Bots don’t need a physical office space or even a home office space
  • Bots don’t need to travel to or from work and are built and run remotely
  • Bots can perform tasks much faster than people and without silly errors or mistakes
  • Bots consume less digital energy than people do in performing their tasks, as they can work faster, on less energy intensive devices, in closer proximity to the data they use and don’t store or archive that data

Although Bots do inevitably consume some energy as part of the digital ecosystems in which they exist, we might start to approximate a Bots direct sustainability benefit as follows:

  1. If the average carbon footprint per person in the UK per year is 12.7 tonnes of CO2e (edgar)
  2. And a single Bot working 24/7/365 days a year, on average 90% faster than a person, is capable of producing roughly the equivalent work output of four people
  3. This translates to a potential saving of 50.8 tonnes of CO2e per year

Using this simple approach, once the total hours of human work effort saving has been determined for an automated process, you can estimate and track the potential CO2e savings from using your Bots.

Recommendations and Conclusions

To ensure that Bots are implemented in a way that maximise sustainability benefits, companies should consider the following recommendations:

  1. Develop a Sustainability Framework: Companies should develop a sustainability framework that outlines the specific sustainability goals they aim to achieve using Bots and provides a method for measuring progress and outcomes.
  2. Collaborate with Vendors: Companies should work closely with their automation partners and vendors to ensure that Bots are being used in a way that maximises sustainability benefits.
  3. Track Progress: Companies should track their progress towards their sustainability goals and use this information to make informed decisions about how to optimise their use of Bots.

At Bots For That, we have many examples of how a company can utilise Bots to achieve sustainability goals, and have implemented Bots to automate many manual processes, such as invoice processing and data entry, which has resulted in a reduction in paper use, as well as an increase in efficiency.

In conclusion, Bots have the potential to play a significant role in helping companies become more environmentally and digitally sustainable. However, it is important to understand the limitations of accurately and reliably measuring its impact. By developing a sustainability framework, collaborating with vendors, and tracking progress, companies can ensure that they are using Bots in a way that maximise sustainability benefits.

Talk to us and share your thoughts on automation and the Future of Work.