How can automation and sustainability work together to meet business goals?

A new position paper from the International Society of Automation (ISA) gives an overview of the many ways that automation can ease the pathway to reaching sustainability goals. Read a summary below.

By Marty Bince November 13, 2023
Courtesy: Paul Brouch, CFE Media and Technology


Learning Objectives

  • Learn how automation can help achieve social, environmental and governance (ESG) goals.
  • Discover methods for using automation to improve material usage, improve worker safety and streamline compliance.
  • Explore more information on the link between automation and ESG goals in a recent ISA position paper.

Automation and sustainability insights

  • In addition to improving productivity, efficiency and profitability, automation technology can significantly improve an organizations’ ability to meet its sustainability goals.
  • A new position paper from the International Society of Automation (ISA) gives an overview of the many ways that automation and sustainability can work together to make our world a better place.
  • Recommendations include: optimizing energy usage and energy efficiency; promoting sustainable materials; utilizing automation technologies to improve worker safety; and relying on data analysis to more effectively meet governance and compliance needs.

Automation technology has changed the way we live and work—and has increased productivity, efficiency and profitability for organizations and individuals all over the world. Automation also has a significant role to play in achieving sustainability goals—offering new ways to accelerate environmental, social and governance (ESG) activities across manufacturing, industry and beyond.

The following summary of a new position paper from the International Society of Automation (ISA) gives an overview of the many ways that automation and sustainability work hand in hand to make our world a better place.

Automation can rapidly advance sustainability goals

Automation provides transparency and accountability—ensuring that policies are safely followed, efficient and well-managed. Further, reliance on automation advancements will allow industry and government stakeholders to develop even more ambitious goals, strategies and policies—taking sustainability initiatives to the next level, just as manufacturing advancements have been achieved through the application of these same technologies. Finally, a well-prepared workforce equipped with knowledge about the power of automation and digital transformation technologies will allow for these critical technologies to be applied in innovative ways—creating economic opportunities and fulfilling environmental goals.

Summary of recommendations

The ISA position paper poses a number of concrete ways that industry and government stakeholders can embrace automation technologies as a leading component of their sustainability goals and strategies:

  • Optimize energy usage and energy efficiency with automation technologies, contributing to the bottom line, and rely upon automation to help reuse, refurbish and recycle products and materials, particularly when undergoing a facility’s digital transformation.

  • Promote sustainable materials and manufacturing processes in support of Industry 5.0 principles. (Editor’s note: Industry 5.0 is a term coined by the European Union, which entails the extension of Industry 4.0 concepts to achieve broader societal goals beyond those of individual companies and organizations that employ them)

  • Utilize automation technologies to keep workers, communities and ecosystems safe and protected, as well as train and upskill workers in automation processes and systems.

  • Rely upon the objective and unbiased data and analysis provided by automation technologies to meet governance and compliance needs.

The paper also clarifies specific recommendations for each of the three ESG pillars: environmental, social and governance.

Environmental pillar

Automation can lead to improved processes that make more efficient use of materials—reducing the amount of materials and energy needed to produce products while contributing to the bottom line. Further, as automation technology continues to improve, so too does quality, resulting in less material wasted on poor products and less energy, human effort and money wasted on rework.

More precise measurements and better automation have helped companies better understand the cost savings and the tools to implement recycling programs. And the concepts of refurbish and repair are central to the automation industry, which has always sought to interface larger, older systems with state-of-the-art centralized control systems.

Organizations looking to implement sustainable automation technologies that prioritize environmental responsibility have a host of options that automation professionals can deploy. Implementing energy-efficient technologies is one example, as well as relying on automation to optimize energy usage by managing lighting, heating and cooling systems.

Social pillar

When it comes to the social pillar of ESG, automation plays a key role in assuring the safety of those working in an organization, and the safety of those around it.

In higher-risk jobs that involve applications that are dirty, dull or dangerous, automation helps reduce the risks of injury to personnel. For example, advanced sensors help to reduce risk by determining whether an application is potentially unsafe or may be able to remotely isolate a hazardous process from people. Automation can also protect communities around an industrial or production site by tightly monitoring and controlling products and emissions. This data can be displayed on a continuous basis to drive corrective actions and suitable alerts.

Governance pillar

Accountability and transparency are fundamental to the governance pillar of ESG, and automation has a tremendous role to play in surfacing data and offering objective analysis.

Measurement is a great example of how automation can offer immediate, accurate monitoring directly in production, rather than in a laboratory facility—making it easier for companies and regulators to monitor for compliance. Data is increasingly available and is transparent to stakeholders, often with a layer of analysis powered by machine learning or artificial intelligence to identify potential areas of concern.


Automation and sustainability are important partners for improvement of our lives and communities. Cost reduction, increased safety and greater workforce development opportunities are the immediately apparent benefits, but leaders must also recognize the opportunity to demonstrate their leadership in a climate where environmental responsibility is fundamental to business success and growth. Automation is a great way to achieve these and many other business goals.

To read the paper and see upcoming ISA positions on industrial cybersecurity and automation and the workforce, visit


Keywords: Automation, Sustainability


How could automation technology help you reach your sustainability goals?