Developments in Industry 4.0 are set to shape the sustainability of the working world.
Developments in Industry 4.0 are set to shape the sustainability of the working world. istock/denizbayram

Headline: Digitalisation and Sustainability Transformations

Thirty years after the invention of the World Wide Web, digitalisation has become ubiquitous. But along with their many benefits, digital technologies also present a variety of challenges and risks for both people and the environment. Although these risks are receiving growing attention from policymakers, citizens, and researchers, certain aspects remain underrepresented - for example, the environmental risks of digitalisation and the effects of changing supply chains.

Against this background, the research group "Digitalisation and Sustainability Transformations" studies the impact of digitalisation on industry and the economy as well as how digitalisation can support the socio-ecological transformation of the economy. Focal points of the research include the challenges and opportunities offered by the digitalisation of corporate sustainability management as well as the global impacts of the digital transformation on economic, environmental and social developments. Specific issues include the influence of digitally interconnected technologies on resource consumption in manufacturing and the transparent recording of companies' environmental impact. The overarching goal is to gain insight into the conditions under which global digitalisation can be carried out in a socio-ecologically just way.

The research group works on the digital and socio-ecological transformation as an interdisciplinary team, incorporating technological, economic, social and ecological perspectives. These are complemented by transdisciplinary methods for also including practitioners' knowledge. In addition to publications, the group generates potential courses of action for policymakers, business, and civil society, and carries out expert workshops and discussion events.


GTI: Green Tech Digital Innovation Competition accompanying research

Digitalisation is driving a wave of innovation that could be game-changing for the green transformation of the economy - but only if it is geared towards achieving clearly defined ecological and social goals. The accompanying research for the German government's GreenTech Innovation Competition will be undertaken by a consortium and will bring together expertise in industry, technology and sustainability to support 21 GreenTech innovation projects in developing green, digital technology systems.

Digitalisation and Impacts on Sustainability

Is the digital revolution contributing to efforts to achieve the United Nations sustainable development goals? How is it changing the way companies manage their resources? And is it deepening or reducing global inequalities? In this project, researchers assess the potentials and risks of digitalisation in sustainability transformations and develop options for a sustainable digitalisation process.

Completed Projects

Junior Research Group ProMUT: Sustainability Management 4.0 - Transformative Potentials of Networked Manufacturing for Humans, the Environment and Technology

The current proliferation of digital technologies and emergence of digitized and interconnected production processes (Industry 4.0) mark the beginning of a phase of fundamental transformation in the manufacturing industry. The environmental impacts of these new technical solutions have been largely ignored in the debate on this issue. The ProMUT research project investigates new digital approaches to improve corporate social responsibility with respect to both personnel and the environment.

Sustainability in a Digitalized Industry: a Comparative Study from China, Germany and Brazil

The increasing integration of physical and digital networks within industrial production processes holds potentials for efforts to achieve social and ecological sustainable development goals. But under what circumstances is this emergent model likely to advance or impede efforts to achieve greater sustainability? This project aims to improve our understanding of the sustainability potentials of Industry 4.0.

Digital Data as Subject of Transdisciplinary Processes (DiDaT)

Digitalisation is changing our lives and bringing fundamental change to many domains, including both benefits and unwanted side effects. The challenge for sustainability research is to anticipate and identify the "unintended side effects" of the digital transition and to develop strategies that enable societies to cope with them properly. The DiDaT project will analyse and appraise the vulnerabilities of different stakeholder groups in a transdisciplinary dialogue between science and practice.

Exploring the nexus of decentralized renewable energy supply and digital technologies for productive use in Africa

Access to affordable and clean electricity is a central ingredient for social and economic development in remote rural communities in Sub-Saharan Africa. Digital technologies also play an increasingly important role in facilitating access to education, information, services and new opportunities for income generation. The project will explore the nexus of a decentralized energy supply and the use of digital technologies.