The carbon footprint of manufacturing digitalization: Critical literature review and future research agenda

As the world of manufacturing is accelerating to its digital paradigm, it could become a significant generator of energy-consuming data. The storage of such data is facilitated by the proliferation of easily accessible cloud services, whilst the cost of transmission and storage has significantly dropped. Within a sustainability context, the carbon-footprint characteristics of these masses of data-capture, transmission, storage and management have not been given adequate due-diligence. A cause of this omission may be the assumption that renewable forms of energy generation and storage, may eventually render the big cloud data-centers carbon neutral. However, such assumptions may be pre-mature and not synchronized with unfolding realities, as the carbon footprint implications of the industry 4.0 discourse have not been assessed. This paper ascertains the absence of any structured assessment framework of CO2 emissions of the various components of industrial digitalization, as an evaluation tool of the accelerating digital transformation of manufacturing within a sustainable growth context.

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