Global Lighthouse Network:
Unlocking Sustainability
through Fourth Industrial
Revolution Technologies
In Collaboration with
McKinsey & Company
Executive Summary
1 Today’s Trends Are Tomorrow’s Standards
1.1 The Global Lighthouse Network recognizes
industrial leaders
1.2 Lighthouses leverage digital technology to generate
impact beyond productivity to sustainability
2 4IR Enhances Sustainability and Productivity
2.1 Eco-efficiency: A vital response to the global call
for climate action
2.2 4IR accelerates sustainability
3 Lighthouses show the way: Measurable sustainability impact
3.1 Most lighthouses report that their 4IR transformation
improves sustainability
4 Unlocking sustainability: A closer look
4.1 Selected use cases illustrate how 4IR technologies
open the door to sustainability
5 The eco-efficiency pacesetters: Sustainability Lighthouses
5.1 A global community sets a global goal
5.2 A meaningful designation among recognized
industrial leaders
5.3 Call for applications
Cover: Getty Images and Unsplash
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Global Lighthouse Network: Unlocking Sustainability through Fourth Industrial Revolution Technologies 2
Executive summary
Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies make
environmental sustainability easier.
Lighthouses have established themselves as
beacons of the Fourth Industrial Revolution
(4IR), adapting to four durable shifts – agility and
customer centricity; supply chain resilience; speed
and productivity; and eco-efficiency. Among
these shifts, eco-efficiency has emerged at the
vanguard, its prominence fuelled by increased
global concerns about the environmental impact
of human activities. United Nations Secretary-
General Antonio Guterres called the August 2021
report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change (IPCC) a “code red for humanity”.
This paper challenges the notion that environmental
responsibility is inherently at odds with productivity
and, by extension, profitability. Revolutionary
sustainability impact lies with green technology
and breakthroughs, but 4IR transformations that
leverage digital and analytics tools can augment not
only green technology but also current production
methods by bolstering efficiency. By embracing 4IR-
driven transformation, a viable kind of efficiency is
possible: i.e., eco-efficiency, wherein sustainability
and competitive excellence are not only compatible,
but, in fact, interwoven.
Eco-efficiency is the outcome of 4IR
technologies which, when directed to solve
business problems, simultaneously boost
productivity and sustainability. This concept of
efficiency has three dimensions. First, it involves
digital technology enabling data-informed actions
across production and across the end-to-end
value chain. Second, it demonstrates measurable
improvements across performance indicators
such as cost, agility, convenience and quality.
Finally, it drives sustainability gains by reducing
consumption, resource waste and emissions.
Organizations need first to understand the impact
potential that lies with eco-efficiency in order to
realize it. If companies are not looking for it – let
alone measuring it – they might not fully realize the
unclaimed sustainability opportunities hidden in the
midst of their 4IR transformations. Opportunities
are there. Data collected since the beginning of
this project show half of Lighthouses (64%) report
sustainability impact as part of their achievements
enabled by 4IR transformation.
To address “code red for humanity”, companies
must make sustainability part of their business
agenda. Lighthouses prove there is room for synergy
among technology, productivity and sustainability
efforts in different industries; meanwhile, they show
others how to accelerate their digitization efforts.
Companies that make a true commitment to
environmental stewardship through pledges
and corresponding action are setting the bar for
sustainability. Those who couple that commitment
with the full power of 4IR transformation, thus
achieving step-change levels of impact, are leading
by example and earning the new designation of
Sustainability Lighthouses.
Global Lighthouse Network:
Unlocking Sustainability through
Fourth Industrial Revolution Technologies
September 2021
Global Lighthouse Network: Unlocking Sustainability through Fourth Industrial Revolution Technologies 3
Francisco Betti
Head of Advanced
Manufacturing and Value
Chains, member of the
Executive Committee
Enno de Boer
Partner and Global Head
Operations Technology,
McKinsey & Company, USA
Today’s Trends Are
Tomorrow’s Standards
Global Lighthouse Network: Unlocking Sustainability through Fourth Industrial Revolution Technologies 4
The World Economic Forum, in collaboration
with McKinsey & Company, launched the Global
Lighthouse Network in 2018. The frontrunner
companies that comprise this network continue to
demonstrate the true potential of Fourth Industrial
Revolution (4IR) technologies to transform the very
nature of manufacturing. The 90th Lighthouse has
recently been recognized, marking more than a
fivefold increase since the launch of the network.
The network’s power has grown through thousands
of hours of site visits, both virtual and in person. The
site visits unlock the mystery behind each of the 450
advanced use cases in action shared to date. In-
depth demonstrations of enablers and commentary
from the shopfloor have offered an end-to-end view
of these digital transformations. At the site level
and across value chains, Lighthouses show what
is possible when companies combine bold vision,
imaginative leadership and agile working modes to
maximize the power of emerging digital technologies.
As the network continues to grow, it becomes
increasingly clear that 4IR transformation is
possible across geographies and industries.
Moreover, the evidence accumulates, bolstering the
understanding that four durable shifts in agility and
customer centricity, supply chain resilience, speed
and productivity, and eco-efficiency are playing
out across a diverse set of contexts.
These are
today’s trends – companies from vastly different
industries that do very different work are adapting to
the same shifts. As they do so, leading companies
are showing what lies at the heart of success.
The Global Lighthouse Network recognizes
industrial leaders
Global Lighthouse Network: Unlocking Sustainability through Fourth Industrial Revolution Technologies 5