We use tech in just about every aspect of our lives. It’s changed how we communicate, shop, travel, to how we get the food on our plate. It’s also changed how companies do business.
Technology like artificial intelligence (AI), sensors and blockchain are enabling companies to provide cutting-edge products and services for consumers – from virtual gyms to smart water dispensers – and increase operational efficiency as they do. But the bulk of companies are missing out on a big opportunity: using tech that’s already at hand to meet their sustainability goals and reduce climate-related risk.
Fueled by a surge in employee, customer and investor pressure to act on climate, and the near universal recognition of how a warming planet threatens the global economy, businesses are stepping up their climate commitments in a big way. This was especially true in September, when hundreds of companies announced their intentions at Climate Week, and in August when the Business Roundtable unveiled its new take on the purpose of a corporation: to “serve all its stakeholders” and “protect the environment by embracing sustainable practices across our businesses.”
When creators are planning to launch a product into the world on Kickstarter, they’ll now consider their impact on the environment.
This morning, Kickstarter unveiled new features that will help creators evaluate and reduce the environmental impact of their products at the earliest stages. Kickstarter teamed up with EDF Climate Corps to develop an information hub of environmental resources, as well as a space where project creators are asked to publicly commit to environmental practices.
The new information hub – developed by EDF Climate Corps fellow Alexandra Criscuolo – provides a tangible starting point for creators. It’s a one-stop-shop of environmental resources, case studies and best practices from industry experts on how to assess, adopt and communicate sustainability efforts.
Oh what a week it has been!
Trying to turn away from the political polarization and fracturing civility in this country, I looked elsewhere in the news and found something even worse…dire warnings for our planet.
Two reports in the news this week ring the alarm bell on climate change. The first report is from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), written and edited by 91 scientists from 40 countries. As the New York Times reports, it “describes a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040 — a period well within the lifetime of much of the global population.”
Close your eyes and think about innovation. How many of you thought about a widget – a robot, a self-driving vehicle, a sensor? I’m guessing almost all of you. How many of you thought about regulations, contracts and financing? Maybe a few at most. This is the exercise that former Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz, and David Cash, former Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner, prompted at the launch of the WBUR Environmental Reporting Initiative.
Last week hundreds of representatives from global companies and leading NGOs met in Bentonville, AR for Walmart’s annual Sustainability Milestone Summit. The theme of the meeting was Project Gigaton, the most ambitious and collaborative effort ever to reduce a billion tons of emissions from the global supply chain over the next 15 years. At the meeting Walmart announced 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions reductions from suppliers, and noted that 400 suppliers with operations in more than 30 countries have now joined Project Gigaton by setting ambitious climate targets.
One powerful theme that emerged from the meeting was the importance of technology. Project Gigaton is inspiring targets that raise our ambition, but increasingly technology is how we will deliver on these commitments and measure progress.
A new EDF survey of more than 500 executives confirms that game changing technology innovations are empowering private sector leaders to improve business and environmental performance – and to accelerate sustainability efforts across global supply chains.
At Environmental Defense Fund, we believe that environmental progress and economic growth can and must go hand in hand. EDF+Business works with leading companies and investors to raise the bar for corporate sustainability leadership by setting aggressive, science-based goals; collaborating for scale across industries and global supply chains; publicly supporting smart environmental safeguards; and, accelerating environmental innovation.
This is the fifth in a series of interviews exploring trends in sustainability leadership as part of our effort to pave the way to a thriving economy and a healthy environment.
Over the past few years, Amazon’s sustainability team has been busy setting ambitious goals on renewable energy, making their voice heard on smart environmental policies, and leveraging their expertise in technology to drive innovation that can benefit the planet – and boost profits.
I recently chatted with Kara Hurst, head of worldwide sustainability at Amazon and former CEO of The Sustainability Consortium, about how innovation and environmental goals intersect at Amazon, the launch of the new Amazon Sustainability Question Bank, and how sustainability issues could play a role in deciding the next Amazon headquarters (HQ2).
As the Trump administration rolls back environmental protections that could harm human health for decades, it’s increasingly up to businesses to lead the way, charting the course to a future that includes both a thriving economy and a thriving planet.
Leading the way requires first setting ambitious, public targets like the over 340 companies taking science-based climate action and 90 that have approved science-based targets; collaborating with partners across the value chain for maximum scale and impact – Walmart’s Project Gigaton, a collaborative effort to reduce 1 billion tons for emissions, is a powerful example; and, supporting smart climate and energy policy
BSR’s new sustainability framework closely echoes these leadership approaches and recommends that companies create resilient business strategies that align with sustainability goals. GreenBiz’s 2018 State of Green Business report further supports these and other requirements for sustainability leadership, adding that businesses need to improve reporting on climate risk, impact, and progress towards goals. The We Mean Business coalition adds further calls to action for companies: join the low carbon technology partnerships initiative, grow the market for sustainable fuels and electric vehicles, and take proactive steps to end deforestation by 2020.
Yet currently missing from all of this corporate sustainability leadership guidance is a call for companies to accelerate environmental innovation and deployment of next generation technology – sensors, AI, data analytics and visualization, and digital collaboration – to solve our most pressing environmental challenges.