The rise of the clean, green, carbon-fighting machines
26 May 2022
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a successful business in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of an effective sustainability strategy.
For the past two years, organisations the world over have waxed lyrical about their noble commitments to a greener future. That magnanimity has spilled into countless emails and social posts, all designed to endear themselves to their customers and partners.
But the consequences for companies that exaggerate their green credentials in order to “greenwash” their customers and partners, or those whose corporate carbon cutting targets fundamentally lack ‘integrity’ – an accusation squared at several household names following analysis by the NewClimate Institute earlier this year – cannot be underestimated.
Catch-all terms such as ‘Corporate and Social Responsibility (CSR)’ and ‘Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG)’ no longer hold weight with today’s environmentally conscious consumer base – the world wants action, not lip service.
With the health of the planet at stake, the science is beginning to call for ever more radical solutions. Now is the time for businesses to invest in cutting-edge sustainability technology, not only for the good of their reputation, but for the future of Earth (where, typically, most consumers are found).
We can’t turn back time, but we can find a way
There’s more to a sustainability strategy than simply kicking your carbon habit. There is positive, proactive work that can be done to eat into the emissions feeding global warming, most excitingly in the investment in “clean tech”.
With the Russia-Ukraine conflict leaving oil and gas resources in a state of uncertainty, resulting in soaring energy costs, green energy alternatives have never looked so appealing. Rollouts of electric car charging ports and smart technology that can reduce household electrical outputs will inevitably be fast-tracked nationwide to help plug the energy deficit and ease the financial strain – all to the good of the planet.
And it’s a similar story for businesses plagued by the ongoing supply chain crisis. An issue that has dominated the logistics sector for much of the pandemic, it’s being exacerbated by the extreme weather caused by global warming – leading to food shortages, production shutdowns, and shipping delays. But through machine learning technology, businesses can, for instance, monitor the freshness of produce in shipping containers and provide options for what to do to prevent food wastage if shipments are delayed.
For businesses and economies looking to usher in the green winds of change, get in now and invest before your competitors do (or, in other words, before prices skyrocket).
Buy now or pay later
And if cost is a factor – when in business is it not? – the creation of the Breakthrough Agenda deal means “clean tech” is both accessible and affordable.
Frankly, if David Attenborough’s moving speech at last year’s United Nations conference wasn’t enough to light a (carbon free) fire under big businesses, the Twitter tongue lashing that awaits those that don’t take advantage of this sea change certainly should be.
After all, talk is cheap, and action is expensive. And more expensive still is a failure to make good on pledges of ‘Net Zero’ (lest we forget the fallout of Shell’s faux pas last year).
What’s more, with the Climate Change Act becoming increasingly iron clad post-COP26, it’s increasingly likely that businesses that don’t make clean-tech commitments will soon face steep fines and an unwelcome bump in corporate taxes.
Deux ex machina
Yes, investing in green technology is a reputational win – that much we know. But, beyond just deepening the relationship with their customer base, what truly innovative clean tech is out there for people to get excited about?
As it happens, lots.
Artificial intelligence (AI) company, Lynx Analytics, uses the same technology employed by Facebook to identify objects in its users’ pictures to spot where trees are and aren’t growing to help farmers in Africa identify areas ripe for regreening. Given that nature-based solutions can reduce the effects of global warming by 37%, initiatives such as this aim to drive down the temperature of the planet.
Then there’s the sterling work being done by not-for-profits like Justdiggit to harness the innovation in the private sector for the greener good. With the aim of supercharging biodiversity, Justdiggit uses Internet of Things (IoT) devices to record weather conditions, height of vegetation and access to water for crops. The data is used by local farmers to better inform their farming – meaning they’re also a force for socio-economic good in rural towns.
And when the data is paired with AI it can predict future trends in growing and planting, as well as tracking those back retrospectively. And much in the same way, forecasting tools can also make use of AI to analyse the day of the week and special events to predict lulls and upticks in consumer demand in the retail industry more accurately than ever before to reduce waste.
Oh, and did I mention this technology was being OpenSourced to allow even more companies to use and invest in it globally?
Then there are the opportunities brought about by carbon capture and storage (CCS). In essence, CCS allows industry to capture carbon at its source, compress it, and move it to a suitable permanent storage site. The technology not only has the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, but it can also mean more money if the CO2 can be used profitably to make other products.
Ultimately, a bold sustainability initiative starts with bold leadership. Vocalising that your business could do more for the greener good is the first step to finding the right clean technology to help you do so– preferably one that aligns with your own business objectives and expertise. After all, even if you’re investing in sustainable technology for all the wrong reasons, you’ll no doubt hit some of the right reasons along the way.
Now is the winter of our environmental discontent – but the smartest businesses can weather the coming storm and find themselves side-by-side with customers once summer arrives.