Can Changing Business Landscape Coerce Enterprises to Rethink Sustainability?

Business Sustainability

Business Sustainability

Now technologies can help open up conversations about building a greener tomorrow

With the current year coming to an end, the definition of how businesses leverage technology has changed much due to the pandemic. With disruptive technologies driving global discussion, sustainability is emerging as a new investment. Business leaders are now looking to run their companies in an environmentally sustainable manner, so less harm is done on the planet. Therefore there is a growing emphasis on how technology can be employed for improving a company’s environmental performance and the bottom line. From incorporating sustainable practices into business operations to encouraging consumers, employees to embrace sustainability to using AI and quantum computing to find alternate energy-efficient fuels, most of the top enterprises are already doing their part to ensure a greener future.

Climate change has indeed been adversely affecting our environment, food security, and public health. However, sustainability does not account as a solution to climate change alone. In fact, it also attributes itself to the successful continuation of businesses with minimal resources, especially during emergency situational demands like COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, the global supply chains received a major blow during the first half of the year, as they weren’t agile nor flexible enough to brace the lockdown effects. Hence making them resilient became the topmost priority amid the pandemic. Therefore, enterprises need to connect the economic, social, and environmental touch points using technology to make sure of prolonged success that benefits all. And this begins by blurring the existent notion that digital technology and environmental sustainability are mutually exclusive.

We are aware that methane is one of the culprits in greenhouse gases caused global warming. Scientists, environmentalists have been vocal about reducing methane footprint for a few decades. Earlier this year, IEA reported that the energy sector – including oil, natural gas, coal, and bioenergy – is one of the largest sources of methane emissions, but a lack of reliable data has often held them back. However,  now, thanks to modern technology, companies like ExxonMobil and Schlumberger have teamed up with Stanford and Environmental Defense Fund to uncover best in class mobile methane monitoring technologies that can enable the energy sector find and manage emissions in a faster, more efficient way.

Enevo is a Finnish company that uses IoT devices for “smart” waste disposal. Its devices feature embedded sensors and analytic software that allow waste companies to plan pickups when waste bins are full, rather than at set time periods, making the collection of waste more efficient and reducing costs. Norwegian hydropower group Agder Energi uses AI and the cloud to predict and prepare for changing energy needs in Norway, particularly given the rapidly increasing penetration of electric vehicles. Meanwhile, Accenture suggests companies must migrate to the sustainable cloud platform that can help them deliver on their commitments to carbon reduction and responsible innovation. Accenture also helped Metro de Madrid develop and implement a self-learning AI-based ventilation system that minimizes energy costs and keeps commuters cool. Some companies are turning to Blockchain to bring more security and transparency in supply chains by tracking transactions to ensure that suppliers are adhering to their values. These are just some examples that highlight how companies are facilitating connections between emerging technologies and cutting-edge sustainable thinking.

Apart from that, companies with dedicated sites can use sustainable energy sources like solar power and store excess power in modern energy storage units, which can reduce the impact of energy spikes and troughs from these sources. They can also make products that run on clean energy too. E.g., Samsung had released the NC215 in 2011, which is a solar-powered laptop that doesn’t require electrical charging. The NC215’s lid has a solar panel, which charges a six-cell battery. Samsung claimed that two hours of exposure to sunlight would give approximately one hour of working time, and the total battery life is estimated to be 14.5 hours. Tech giant Google uses machine-learning to harness wind energy’s power by predicting wind output 36 hours in advance and delivering optimal hourly delivery commitments to the power grid. The company reports that this method has boosted the value of wind energy by approx. 20%, in contrast to the baseline scenario of no time-based commitments to the grid.

While the narratives of climate action are being refocused, companies can also implement technology to accelerate the circular benefits for businesses, i.e., bring a circular economy. This concept means making better use of resources, closing loops of resource management by fully recovering materials instead of wasting them, and preventing waste and pollution through better design of products and materials. World Economic Forum states that a restorative and regenerative economy can potentially unlock US$4.5 trillion in growth, reduce CO2 by 45% and waste by 90%. So, it is time that business leaders announce plans to plug their companies into a circular economy for the environment, sustainability, and optimized business success.