I was honored to take part in the COP25 Sustainable Innovation Forum 2019, a COP25 official event that runs in parallel to the mainstream sessions. The goal was to discuss innovative ways for business leaders to incorporate sustainable development targets. How? Using a combination of tools, from financial mechanisms and risk assessment, to technology implementations and government policies.
Technology providers, however, were few and far between in the forum sessions. This is surprising, given the crucial role technologies such as IoT, AI, and blockchain play in realizing sustainability projects — from facilitating and enabling solutions to fight climate change, to offering skills to bridge poverty and gender gaps, to preserving endangered species, to name a few.
Technology vendors missed a clear opportunity to provide business leaders, government representatives, and investment fund senior executives with a real, all-encompassing view of how they can really help. BMW, Leyton, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Santander Bank, Danone, and Iberdrola were among those that attended.
Here are some of my key takeaways and impressions from the event:
- More, immediate action is needed to mitigate the impact of climate change and promote sustainable development, from all parties. Climate change, in particular, affects all industries and countries, and the repercussions can no longer be taken as isolated consequences.
- Often, technological innovations are already available and have been successfully tested across a limited number of use cases, countries, and corporations. But the necessary financial and technical mechanisms and the incentives and capabilities to promote implementation of these solutions at a scalable, global level are still required.
Technology suppliers have experience in running large, scalable projects, and have a lot to offer in these conversations.
- Collaboration across all parties is imperative, with public and private sector organizations working together for the greater good and seeking mechanisms to benefit entire communities, looking beyond limited corporate or individual goals. The sessions open a door for potential partnerships and collaboration agreements.
- Increasingly, companies are expected to provide information to investors, lenders, insurers, and other stakeholders on the progress of their own sustainability goals. But many organizations are still unaware of the frameworks and methodologies available to do so, such as those provided by the Task Force on Climate Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) and the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices.
Technology providers that are serious about becoming leaders in achieving sustainable goals and helping their customers achieve theirs should consider incorporating some of these methodologies and reporting mechanisms into their internal processes and culture.
- Sustainable development is finally part of the boardroom conversation, with chief sustainability officers becoming increasingly popular and gaining visibility within corporate goals and ambitions. Increasingly, chief procurement officers and chief financial officers are incorporating sustainability indicators and parameters as part of their vendor selection criteria, and incorporating demands to their wider supply chain on these terms.
- The technology sector is part of the problem. The increase in energy consumption requirements from the plethora of devices, equipment, and datacenters, as well as ewaste generated from the electrical equipment installed and replaced on a regular basis, cannot be denied. But the sector is also part of the solution.
Technologies such as IoT, AI, and blockchain can help organizations to optimize their energy consumption. At the same time, they enable organizations to increase productivity and efficiencies and make improvements in customer experience and production chains.
While it would have been good to have had more key technology vendors in the sessions, it was encouraging to see a lot of technology innovators and start-ups keen to show the results using, among other things:
- Blockchain technology to create marketplaces to offset greenhouse gas emissions
- Digital platforms to promote a circular economy for physical goods
- IoT to transparently trace and source materials that are part of the production chain
Given the growing interest in climate change and sustainability, I would expect technology firms to play a much more prominent role in future events. Technology, undeniably, is a key part of the solution to the sustainability problem.
How do you think technology can positively impact the fight against climate change?
Do you want to know how technology providers can help with your sustainability goals? Get in touch to find out more about IDC’s Digital Society Impact Initiative.