The future of humanity and indeed, all life on earth, now depends on us.
A stark warning/call to action from Sir David Attenborough, world-renowned naturalist, climate change activist and all-round national treasure.
There is no more pressing issue than climate change, and protecting our planet should now be at the forefront of everything we do. That’s why, for the first time this year, diginomica has added ‘Sustainability’ as one of the topics for its Year in Review line-up.
This is an area I plan to cover more regularly throughout 2023, including interviews with sustainability champions, environmental regulations and policies affecting the tech industry, and examples of companies benefitting from eco-friendly business decisions and IT investments.
Here are my choices for the best sustainability articles we ran in 2022. Hopefully something in this list will inspire you or your organization to take an action to protect our planet.
Unfortunately for most governments and so many big corporations, profit comes first.
Why? Conservationist and chimp expert Dr Jane Goodall is a leading light in environment and nature protection. At Salesforce’s annual user event, she talked to the firm’s co-CEO Marc Benioff about everything from her love of animals and her ground-breaking research into chimpanzees, to the importance of tree planting and encouraging young people to protect our planet.
Goodall bemoaned the fact that making money is often more important than protecting the environment for the future, and the sense that we can have unlimited economic development on a planet with finite natural resources.
This definitely isn’t the case, and is why sustainability programs and environment laws must be rolled out quicker to start making a real difference.
Local authorities and public organizations are an enormous consumer of energy. We have a duty and a responsibility to be leading by example.
Why? This is a great example of how going green can really save money for organizations. Stoke-on-Trent City Council is working with Siemens on energy-saving projects that are commercially sustainable.
Rather than just changing lightbulbs, the council undertook a lighting redesign program across all its buildings, which resulted in lighting loads reduced by 76 percent, £205,663 in annual savings and 437 tonnes fewer carbon emissions each year.
The council is also installing three combined heat and power (CHP) systems. These will be operational by 2025, generating electricity and steam for power and heat on-site, and saving the council £250,000 per year.
Greenpeace International CTO Chomba-Kinywa - the challenge of leveraging tech to use data to tackle climate change
We need to do something as humanity if we're to survive. How do we start to connect people around the world using tech, find those stories that connect us and use tech to amplify them?
Why? Operating in more than 50 countries, Greenpeace is exploring how it can use data to win campaigns around climate change, and how technology can find common threads across national borders that can lead to a global mobilization.
Greenpeace International CTO Priscilla Chomba-Kinywa notes that climate is a critical topic for the entire world – it’s not just people in Mozambique or on the west coast of the US affected, we're all facing the impact but in very different ways.
To support climate change action, Greenpeace is offering access to data that communities around the world can use to get results, and is working on open-source tools that activists can use to set up a website or social channel to plan action.
Innovation is not easy, and what we wanted to do was create a program that provided dedicated holistic support for these organizations to explore nature-based solutions.
Why? Philanthropic funding often comes with various restrictions and requirements that can make it difficult for organizations getting grants to innovate and scale. To encourage more innovation in the area of climate change action, Salesforce put $1 million into a Nature Accelerator philanthropic fund.
The fund will provide non-profits with investment to develop, test and scale climate change programs faster. The objective is to shake up the philanthropy model, leading not only to an increase in investments for green projects, but more flexibility over what groups can do with the cash.
So far, applications have come in for remote sensing in forests and oceans; eco acoustics to understand the sound of a healthy biodiverse ecosystem; and programs to connect nature-based solution organizations for information-sharing. All worthwhile ideas that deserve the chance to test out their potential.
An Icelandic saga for the sustainability crisis - why data centers in Iceland may have found their moment
When it comes to carbon footprints, Iceland does have a real advantage, with 10.5 grammes per KiloWatt/hour carbon released to the atmosphere. This compares with Frankfurt at 391g/kwh, London at 275, Amsterdam at 378 and Dublin at 321.
Why? With so much focus on cutting emissions, Iceland went on a promotional blitz in 2022 to demonstrate its potential for helping solve the challenge specifically around data centers. Our intrepid roving reporter Martin Banks set off for Reykjavik to investigate the capabilities, facilities and economics of what the country can provide when running data centers around energy provision and sustainability.
With a sustainable and low-carbon resource ready to be tapped, there’s a definite environmental benefit of building new data centers in Iceland rather than other European countries.
There's been this real drive to abolish greenwashing and to drive greater transparency on organizations that are making net zero pledges.
Why? SAP’s second annual Sustainability Report revealed an increase in awareness among businesses of the benefits of protecting our planet. Almost nine out of 10 UK businesses now see a positive link between environmental sustainability with their ability to be competitive, a jump of 19% compared to 2021.
Greenwashing also seems to be decreasing. Only 15% of respondents cited media coverage as a reason to take positive steps for the planet, with many more listing customer demand and revenue generation as drivers instead.
As CIOs, we championed digital; now we have to champion sustainability.
Why? Kevin Antao, Forum for the Future Senior IT Advisor, makes the case for Chief Information Officers to lead the charge when it comes to climate change action within their organizations.
Like digital transformation, this action starts with data and change management. As the climate emergency begins to have a significant impact on firms’ bottom line, CIO skills will become essential for leading businesses towards Net Zero CO2 goals. This means understanding the environmental footprint that technology has whilst also using data tools to help the entire organization be more sustainable.
For those CIOs not taking action, Antao sounded a warning note:
Your customers can inspect sustainability market data, and if you are not in it, then you are in trouble.
That is seen as a key internal win for Admiral Group IT, as the company has committed to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2040 - with slashing data center power and cooling costs by 74%, and reducing power consumption by 56%, seen as a significant step in that direction.
Why? Another great example of the correlation between protecting the environment and cost savings.
UK insurance giant Admiral Group’s move to all-flash storage from Pure Storage has resulted in multiple benefits. These include cutting the company’s data center footprint by a factor of four, and lowering power consumption and costs.
If you look at the data, and the development of climate conversations nationally and internationally, the ocean has historically been overlooked.
Why? Oceans are just as much at risk from human activity, and just as vital in protecting the environment, as rainforests: they currently absorb 90% of the excess heat caused by climate change and 23% of human-caused CO₂ emissions.
In a bid to promote the importance of oceans as part of climate change, and encourage more investment in marine projects, Salesforce launched a Blue Carbon framework. The aim is to ensure Blue Carbon credits are directed at the most valuable projects, which protect both ecosystems and communities.
The ocean has a critical role to play in the overall climate dialogue, in terms of the amount of heat and carbon that the ocean stores, and ocean-based solutions to climate change. Salesforce’s program is one small step in raising awareness and protecting our waters.
There’ll be a cost to acting, but an even higher cost of inaction.
Why? The problem of nature destruction is slowly starting to rise up the corporate agenda. Almost a third of companies have already publicly committed to, or endorsed, biological diversity-related initiatives, according to CDP’s (formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project) latest survey.
Those companies have a head start on an area that could soon be enforced. The UN’s Global Biodiversity Framework includes proposals mandating that all large companies and financial institutions assess and disclose their dependencies and impacts on nature. The aim is to encourage faster and more effective action in order to prevent further habitat and species loss.