Organisations that understand the value of genuine sustainability measures approach their products and services with a view to delivering high utility customer benefit while also maximising financial and economic advantage. Time and time again, the evidence stacks up that brand reputation is enhanced when companies treat environmental quality, social equity and economic performance as connected objectives.
Whether it is the momentum behind responsible plastics use, the concern over climate change, the growing focus on sustainable agriculture and food production or the alarming extinction rate, the justification for action is palpable and urgent, and largely dependent on productive cooperation among many players.
The other clear observation is how the role of technology is being harnessed to enable, facilitate and achieve high performance sustainability outcomes. From software as a service and cloud-based solutions through to more targeted applications of the blockchain to manage production and consumption with transparency and rigour.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution has arrived and it will serve to monitor, manage and protect the environment in a unique way. In particular, the Internet of Things (IoT) and its ability to enable instantaneous connectivity between billions of devices is likely to positively transform everyday life.
Telecommunications company Ericsson predicts there will be 28 billion connected devices globally by 2020, which highlights the potential for widespread use in support of various sustainability projects and programs ... provided we also safely manage the e-waste related impacts of obsolete electronics and the batteries that will power them.
The "Tech for Good" movement is growing and has potential to show how "gadgets" and software can go well beyond entertainment and leisure use. Inherent in all that is tech-focused is the importance of data and how it"s used to maximise performance, relevance and reliability. Most importantly it will be a key element of the circular economy. Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) will make use of data at unprecedented levels extracting maximum use and value from products and materials, and directly contributing to waste avoidance and circular solutions.
The introduction of the 5G mobile network will also see significant growth of IoT devices. Many of these IoT applications will be focused on environment and energy related objectives from consumption optimisation systems through to preventative maintenance functions that keep plant and equipment going longer with the obvious durability benefits of waste avoidance and product life extension.
The opportunity to monitor and control our energy and water use in real time and respond accordingly will become common-place, and not just an activity of eco-warriors.
The IoT is rapidly evolving into a much more pervasive and positive ecosystem with extensive applications. From autonomous vehicles, hyper-efficient logistics and smart cities, through to remote area healthcare, natural resources monitoring and production line optimisation, IoT has the potential to deliver wide-reaching social, economic and environment benefits.
While there are numerous significant environmental challenges demanding smart responses, the optimism remains high that business together governments, consumers and research institutions, can achieve noteworthy solutions to many of the impacts confronting the planet. Engaging head-on with complex sustainability issues is key to accurate problem definition as well as the subsequent solutioning that is required.
Pivotal to so many solutions is how we transition to a circular economy and boldly embrace design as an essential tool that can eliminate waste, toxics and pollution from the outset of any product or service development exercise. Circular economy principles nest with sustainable development neatly, especially given the attention to step-change transformation across supply chains. It is a game-changer in the sense that it seeks to go beyond just doing "less harm" and ensuring a strong regenerative and restorative approach to production and consumption.
Circular design and associated business models provide a potent catalyst for action and innovation no matter what the sector or industry. It also enables alternative modes of operation including product-service strategies, dematerialisation leasing and of course the sharing economy.
The number of real-world case studies that are showing how circular economy principles can be commercialised and achieve superior sustainability performance is expanding weekly. Noteworthy examples include innovations in fashion and apparel, electronics, furniture, re-useable packaging, mobility sharing, tool libraries and the world-wide "Right to Repair" movement underpinned by practical guidance from iFixit.
It becomes obvious that business sustainability is more than just "green" or glossy annual reports; it is increasingly a transformational driver that can deliver measurable benefits and positive outcomes.
Here at Empauer we recognise that companies demand leading-edge sustainability tools to support new product development as well as market success with existing products. The key is to have informed advice and the right tools to maximise sustainability performance across the spectrum.