Climate change concerns have fueled political rhetoric for decades in the United States. However, more recently that concern has translated into public policy, including the 2022 decision by the U.S. Congress to include $369 billion in climate and clean energy investments in the Inflation Reduction Act. It’s considered the most comprehensive climate change legislation in the country’s history.
While that bill is certainly a landmark, many private businesses and non-profit organizations have acted ahead of government mandates and initiatives when it comes to environmental issues. That’s an important distinction because decisions that drive long-range change in the U.S. often come from board rooms, not Capitol Hill.
One of the key efforts among these organizations has been the focus on the creation and use of sustainable technology. That includes industries that may come as a surprise. For example, a recent survey from EY Global found that 82% of chemical companies currently place as much emphasis on ESG and sustainability as they do on revenue growth.
Tellingly, 56% also have accelerated digitization in this area.
What Is Sustainable Technology?
In general, sustainable technology refers to innovations in software systems, connected devices and other digital tools that take into consideration natural resources as well as support economic and social development. The technologies focus on reducing the environmental impact of business operations while also seeking to create more sustainable products.
It’s considered one of the most important, perhaps the most important, part of any modern business operation. The reasons why are apparent. The U.S Geological Survey keeps an alarmingly long and growing list of climate change-related issues. They include temperature increases worldwide, longer and more extreme droughts, tropical storms becoming more powerful due to warmer water in the world’s oceans and seas, and the fast rate of glacier melting.
“Sustainability is at the forefront of thinking across many sectors,” Dr. Frank Jenner, EY Global Chemicals & Advanced Materials Industry Leader, said in a release about the survey. He added: “Digitization is going to be central to this sustainability effort, helping businesses to meet their ESG targets, while continuing to meet the needs of customers who are more sustainability conscious than ever.”
Why Sustainable Technology Is Key For Businesses
For companies to achieve success in ESG, they must put focus on sustainable technology. Through the use of innovative software systems, companies can contribute to efforts that minimize climate change while also staying compliant with government regulations and building a reputation as a company that looks beyond just the bottom line.
Those are all important goals in the 21st century. Rubicon, a tech company that focuses on the solid waste and recycling industry, points out that embracing sustainable technology helps private businesses join the battle against climate change-related natural disasters that impact their own employees and business as they do everyone else. They also improve the bottom line with an increasingly sustainable-supporting public and recruit talented employees who want to work at an organization that is trying to make a difference on societal issues.
Examples of Sustainable Technology
Sustainable technology falls into three main areas, according to Rubicon.
- Substitution. A tech-driven shift from non-biodegradable to biodegradable production materials, as well as replacing non-renewable with renewable resources.
- Prevention. Prevention of deterioration, contamination and other negative environmental impacts.
- Efficiency. Using less energy and resources for production.
The most famous examples include plastics recycling, electric cars, solar power and LED lights. Others included carbon capture and storage technologies, green buildings and construction methods, cheap energy storage and hydro dams.
Some companies have excelled in this area. For example, industry analyst firm Everest Group recently gave Accenture high marks in sustainable technology as well as sustainable value chain, ESG measurements, and sustainable leadership and organization.
Greenpeace has named the top green companies, including Apple, Dell, Hewlett Packard, and Microsoft. For governments, an infrastructure that focuses on clean energy-driven public transportation is an example of sustainable technology.