The 10 United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) principles, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) Performance Standards and the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Agenda for Sustainable Development goals, are all on the horizon to meet all objectives by 2030 in terms of human rights, labor, environment, and anticorruption. Let’s explore how the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, and monitoring can continue to disrupt, innovate and iterate to keep businesses on track to achieving these sustainability goals.
An article published as part of the recent Davos Agenda presents the current scenario in terms of the digital revolution:
- REALITY: COVID-19 has created a sense of urgency for businesses to improve their sustainability credentials.
- CHALLENGE: Some companies aren’t adapting quickly enough to this “disrupt or be disrupted” mindset.
- OPPORTUNITY: Lessons must be learned from the digital revolution to enable businesses to adapt, innovate and ultimately prosper in the future…
This summary of sustainability trends provided by Bain analysis is based on market data, having found that plant-based meat could be a US$140 billion business by the end of this decade, and the retail nutrition/wellness market could grow to US$50 billion by 2025.
This trend confirms that if companies want to lead, they must think outside of the short-term economics box. Modern markets need to take into account the long-term advantages associated with sustainability. Similar to the advent of IoT, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence, digitized sustainability has followed suit, another avenue that is opening up new multibillion-dollar markets in tech.
Nevertheless, there are certain challenges presented by this next iteration of the digital revolution:
- Standardizing and scaling the collection and use of digital data can aid, assist and propel companies into sustainable decision-making.
- Lack of sufficient investments, bureaucracy and stubborn human resistance fueled by outdated ideas and practices.
This is where ESG-based investment comes in. ESG stands for environmental, social, and governance criteria, factors according to which companies can be assessed for potential investment.
Big Environmental Data and its Applications for Companies, Consumers, and Investors in the Digital Revolution
Capturing ESG-related data for investors requires an examination of sustainability initiatives within a business or market sector. ESG investment is increasingly becoming a focus for international finance initiatives.
The scale of environmental data creation is exploding. Environmental big data includes data from about 5,000 satellites, drone operations and about 20 billion scattered sensors capturing scientific and regulatory compliance data.
Smart technologies integrated with water delivery systems, highways and rivers can provide earlier, more accurate and rapid fire warnings that natural or physical systems are under duress, enabling decision-makers to take necessary actions to prevent a breakdown or natural disaster.
Similarly, applications of digital technologies that provide both a small and large scale view of sustainability problems continue to gain traction. Farmers download apps to adjust planting and harvesting cycles, conserve water and compare market crop prices. Digital devices adjust heating and cooling systems in buildings to reduce pollution and save money. And millions of drivers use traffic apps to look up real-time data on how to avoid traffic jams and choose faster routes.
The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and other partners are working to provide the scientific foundations for this 2030 Agenda. The Digital Revolution and Sustainable Development: Opportunities and Challenges report prepared by the World in 2050 initiative was the fruit of voluntary collaboration between more than 50 authors and contributors from about 20 institutions, and some 100 independent experts from academia, business, government, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations from all over the world. They met four times at IIASA to develop scientific strategies toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Presentations of the TWI2050 have subsequently been made at meetings around the world, such as the United Nations Science, Technology and Innovation Forums, and the United Nations High-level Political Forums. They stress the need to shift away from the presumption that all resources are limitless and instead pivot toward the recognition that they are finite, and we must apply technology in utilizing them in a sustainable way.