2020 may yet be aptly named if policymakers find vision enough to read the signs through ever-thickening smoke: climate change won’t wait for governments. Almost a quarter century since the Kyoto protocol commitments, it’s clear that corporations and NGOs will lead humankind out of the global climate crisis. But as some companies focus on becoming carbon neutral or negative, and others work steadily at tools that build towards these goals, there is a lack of coordination and purpose that creates an obscurity of its own and does not match with the urgency of the moment.
That urgency demands that companies start to shape the policy environment themselves. Multilateral sclerosis, nationalist reaction, and economic momentarism have created a howling vacuum that companies with carbon-reducing solutions must begin to fill. But it’s not enough simply to lead by example and hope others will imitate you, or just to lay out your carbon-neutralising wears and hope that consumers will drift your way. They won’t, because they’re manifestly busy elsewhere: despite rising awareness of the risk, consumers have pushed fully 40% of all global fossil fuel emissions since before the industrial revolution into the earth’s atmosphere just since the Kyoto Protocol was agreed… in 1997.
The private sector now needs to do better business precisely by pushing forward onto the market, and into the policy space, solutions that reduce our Dangerous Anthropogenic Interference, and companies should be unhesitating about using time-tested practices to achieve this end:
- Drive the policy agenda in treaty-binding forums with teeth: COP 26 and its successors, UN Bio Diversity Conference, UN Oceans Conference.
- Drive credible national and international standards for those of your solutions that invite more ubiquitous uptake.
- Participate in the carbon-neutral build-back of the G20’s stimulus packages by leveraging those monies to augment and push forward your solutions.
- Insert your solution into large projects that will attract attention and emulation, such as the European Green Capital Award or those of the Dubai Carbon Centre of Excellence.
These “government affairs” methods work: widely-adopted standards such as those for carbon-reducing eSignatures are popular because they worked well and because they were pushed forward by their creators. They not only get published and adopted by organisations, they also drive profitability. But while many companies – Unilever, Tesla, General Electric to name a few – have enabled sustainability offerings to contribute to their bottom line, companies that sit squarely in the tech space – those providing connectivity, Internet platforms, and data services – have yet to contribute all the necessary leadership to a green-centred re-tooling of the economy. This inattention is difficult to explain, given that those same qualities which place tech companies in the leadership roles they occupy today will also enable them to roll order out of the current policy chaos around climate change: audacity, and a clarity of purpose, will restore trust in their services and stasis to this ailing planet.
We’re launching the Sustainability Tracker because there’s still a lack of policy coordination and purpose among tech companies. Broadband, cloud computing, AI, and IoT offer environmental benefits beyond decarbonisation, such as waste management, cleaner oceans, and preserving biodiversity. As leadership in these areas is absent from many countries, the tech sector must take a central role in shaping regulatory frameworks that link climate solutions to technology. The Sustainability Tracker will help companies navigate how to do just that most effectively.
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