Technology and human ingenuity have resulted in innovative ways to grow more food, produce more goods and create more energy, enabling humanity to rise to the scale we see today. Though as a result, many unintended consequences threaten the complex ecosystem we all depend on. As such, it's important that we focus on how companies can align economic needs with environmental needs to support a more sustainable, healthier and safer planet.
There's a lot of noise from companies touting their sustainability practices, which is causing confusion with consumers trying to identify those that are genuinely implementing green protocols and those that are greenwashing. According to a survey by Edie, consumer and investor demands for sustainable products will outpace corporate action in the coming years, leading to the acceleration of greenwashing. Companies still need to define what "carbon neutral" and "net-zero" mean and consider how those concepts are incorporated in the strategy and operations of their business. The use of quantitative measurements and standards will help show the progress companies make toward more sustainable business models that meet economic and environmental needs.
For instance, companies can align economic benefit with the amount of energy consumed — whether it is lighting a store or optimizing production processes — by gathering comprehensive data to gauge the environmental impact of their supply chain. The internet of things (IoT) is uniquely equipped to provide such information, allowing companies to better understand what current processes entail and what resources are available. That can help organizations understand how to reduce their carbon footprint and generate cost savings. Whether motivated by the bottom line or by the pressure on ESG from shareholders or government regulations, if the technology solutions are cost-efficient, simple and easy to implement, more companies will want to incorporate them into everyday practices.
Companies across the globe have started to explore the concept of doing more with less by using technology to align environmental goals driven by regulatory requirements and economic incentives. Though the incentive to optimize a complex system is clear, the reality of the matter is that most organizations don't know how to generate the data needed to efficiently operate environmentally-conscious systems. IoT solutions can bridge this divide by helping organizations receive the data they need to produce more with less while saving money and improving overall organizational performance.
Here are a few suggestions for how companies can begin their journey toward more sustainable operations:
With COVID-19 restrictions lifting in parts of the nation, more people will begin to venture back into the office. Consider adopting IoT-enabled building solutions such as smart lighting and smart thermostats for facility management. These solutions can measure occupancy rates and collect data on the specific time that employees enter workspaces to optimize energy consumption and lower costs, creating a greener, user-oriented work environment.
Regardless of whether it's goods or services, procurement is an expense across nearly all companies. Consider installing IoT-enabled sensors into warehouses and offices to monitor inventory levels and the location of materials, goods and equipment. This in turn helps reduce asset loss and inventory waste, while also ensuring just-in-time delivery. As a result, costs and emissions are reduced by streamlining processes.
Technology can help protect crops, livestock and property and can help even mitigate emission levels. For farmers and ranchers, consider using IoT to measure weather conditions that influence crop production, track livestock health and maximize yield and minimize expenses. Similarly, for firefighters — particularly in California — consider technology that helps predict and manage wildfires to keep people safe. Certain sensors can measure temperature, carbon dioxide levels and wind direction to detect the presence of a fire.
Food Waste Management
The U.S. wastes 80 billion pounds of food per year. IoT enables the development of smart, sustainable food waste management solutions, from waste disposal machines to sensors that monitor the optimal crop readiness to align with market demand. Consider investing in solutions that help reduce the amount of waste generated.
There is a growing call for companies to take action against climate change. Technology enables communities and companies to adopt simple solutions that can aid in supporting their mission to reduce their environmental impact and create a better place for future generations to live, work and grow.