Earth Day 2022: Questionable Momentum, With A Side Order Of Panic

Tech Industry

We should be taking confident and courageous strides towards creating future-generation-safe companies through purposeful actions such as reducing carbon through efficient and clean energy usage, minimizing water usage, expanding the use of sustainable raw materials, and increasing recyclable packaging while decreasing packaging altogether. These actions would support the overall theme this year of “Invest In Our Planet.” The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Sixth Assessment Report details very bad, no-one-is-safe consequences for climate change inaction which should motivate us further even if it comes with a little (or a lot) of panic. But current events are driving us to some questionable short-term decisions. Just a few examples from the energy sector show the good momentum towards environmental sustainability such as:

  • Primary power from renewable energy feels within reach. Earlier this month, the State of California ran on 97% renewable energy, beating it’s earlier record of 96.4% achieved that same week. The state’s goal is to generate half its energy from renewable sources by 2025 – right around the corner when most goals target 2040 or later. In Germany, renewable energy already generated 46% of public power in 2021 (slightly down from 50% in 2020, with a goal of 100% by 2035).
  • More modern, more resilient nuclear power plants are taking hold where once coal was king. Once shunned as a dangerous source of energy, nuclear power is gaining traction with modern, more resilient technology and design. Smaller, local nuclear power plants are already planned in some of the heaviest coal producing US states such as Montana, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Conversely,

  • Fossil fuel dependence burst due to the Ukraine war. The EU aims to cut its gas dependency on Russia by two-thirds by the end of 2022 by tapping alternative natural gas suppliers but also by accepting that some countries will burn more coal in the short term. The US Interior Department recently opened roughly 145,000 acres of federal land for drilling oil and gas in an apparent vie to lower prices.
  • Supply chain shortages slow and increase expense of clean energy projects. Supply chain issues that are common since Covid-19 also affect green energy. Exacerbated by the Ukraine War, raw material prices used in wind turbines – a staple in clean energy plans in the EU – such as steel, aluminum, and nickel skyrocketed. The US Department of Energy released a plan to secure the clean energy supply chain including critical materials and “the formation of diverse, reliable, and socially responsible foreign supply chains” to overcome the current supply chain “immense challenges.”

However, even if we make some questionable or flat out bad short-term decisions (even when motivated by external forces), we need to focus on what our companies can do short-, medium-, and long-term that will keep our momentum towards becoming future-generation-safe. For Earth Day 2022, Forrester has research to help companies make these good decisions, including:

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  1. Jekyll And Hyde: The Dual Role Of Emerging Tech In Environmental Sustainability. Emerging technologies play a dual role – to create better sustainability practices while also contributing to a company’s carbon footprint and volume of waste. On the positive side, these technologies can aid in the observability of sustainability practices; increase efficiencies in facilities management and manufacturing; and, in some cases, help reduce carbon emissions directly. But these benefits must be weighted by the necessary compute power and scale of implementing these technologies. This report discussesthe dual roles of eight emerging technologies and how to use them for good.
  2. Discover The UK’s Sustainable-Leaning Investors, Then Educate Them. One in eight UK investors are explicitly buying sustainable investment products, and they’re younger, wealthier, and higher-educated than the average. But most importantly, a considerable group of investors who are focused on nonfinancial impacts from their investments haven’t bought yet. This report tackles how to find these investors and capitalize on the opportunity.
  3. From Greenwashing To Best Practices On Sustainability Communications. Greenwashing — when a business is perceived to be misrepresenting its environmental sustainability — is a growing problem and can be tricky to get right. It’s time for B2C marketers to take a much more humble, co-creative stakeholder dialogue to maximize, rather than lose, trust. This report examines how sustainability communications accounting will help B2C marketers manage messages with integrity.
  4. The Top Systemic Risks, 2022. With other more pressing systemic risks such as human health and wellness and political and geopolitical risk dominating companies worldwide, it’s no wonder that the priority of climate change dropped this year. However, climate change is also a long-term risk which is difficult for humans to effectively process. This report provides an understanding of climate change as a systemic risk, its effects on the business, and how to mitigate it.
  5. Choose The Right Nature-Based Sustainability Solutions To Mitigate Risk. According to the United Nations, nature-based solutions (NBS) are a necessary tool to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate the worst-case climate change scenarios, providing more than a third of mitigation needed to reach 2030 goals. But these solutions are a risk themselves if not chosen and executed correctly. This report explores potential NBS in the context of your business risks and identify the best solutions.

This blog post is part of Forrester’s Earth Day 2022 series. For more Forrester insights on sustainability, see the full set of Forrester’s climate action blogs.

This post was written by VP, Research Director Amy DeMartine and it originally appeared here.

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