The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Environmental Innovation Will Transform Business as Usual
By Tom Murray
As the Trump administration rolls back environmental protections that could harm human health for decades, it's increasingly up to businesses to lead the way, charting the course to a future that includes both a thriving economy and a thriving planet.
Leading the way requires first setting ambitious, public targets like the more than 340 companies taking science-based climate action and 90 that have approved science-based targets; collaborating with partners across the value chain for maximum scale and impact—Walmart's Project Gigaton, a collaborative effort to reduce 1 billion tons for emissions, is a powerful example; and, supporting smart climate and energy policy
BSR's new sustainability framework closely echoes these leadership approaches and recommends that companies create resilient business strategies that align with sustainability goals. GreenBiz's 2018 State of Green Business report further supports these and other requirements for sustainability leadership, adding that businesses need to improve reporting on climate risk, impact, and progress towards goals. The We Mean Business coalition adds further calls to action for companies: join the low carbon technology partnerships initiative, grow the market for sustainable fuels and electric vehicles, and take proactive steps to end deforestation by 2020.
Yet currently missing from all of this corporate sustainability leadership guidance is a call for companies to accelerate environmental innovation and deployment of next generation technology—sensors, AI, data analytics and visualization, and digital collaboration—to solve our most pressing environmental challenges.
We're on the verge of a new wave of environmental progress: a revolution in environmental protection and advocacy driven by new technologies that give people the power to understand problems and scale solutions like never before. Leading companies and investors have a critical role to play and will help define the impact of this wave. Ensuring that 21st century problems are met with 21st century solutions.
Fourth Wave Environmental Innovation
Environmental progress doesn't just happen. It is propelled by successive waves of innovation inspired by leaders and actions. Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir launched the modern conservation movement. This First Wave of environmental advocacy created our national parks and protected our lands. It was followed by an era defined by Rachel Carson and the birth of environmental law—the Second Wave of environmentalism.
The third and most recent wave of the environmental movement took shape in 1990 when McDonald's and EDF joined forces to drive innovation in packaging and waste reduction. Today, Third Wave problem-solving, market-based approaches and corporate partnerships have become standard practices.
Now, in the Fourth Wave of environmental progress, an upcoming report from EDF shows that business leaders overwhelmingly recognize there is more potential than previous waves to improve the economy and the environment. Eighty-six percent of executives surveyed agreed that Fourth Wave technology can help their bottom line as well as improve their impact on the environment; this figure increases to 91 percent among those in the C-Suite.
These forward-thinking executives understand that a prosperous tomorrow will come through groundbreaking innovations that help create sustainable solutions.
Innovation Is Already Underway
Already, many leading companies like Walmart and IBM have begun investing in and implementing environmental innovations that are empowering people to take action—for example, by using Blockchain to track and improve food waste across the supply chain. Here are other examples of Fourth Wave innovation in action:
EDF and Google Earth Outreach teamed up to map air pollution threats on a block-by-block scale in West Oakland, California, to give communities actionable, empowering information that previously not even government could provide.
The Mobile Monitoring Challenge, a joint effort between EDF and Stanford with technical advice from ExxonMobil and others, was launched to inspire new and innovative approaches to reducing methane emissions at oil and natural gas sites.
This challenge was preceded by the Methane Detectors Challenge, a groundbreaking partnership between EDF, oil and gas companies, technology developers and entrepreneurs that catalyzed the development and deployment of stationary, continuous methane monitors that can prevent the loss of valuable product for the oil and gas industry—and reduce pollution. By making methane data more accessible, environmental solutions can get to scale faster than ever before. Already, Shell, Statoil and PG&E are all conducting demonstration projects to test out the next-generation of methane sensors.
Pathways to Environmental Progress
Innovation will also be at the heart of EDF's work to leverage market forces to accelerate environmental protection and economic growth.
Despite the Trump administration's continued attempts to jeopardize the environmental gains of the last several decades, I'm hopeful about the future of our planet. Fueling this hope is the Fourth Wave of environmental progress, where the exponential growth in innovation will empower people—business leaders, entrepreneurs, investors, individuals, and communities—to take action and fill the gaps in environmental leadership.
Tom Murray is vice president of EDF+Business at Environmental Defense Fund.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Respecting scientists has never been a priority for the Trump Administration. Now, a new investigation from The Guardian revealed that Department of the Interior political appointees sought to play up carbon emissions from California's wildfires while hiding emissions from fossil fuels as a way to encourage more logging in the national forests controlled by the Interior department.
Killer hurricanes, devastating wildfires, melting glaciers, and sunny-day flooding in more and more coastal areas around the world have birthed a fatalistic view cleverly dubbed by Mary Annaïse Heglar of the Natural Resources Defense Council as "de-nihilism." One manifestation: An increasing number of people appear to have grown doubtful about the possibility of staving-off climate disaster. However, a new interactive tool from a climate think tank and MIT Sloan shows that humanity could still meet the goals of the Paris agreement and limit global warming.
Burrowing owls, which make their homes in small holes in the ground, are having a rough time in Florida. That's why Marco Island on the Gulf Coast passed a resolution to pay residents $250 to start an owl burrow in their front yard, as the Marco Eagle reported.
Hundreds of Amazon workers publicly criticized the company's climate policies Sunday, showing open defiance of the company following its threats earlier this month to fire workers who speak out on climate change.
East Africa is facing its worst locust infestation in decades, and the climate crisis is partly to blame.