Quantcast
Business

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.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Health
"From 1992 to 2016, heat killed 783 workers in the U.S. and seriously injured nearly 70,000, according to a new report on heat risks." InsideClimateNews / USDA

Protect Workers From Extreme Heat, Advocates Urge OSHA

A broad coalition of worker advocacy, public health and environmental groups on Tuesday called on the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to create a workplace standard for heat stress.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Emilie Chen / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Against All Odds, Mountain Gorilla Numbers Are on the Rise

By Jason Bittel

The news coming out of East Africa's Virunga Mountains these days would have made the late (and legendary) conservationist Dian Fossey very happy. According to the most recent census, the mountain gorillas introduced to the world in Gorillas in the Mist, Fossey's book and the film about her work, have grown their ranks from 480 animals in 2010 to 604 as of June 2016. Add another couple hundred apes living in scattered habitats to the south, and their population as a whole totals more than 1,000. Believe it or not, this makes the mountain gorilla subspecies the only great apes known to be increasing in number.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
San Cristóbal de las Casas, in the Mexican state of Chiapas. Tjeerd Wiersma from Amsterdam, The Netherlands / CC BY 2.0

How Coca-Cola and Climate Change Created a Public Health Crisis in a Mexican Town

A lack of drinking water and a surplus of Coca-Cola are causing a public health crisis in the Mexican town of San Cristóbal de las Casas, The New York Times reported Saturday.

Some neighborhoods in the town only get running water a few times a week, so residents turn to soda, drinking more than half a gallon a day on average.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Plastic trash isn't safe for kids, whether human or bear. Kevin Morgans Wildlife Photography

Even Polar Bear Cubs Can’t Escape Plastic Pollution

By Allison Guy

Plastic bags are often stamped with an all-caps warning: This bag is not a toy. Unfortunately, polar bear moms don't have much control over their kids' playthings.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Insights
Sea level rise is a natural consequence of the warming of our planet. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

We Can’t Hide From Global Warming’s Consequences

Over the past few months, heat records have broken worldwide.

In early July, the temperature in Ouargla, Algeria, reached 51.3°C (124.34°F), the highest ever recorded in Africa! Temperatures in the eastern and southwestern U.S. and southeastern Canada have also hit record highs. In Montreal, people sweltered under temperatures of 36.6°C (97.88°F), the highest ever recorded there, as well as record-breaking extreme midnight heat and humidity, an unpleasant experience shared by people in Ottawa. Dozens of people have died from heat-related causes in Quebec alone.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Stacey_newman / Getty Images

More Than a Third of Schools Tested Have ‘Elevated Levels’ of Lead in Drinking Water

A troubling new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that more than a third of the nation's schools that tested their water for lead found "elevated levels" of the neurotoxin. But despite heightened concern in recent years about lead in drinking water, more than 40 percent of schools surveyed conducted no lead testing in 2016.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
Bill Pugliano / Stringer / Getty Images

Can Elon Musk Fix Flint’s Water?

By Fiona E. McNeill

The Michigan community of Flint has become a byword for lead poisoning. Elon Musk recently entered the fray. He tweeted a promise to pay to fix the water in any house in Flint that had water contamination above acceptable levels set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
A researcher at Oregon State University examines creeping bentgrass. Oregon State University / Flickr / Tiffany Woods

You Need to Be Paying Attention to GMO Grass

By Dan Nosowitz

Creeping bentgrass doesn't get as much attention as other genetically modified plants. But this plant tells us an awful lot—emphasis on the "awful"—about how GMO plants are regulated and monitored.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!