How are tech companies growing with sustainability in mind?
Amid a record-breaking summer, where heatwaves have caused chaos across Europe, businesses are facing a reckoning over their enviromental policies, with politicians and customers all demanding more action on climate change.
Businesses and the environment have often had a frosty relationship, as industries are encouraged to acknowledge how their operations are damaging the planet and being urged to fork out their profits on changing that.
At the moment, only 50% of CEOs have a clear roadmap to the sustainability pledges that they’ve made, and only 5% have made any positive progress, according to a ‘Positive growth in ClimateTech panel’ at London Tech Week.
Whilst established businesses have had to rejig their entire operation in the name of climate change, start-ups have had the upper hand in being able to grow with sustainability already in mind.
“Climate change is not going anywhere, and the only way businesses are going to be able to survive is if they start adapting to that and align to the [key performance detectors] (KPIs) that would allow them to understand how they can have a positive impact,” says Lubomila Jordanova from Plan A, an SaaS platform that tracks decarbonisation efforts for businesses and speaking at the panel.
According to Jordanova, the way the economy is assessed at the moment “is incredibly inefficient.”
“We have KPIs like growth and GDP and margins,” she says, but they don’t associate with reality “because they don’t account for the missing pieces which are the environmental, the social, and the governance elements.”
What Plan A has been doing to aid, is creating the ability for businesses to have visibility on their actual impact on the planet, and on society.
Currently, “when a business sets a material agenda, quite often you hear these bombastic commitments. The reality is that many businesses have no idea how they’ll be able to achieve that.”
According to Jordanova, the truth is that businesses are heavily dependent on scope three, which are their suppliers, in helping them achieve their net zero goals.
Dave Franklin, professional services director at Google UK, attests to this: “To help scale tech solutions around sustainability, there must be collaboration.
“Climate change is such a big problem, that if anyone tried to do it alone, they’re not going to get very far.
“Even as we reduce our own carbon footprint we have others,” he says, referring to scope three.
Currently, as a large tech company, Google has been hiking up its efforts to help with global warming. “When I joined Google in 2007, we were offsetting our emissions…Fast forward to today, and in the last 10 years we’ve seen the biggest corporation of renewables,” he says.
“We purchase more than we necessarily need for our core operations, which fuels the environments and creates an ecosystem that others can actually benefit from.”
Google also collaborates with tech startups by offering them programmes and funds, as well as training and mentoring, so that they are not alone in staying sustainable.
Tessa Clarke, co-founder and CEO of food waste app OLIO, says that positive growth needs to be reframed, because, at the moment, businesses are simply only looking at GDP growth.
“GDP growth is inextricably linked to the consumption of resources,” she says.
So, CEOs must change their mindset between their business and sustainability.
“I think for positive growth, we need a more attractive narrative,” says Ryan Shanks, head of innovation at Accenture.
“Climate change has a bad rep, and that is understandable because of, you know, the collapsing of icebergs and the starving of polar bears, but we’re missing the point of understanding that we need to start living with the reality of climate changing,” says Jordanova.
“Climate change is not going anywhere, and the only way businesses are going to be able to survive is if they start adapting to that and aligning to the KPIs that would allow them to understand how they can have a positive impact.”
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