Corporates Must Step Up Technology Investment to Drive Environmental Sustainability

Jul 26, 2022

Technology investment can be a key driver in making corporations more sustainable, agreed sustainability experts Brett Shoemaker, Director Sustainability & National Agenda, Microsoft ANZ Faith Taylor, VP & Global Sustainability Officer, Kyndryl and Dr Jack Dan, Chief Strategy Officer, CDC Data Centres at a recent roundtable lunch with the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce, hosted by Kyndryl, on Sustainability to the Core.

Faith Taylor explained that having a 3rd party verified data baseline for consumption is integral to authentic reporting and meeting goals in the future. These initial data points can help drive behavioural change for employees, supply chains and partners, leading to meaningful measurable change whether it’s on travel resources, water or electricity consumption. Simple things like “censor technology can efficiently adjust supply and demand and save a tonne of money and carbon.”

She added that having bottom line data integrity also avoids greenwashing. If numbers are validated, then when they are challenged, they can be supported and verified. She warns that companies that make false claims risk damaging not only their reputation but also their profits.

Ultimately, Taylor believes it’s the financial savings that are motivating increased corporate interest in meeting sustainability goals.  Corporations are also responding to consumer demand. “Ten years ago, consumers would not pay for sustainable products that cost more and now it’s part of their decision-making process. People are willing to pay for this product or service today if it’s being delivered sustainably,” she explained.

These changed behaviours should help motivate the almost 34% of Australian companies that are currently not expected to meet their net zero targets by 2050. Brett Shoemaker presented a recent Microsoft report, Accelerating the Journey to Net Zero which flags some major shortfalls in Australia delivering on its sustainability commitments. Noting the need for action and innovation, not just good intentions the report notes that:

  • 68% of Australian organisations are suffering from a delivery deficit
  • 43% are short on sustainability skills
  • 49% are failing to invest in sustainable tech

While 80% of business leaders say technological innovation has a key role to play in improving environmental sustainability, only 51% are spending on R&D to develop new technologies that will improve the sustainability of their products, service and/or operations. Only 50% are buying the technology they need to measure their emissions.

These stumbling blocs are despite the low hanging fruit available to Australians with expanding solar energy. Solar powered energy is the fastest growing energy generation in Australia, with more than one in four households today having rooftop solar.  However, Taylor, who was Environmental Social Governance (ESG) leader for Tesla, believes the fastest way of reducing carbon emission to 43% is “to give households access to storage, so they can actually access energy when they need it and not charge additional surcharges for using their own stored energy.” Local communities pooling their solar resources with battery storage will make be a gamechanger she insists, making them independent of the grid.  Battery-storage will help accelerate the first step in reducing current carbon footprints vs much longer-term investment in building major infrastructure alternatives.

Taylor, who during her 15-year tenure at Wyndham Worldwide, developed and built the company’s Environmental Social Governance program to become the hospitality industry’s Dow Jones Sustainability World Leader, believes the biggest challenge now is addressing the reality of climate change while trying to downgrade carbon emissions. “The two things together make it more complicated for everyone and it has to happen faster to help people who are suffering from climate change today.” She recognises that for those most vulnerable to climate change they are often not in a position to prioritise sustainability. “How do we give everyone equitable access to clean energy, fresh air and clean water? There is a lot of work to do.” She believes companies that can holistically address these challenges will have a competitive advantage.

She is excited about new renewable energy sources being discovered and implemented internationally, including ocean solar panels which have significantly higher conversion rates, ocean wind shields and tidal ocean driven hydro power.  More energy efficient technology like 5G networks will ultimately allow users to recharge their phones without plugging them in and reduce their carbon footprint.