Green Technology Heralds a New Phase of Climate Change
Over the past few years, we’ve seen a huge shift in social responsibility in marketing, particularly in relation to climate change. No longer is it acceptable for brands to make decisions based solely on financial gain; they must also consider, at all times, the environmental impact their decisions and processes are making. As such, many brands have changed their ways of working and highlighted these developments within brand messaging.
The recent publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report – the first major review of the science of climate change since 2013 – highlights the timeliness of this shift. The report signals code red for humanity, arguing that global warming could make parts of the world uninhabitable, and stressing the need for solutions that can help reduce negative impact; including green technology.
Recent months have seen growing evidence to underscore the importance of greater ingenuity and faster progress. Met Office findings show 2020 was one of the warmest, wettest and sunniest years on record for the UK. According to the latest IPCC data, global temperatures and sea levels have risen at a rapid rate since 1970, with warming on track to pass the 1.5C threshold by 2050 at its current trajectory. As highlighted by UN Secretary General António Guterres, however, there is still room to turn the tide with collective and concerted action.
As the focus on climate change intensifies, motivation to adopt green practices is increasing from multiple directions; along with the array of solutions and green tech tools businesses can harness to drive positive development.
The consumer push for change
One of the biggest climate change developments in the last 18 months is a shift in consumer attitudes. When the world went into lockdown last year, the positive difference for nature was tangible; highlighting the power of combined action to help address issues previously seen as too big for individuals to tackle.
As a result, consumers have become increasingly conscious of their own impact, with nearly one in three stopping purchases with certain brands due to ethical or sustainability concerns since the pandemic began. Moreover, other research also shows green principles are playing a greater part in winning consumer favour and spend: not only do 78% now feel it’s vital to use brands and products described as sustainable and eco-friendly, but a further 90% say they are more likely to purchase from companies that can illustrate their eco-focused values than those that don’t.
For companies, these increases (positive) pressure to align with customer values and priorities. They are aware that by enhancing their use of sustainable practices to improve eco-messaging, they have the potential to attract new audience segments while still retaining their loyal consumers. They can do this in a number of ways.
For example, more than 100 companies have signed up to Amazon’s Climate pledge, promising to become net zero carbon by 2040 by committing to actions such as measuring, reducing and offsetting carbon emissions.
As highlighted by its latest report, Amazon is already making encouraging progress; now the largest corporate purchaser of renewables, which accounted for 65% of its power usage by the end of 2020. This change is a significant leap forward from 2019 power usage, where renewables made up 42%, and puts the organisation on track for hitting its 100% renewable target by 2025. Although it’s important to recognise that there is still room for development. Following news around Amazon disposing of unwanted goods, for instance, the retail giant has moved to introduce new policies to cut waste when it comes to returned and overstocked goods.
Cosmetics brands such as Body Shop and Boots have also been making positive changes to address the use of non-recyclable packaging in cosmetics. Both of these stores have now brought in schemes whereby a customer can bring their items to be recycled and are able to collect loyalty points by doing so.
Overall, it’s clear consumer demand is growing to play a large role in fuelling the green revolution and encouraging more businesses to take action – but proactive efforts to drive change can also be seen elsewhere.
The green investment surge
Further changes have come in the form of large investments in green practices and technology. In May 2021, the UK Government announced a £166.5 million funding package for green tech, with the aim of supporting nationwide innovators, businesses and academics to drive technological advances in multiple areas, including carbon capture, greenhouse gas removal and hydrogen.
According to a report by Research in Finance, climate change is an increasingly important environmental, social and governance (ESG) factor in guiding investment decisions. The company’s UK Responsible Investing Study found that for 48% of retail intermediaries interviewed, climate change was the most mentioned issue, followed by pollution (31%) and carbon emissions (30%). Around 45% of respondents said that ESG integration has gone from ‘nice to have’ to ‘must have’.
While the recent IPCC report findings may be a stark warning to the world, major studies such as this which refer to ‘tipping points’ in climate change – the loss of the Amazon rainforest, for example – can galvanise green tech investors into action. As Tim Lenton, director of the Global Systems Institute at the University of Exeter, recently described, this creates a “glimmer of hope”; where reaching such a tipping point has a direct impact on the widespread adoption of green innovations, such as electric cars, renewables and other decarbonising measures.
Getting green momentum going
Typically, the best-known implementations of green tech tend to be high-profile projects with potentially large-scale impact.
For example, Norway is moving to become an international green pioneer. Mayor of Oslo, Raymond Johansen, recently unveiled plans to offset an industrial waste incinerator at the Varme Plant, which generates heat and electricity by burning rubbish, by retrofitting it with carbon capture technology. Currently, the plant burns 400,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste annually — with 50,000-100,000 tonnes coming from UK household waste — and accounts for 15% of Oslo’s total carbon emissions. This change will contain waste emissions before they can enter the atmosphere and contribute to global warming and, if successful, could become the blueprint for similar offsetting activities across Europe.
But advances in the green tech space – buoyed by the surge in investment and demand – are also creating many other opportunities for businesses to make a positive impact. In the ad tech space, ‘The Green Ad Tag’ tracker from Good Loop allows agencies to monitor their environmental impact with viewable metrics and can be applied across platforms and media, spanning standard digital display to out of home (OOH) ads. Taking advantage of smart data orchestration abilities, it works by gathering and merging multiple data transmissions — by region, time, device, and bandwidth use — to calculate costs in line with local electricity usage and measure the carbon footprint of campaigns, with real-time updates presented in a dashboard.
Logistic companies, such as Bringg, are also pioneering methods to help companies reduce the carbon footprint of last-mile processes. The cloud platform helps firms execute, manage and track delivery operations, in an both an eco-efficient and accessible way.
Many companies are also looking at their working environment. Working with companies such as Verv enables businesses to ensure they are purchasing goods/ services with in-built efficiency: such as AC systems that use predictive maintenance technology to limit waste and also provide real-time data about how much energy products are using to help manage energy consumption.
This eco-movement is encouraging. We are seeing individuals and businesses not only set carbon reduction goals, but also actively make the changes required to meet them. With events such as COP26 – the United Nations Climate Change Conference – on the horizon, there is a distinct feeling of optimism about the potential to address climate change issues through collective action: as noted by US climate envoy John Kerry in July: “In little more than 100 days, we can save the next 100 years.”
Smart tools that help to offset carbon impact and provide cleaner alternatives will play an essential role in this change of attitudes and behaviours. It is clear that the demand is out there and that the availability of green technology will be an integral element of our sustainable future.