The Imperative To ChangeSustainability
Over the past several decades, with the rise in climate awareness and in the acknowledgement of environmental and social issues around the globe, large corporations, willingly or unwillingly, have made operational changes to meet the escalating expectations of customers, shareholders, employees and governments.
Great strides have been made in the realm of switching to renewable energy, for example. Google reports Four Consecutive Years of 100% Renewable Energy which I personally find heartening because of the always-on nature of today’s technologies. In 2018 Apple declared itself globally powered by 100% renewable energy. And Facebook reached its 100% renewable energy milestone in 2021. These changes are intelligent and they don’t really represent any substantive changes to other aspects of the business. They make good economic sense as well as important environmental choices.
However, there are at least two dimensions of change that do involve a change in corporate behavior.
The first one I want to talk about is the drive by sustainability leaders to push sustainability into their value chain. Both upstream and down, the demand is for both sustainable products and services as well as for suppliers themselves to be accountable for their emissions. For organizations to reduce their Scope 3 emissions they need this accountability. To clarify, in order for an organization to accurately account for the emissions associated with the goods and services they consume, they need accurate sustainability data about those goods and services. To this end, we see companies including more and more sustainability questions in their Requests for Proposal (RFPs) and Requests for Information (RFI). And some demand that their suppliers disclose details of their sustainability practices through such scorecards as EcoVadis.
The second dimension is requiring a cultural shift from the extremely proprietary to the collaboration the world is demanding. Afterall, we share exactly one planet and the clock is ticking.
Two arenas of collaboration in the technology world come to mind. Firstly, the embracing of “The Right to Repair” movement by such leaders as Apple and Google. The Right to Repair movement flies in the face of planned obsolescence and holding customers hostage to the brand. The brand must now earn its customers’ loyalty and show genuine improvement to incentivize new sales. The Right to Repair is a huge win for sustainability and for consumers as well. Repairing products extends their useful life often delaying the purchase of new equipment. Even when consumers buy new, if their old equipment can be repaired it can find new life with a new user.
The second arena crying for collaboration is around the disclosure of Lifecycle Assessment Data (LCAs). LCAs have traditionally been held close to the vest with the fear that their disclosure is revealing too much proprietary information. Another aspect of the problem is that traditional LCAs have been very costly and LCA data for many products simply does not exist. However, with the advent of open LCA modeling, and the growing demand for LCA data, the tide is rapidly turning. Again, to accurately account for Scope 3 emissions will require accurate LCA data for the products we buy.
Already, Illumynt uses LCA data to report the Scope 3 emissions avoided by our partners when we find a new life for their assets. As sustainability data takes its rightful place side by side with financial data, on the bottom line, the demand for LCAs is bound to expand. As demand increases for Scope 3 reporting, it’s also demanding more LCA data. As new methodologies make creating LCAs easier and cheaper, LCAs can help make products more sustainable and help us move to a circular economy.
Be sure to read my continuing blog series as I discuss all things related to sustainable electronics.