Sustainability Efforts Through Technology

Partner, Regional Digital Services Lead for Asia.

ERM, a pure-play sustainability consultancy, has been partnering with various organizations, including corporations, governments, and NGOs, for over 50 years. With a focus on operationalizing sustainability, ERM has become the go-to firm for over 50% of the global Fortune 500 companies. The company has long-term clients who are proud to be associated with ERM’s annual delivery of over 20,000 projects globally across 39 countries. ERM supports a range of industries, including technology, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, power, metals, and mining.

However, at the core of ERM’s approach lies the concept of ‘boots to boardroom’ capabilities, which is the company’s unique selling proposition. ERM focuses on engaging in conversations at the boardroom level and helping organizations set their net-zero goals while supporting them on climate change strategies. The company takes a practical and technical approach to operationalizing sustainability by offering various services, such as impact assessments, asset retirement, ESG reporting, and more.

With a presence in Asia of over 13 countries and a growth rate of 20% year on year, ERM is well-positioned to support sustainability across diverse markets. The company is committed to providing strategic and technical solutions that help at an executive level, as well as on the ground level. ERM is proud to have sustainability as its core business and continues to focus on creating a sustainable future for all.

CIO World Asia spoke with Penny Murphy, Partner, Regional Digital Services Lead for Asia about sustainability trends and the future of sustainability efforts.

ERM’s Role in Providing Sustainability Consulting for Corporations, Governments, and NGOs

ERM partners with organizations at both corporate and operational levels to support their sustainability agendas. At the corporate level, ERM works closely with C-level executives to define net-zero ambitions and the necessary activities to achieve them. For clients at the operational level, ERM offers safety services and asset retirement, depending on their sustainability journey and needs.

One area where ERM has been focusing on working with corporations is the tech and data space. ERM helps corporations enhance their sustainability performance by using their sustainability data. ERM helps corporations baseline and analyze their data to draw insights and inform their strategy, which is particularly prevalent in Asia.

ERM also partners with NGOs and sustainability associations to provide insights and outreach work globally. The company has its own sustainability institute, The SustainAbility Institute by ERM, which produces trend reports and supports NGOs by providing necessary resources. ERM works with governments to help shape sustainability agendas through its think tanks, sustainability institute, and local networks. The company guides governments on specific disclosures and frameworks that need to be put in place.

In summary, ERM partners with organizations, NGOs, and governments globally to support their sustainability agendas. The company offers a range of services, including safety services, asset retirement, and sustainability data analysis, to guide clients in their sustainability journeys. ERM’s sustainability institute and think tanks provide insights and support NGOs and governments in shaping sustainability agendas.

Exploring the Application of Technology to Sustainability: An Overview of Section 7 in the 2023 ERM Trends Report

The Ongoing Evolution of Sustainable Business: 2023 Trends Report highlights the top key trends and dynamics shaping the sustainability agenda. The report details 10 macro trends, ranging from ESG integration to supply chain to safeguarding natural systems. The SustainAbility Institute by ERM has been reporting on these trends for the last 15 years, and while the meta headlines of these top key trends remain fundamentally the same because they are material, the annual report focuses on the evolution of these trends. The theme of this year’s report is the ongoing evolution of sustainable businesses, and its focus is to provide guidance on how companies can work towards being more sustainable and moving towards a sustainable world.

Regarding the application of technology and its intersection with sustainability, section seven of the report is dedicated to this topic. The report highlights how technological advances support the deployment of sustainable economic societies, but it also raises complex ethical and sustainable questions, especially in the use of AI. The report also covers topics such as energy usage, ethical boundaries of AI, data security and privacy, metaverse, and waste. The report aims to provide guidance on the application of technology and where those two points meet.

Overall, the report provides insights into how corporations can use technology to enhance their sustainability performance and work towards a more sustainable world. The report also emphasizes the importance of addressing ethical and sustainable concerns in the use of technology to ensure a sustainable future for all.

Exploring the Role of Technology in Deciphering Sustainability-Related Data

It is undeniable that technology tools can aid in data and performance, and more and more companies are seeking out tools to help in ESG data management. However, it is important to understand how technology can help on the ground level, as the need is different from that at the corporate sustainability planning level. For instance, technology can help corporations baseline their greenhouse gas emissions and track their supply chain’s Scope Three emissions. While companies deal with this vast amount of data, they also need to understand the framework, standards, and methodology for applying the data. Technology plays a crucial role in helping collect, structure, and analyze the data, and in parallel, align it with frameworks and standards, which can lead to better performance outcomes.

In the field of ERM, technology has been instrumental in supporting clients on their journey towards sustainability. ERM has developed the Climate Tech Suite, which includes tools such as net zero compass, a decarbonization software solution that helps baseline and forecast abatement activities. ERM has also acquired OPEX Group, a specialist AI and data science software that focuses on reducing GHG emissions in carbon-intensive industries. ERM believes that data is fundamental in driving the Climate Tech Suite and that building an ecosystem of tech, knowledge, and partners is critical for tackling data issues collectively.

The climate impact platform is another example of how data can help drive sustainability performance. This platform uses data sets to analyze the risk of natural disasters such as floods and helps companies plan for the future from a financial and operational risk perspective. It also provides predictive analysis on physical risks such as floods, which can aid in site selection.

In conclusion, technology can help drive sustainability performance by collecting, structuring, analyzing, and aligning data with frameworks and standards. Building an ecosystem of tech, knowledge, and partners is critical for tackling data issues collectively, and the use of data sets can aid in risk analysis and predictive analysis, which can help in site selection and planning for the future.

The Role of Metaverse in Business

The metaverse is a virtual space with the potential to play a significant role in future business. E-commerce and the marketing world have already jumped on using the metaverse to engage with clients, create new products and services, and generate revenue streams. While the metaverse offers an opportunity to accelerate sustainability in a new and parallel world, it is still in the early stages, and its impact on the environment and society will depend on how it is designed and used. There are opportunities for businesses to reduce their environmental footprint, such as using virtual interactions to eliminate the need for travel, reducing carbon emissions and the environmental impact. Additionally, virtual shopping and e-commerce can reduce the need for physical retail spaces, thereby lowering energy consumption. From a people perspective, the metaverse offers significant opportunities to enhance training and safety. However, the metaverse must be designed and used sustainably and responsibly, taking into account social and ethical considerations. It is essential for all stakeholders to come together and consider how to ensure the metaverse works for the best rather than the worst.

The Use of Technology to Address Waste and Recycling Concerns

Technology has a double-sided effect on the environment. On one hand, the technology industry has contributed more than any other industry to address the climate crisis. However, technology itself produces waste through material consumption, which is a cause for concern. Therefore, the technology sector walks a fine line and must focus on addressing these concerns, particularly in e-waste.

Circular economy is a concept that some technology companies are operationalizing to reduce waste. Companies like Apple are designing products with circular design principles, making it possible to reuse, repair, and recycle products at the end of their life cycle. Apple’s iPhones, for example, have modular components that can be recycled through its recycling program. Other companies like Dell have closed the loop on their recycling program by using plastic from their own e-waste to make new products.

Consumers are also becoming increasingly aware of e-waste recycling and applications, which is driving technology companies to respond. Apple has a robot that can disassemble 200 iPhones in an hour, taking apart all the reusable components for recycling. Additionally, apps like the Recycle Coach app provide end-users with information on what items can be recycled and how to recycle them in their local area.

Cities are also implementing smart ways to manage waste. For instance, Singapore is an excellent example of a smart city that uses sensors to track energy consumption, lighting, waste levels, and optimize collection routes. Other countries globally are following this trend.

Understanding the waste journey is key to managing waste effectively. Data is vital in creating a roadmap for managing waste in various sectors such as packaging and the supply chain. Energy is also an essential aspect that must be considered. Therefore, it is necessary to bring all these aspects together to tackle the waste problem globally.

Ethical Questions Raised by Increasing Use of AI

In a recent report, the increasing use of AI has raised ethical questions regarding data biases, privacy, and accountability. AI is only as good as the data it is trained on, and if the data contains biases, the algorithms learned will perpetrate that bias. The concerns here are around how biases can lead to unfair and discriminatory outcomes. However, AI requires large amounts of data to operate effectively, and this data often includes personal information, such as medical and financial records, location data, and more. This raises questions about how the data is collected, used, shared, and applied in AI concepts, and whether individuals have control over their data.

To address these ethical questions, the data used to train AI models must be diverse and representative, and the reference must be audited regularly for biases. Strong privacy protection, such as data encryption, and user consent should run in parallel. Standards and regulation for how AI is deployed in a sustainable fashion will be key to making this as possible and dampening down some of these concerns. However, it’s important to recognize that we don’t have all the answers today, and it will be a journey to address these ethical questions. Businesses, governments, and stakeholders must work together to create a framework around how AI should be used.

Moving on to the role of AI with sustainability, AI has been key in tackling many areas, such as cybersecurity and governance, supporting the ESG side. AI is already being used to optimize data collection, management, and assessment in the emission space, and understand the sentiments of companies’ sustainability profiles. Many tools and solutions out there use AI to collect and analyze vast amounts of data to augment sustainability strategies. CIOs, CTOs, and digital tech functions must understand how AI is being used and work to deliver it to organizations in a sustainable way.

In conclusion, while AI has its potential benefits, it’s important to address ethical questions regarding data biases, privacy, and accountability. Standards and regulations must be in place to deploy AI in a sustainable fashion. AI can play a key role in sustainability, but it’s essential to understand how it’s being used and work to deliver it sustainably.