This year’s Earth Day theme is restoration. We need to reverse the detrimental effects of climate change and stop the pollution of our eco-system to preserve our planet for future generations.
Consider this. Every year we are losing 4.7 million hectares of forests, an area larger than Denmark, according to UN data. For sports fans, this is the equivalent of more than 2.5 million soccer fields, based on an average field size of 1.86 acres. Planting billions of trees across the world is an immediate and effective way to combat reforestation and take carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the atmosphere to tackle the climate crisis.
But we need to do more. We need long-term solutions that go beyond disaster recovery and fixing environmental emergencies. We need a shift towards a more sustainable business model to move from recovery to prevention. Our health depends on our planet’s health.
The Covid-19 pandemic was another grim reminder how closely our health is connected to our planet’s health. Research shows that a healthy ecosystem helps to protect us from diseases as biological diversity makes it difficult for pathogens to spread rapidly.
In the post-pandemic recovery, we have the opportunity and responsibility to create a more sustainable economy that is good for people and the planet.
Digital and cloud technologies can facilitate the move towards a circular economy, an economy that is restorative and regenerative by design. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation defines the circular economy as “a systemic approach to economic development designed to benefit businesses, society, and the environment.” It replaces the linear ‘take-make-waste’ linear model with a more holistic view of production and consumption with a focus on three areas: design out waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use, and regenerate natural systems.
SAP is one of the companies that are spearheading the move towards a circular economy. This month SAP Executive Board Member Thomas Saueressig outlined pioneering technology approaches that help pave the circular path towards a low carbon future. Technology facilitates responsible design, sourcing, production, consumption, recovery, and reuse.
Natura & Co is an example of a company that pursues the circular economy approach. The international beauty conglomerate which owns brands such as The Body Shop, Aesop and AVON, pledged a “Commitment to Life for 2030” with a focus on lowering gas emissions, protecting the Amazon rainforest, and supporting local communities.
Gartner reported that Natura & Co.’s pledge also includes modernizing its supply chain and making product packaging fully circular. The company aims to reduce the total amount of brand packaging by up to 20 percent by using only reusable, recyclable, and compostable materials.
One of the technologies that enables the move to a circular economy across industries is the cloud. According to the Accenture report ‘The Green Behind the Cloud’ companies can reduce carbon emissions with a cloud-first approach or by migrating to the cloud. Accenture predicts that migrations to the public cloud can reduce global carbon emissions by as much as 59 million tons of CO2 annually.
Additional benefits of cloud migrations are new opportunities such as clean energy transitions enabled by cloud-based geographic analyses, material waste reductions from better data insights, and targeted medical R&D through faster analytics platforms.
Switching to a circular economy means changing production and consumption patterns while restoring our planet’s ecosystem. It requires alignment in the entire supply chain. It will not be always easy, but I am optimistic that it can be achieved with commitment and the use of technology innovation.
This article is the first of a two-part article series on how technology can facilitate the move to a circular economy. Part two of this series will be published next week.
This article is republished from Forbes by Peter Pluim.