Tech - take the lead on climate change

As the COP26 Summit continues, the tech sector's recent success gives it an opportunity to lead by example

Environmental technology concept. Sustainable development goals. SDGs.
metamorworks / Shutterstock

The recent success of technology points the way to the tech sector's role in combating climate change, the greatest challenge we all face.

As politicians from across the world meet in November 2021 for 12 days of debate and hopefully decision making at the COP26 Summit, the tech sector needs to take a positive stance because it has much to offer.

The Covid-19 pandemic and the need to rapidly enable remote working proved a point that technology really can allow organisations to think and work differently. Remote working was far from new in early 2020, but it took last year's events to be truly understood and used effectively. Unlike the pandemic, everyone can see the threat climate change poses, so let's not wait to prove our value at the point of no return. Technology can and must play a vital role in solving climate change.

That may sound like a tall order, but the tech sector, both provider and internal teams, have enabled organisations to survive pandemics and economic crises, developed levels of insight never before imagined, reworked how and where we work, and given us products we never knew we needed.

Inventiveness in technology was instrumental to the global response to the pandemic, which reduced its impact on wellbeing and economic disruption (though both took a clobbering). That same inventiveness is sadly also used in the creation of the very problems facing the planet - namely excessive consumerism and planet-destroying convenience and affordability to do damage. Food is wasted, servers spin, dissemination of lies by traditional and social media digital platforms runs unchecked, and the population is constantly informed that they need to consume and keep consuming.

However, the same creativity and collaboration of the tech sector can be harnessed to deliver a far more meaningful change than a single-use piece of plastic or fast fashion. Time to market, like gross domestic product (GDP) is looking like a measurement of the previous epoch rather than the environmental challenges we face today.

As a community, the tech sector must look at what it achieved in the face of the pandemic. That same approach to rethinking operations, powered by technology, needs to be used to combat climate change and make COP26 stand for something. But also, now is the time for technology to rethink its own operating models, clean up data centres, improve technology energy usage and optimisation, and use many of the lessons learned in improving diversity in tech.

The sector has an opportunity to influence significant changes in procurement and business models. In some cases, the technology sector must build the solutions for a cleaner planet because, as the pandemic demonstrated, when there is no alternative, organisations suddenly find that they can embrace collaboration tools, slash excessive levels of travel and digitally sign agreements. As the rising number of wild fires, floods, warm winters and wet summers show, a climate-based emergency could hit your organisation at any time.

In order to develop solutions to climate change, the tech sector's expertise will play a part in how all organisations and geographies become environmentally and economically sustainable. All organisations in all vertical markets can harness data to optimise their business operations and become more sustainable.

As is well reported, during the lockdowns, productivity increased, and dealing with climate change needn't be damaging to output, which understandably many leaders fear. After all, with sewage now returning to waterways, air pollution at dangerous levels in some cities, ice retreating from mountain glaciers and the polar ice caps and rain forests being illegally logged to grow chocolate ingredients - there is much to do.

The pandemic forced action where before there had been just words on new working ways. All members of the technology sector must act in the right way and not just pay lip service to the themes of COP26.