Microsoft Stockholm

How Is Technology Fast Tracking The Global Climate Goals? Case Microsoft

In November 2019 I was contacted by Microsoft EMEA ́s communications team in Finland and Germany. They found my profile on social media, and invited me to participate as a climate change and sustainability influencer at their event “How Technology is Fast Tracking The Global Climate Goals” in Stockholm. The event took place at urban five star Hotel At Six near Microsoft Sweden ́s new headquarters in Stockholm City Center on November 28th. 

In addition to Microsoft hosting the event, influencers, journalists and researchers from around the EMEA region had been invited to participate as well as some of Microsoft ́s global clients and partners that were giving presentations upon their areas of business and expertise, in terms of how these businesses respectively are driving the global climate goals through the application of both artificial intelligence and technology throughout their supply chains.

The moderator and one of the speakers of the event was strategist and analyst Azeem Azhar from Exponential view, who is also a member of the Expert Network and on the Global Future Council on the Digital Economy & Society at the World Economic Forum. The panelists and speakers were Ben Combes, Assistant Director and senior economist in the Sustainability and Climate Change team at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Luc Domissy, Global Sales Manager at SGS/Transparency One, Xavier Houot, Senior Vice President Global Environment, Safety, and Real Estate at Schneider Electric, David Martin, Vice President Government Relations Ecolab Europe and Market Head France and Belgium at Ecolab, Ignacio Longarte from startup Szentia, Cecilia Nord, Director Responsible Sourcing at Electrolux, Johan Martinsson, Digital Operations Lead Global IT at Electrolux, Juha Maijala, Deputy Head Intelligent Packaging at Stora Enso, and Nina Lund, Retail & Consumer Goods lead at Microsoft EMEA. 

What was being discussed at Microsoft ́s event “How Technology Is Fast Tracking The Global Goals”?

The event was fully packed with information, some of which was confidential, so addressing this in depth in one article or blog post is an impossible task. To keep it brief, Microsoft as one of the world ́s largest organizations together with its clients and partners is addressing the world ́s perhaps largest challenge climate change and taking actions with the help of artificial intelligence and technology to solve the global climate crisis.

Although artificial intelligence and technology alone hardly will be capable of solving the global climate crisis, it is estimated that with the help of artificial intelligence and technology, at least five percent could be reduced in terms of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is still far from the much needed reduction of 90% in greenhouse gas emissions. To meet the Paris Agreement, all stakeholders involved would have to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

The main takeaways from the event were: 

  • The largest greenhouse gas impacts are within the supply chain (75% of total emissions), which is why every business worldwide, backed-up by science-based insights, must drive the reduction of emissions (Azeem Azhar, Exponential View)
  • Research by PwC UK, commissioned by Microsoft, has identified more than 150 AI applications for key Earth challenges; meaning that emerging technologies with artificial intelligence at the core, can be transformational in terms of tackling the world ́s most urgent environmental challenges (Ben Combes, PricewaterhouseCoopers)
  • AI can enable future technology and systems to be more productive and help reduce waste in terms of the global economy and environment, thus increasing sustainable economic development
  • The mapping of any business supply chain helps build consumer trust and influences end-customer behavior to prioritize sustainability (Luc Domissy, SGS/Transparency One)
  • Sustainability across supply chains, circular, low CO2 and profitable business models (Xavier Houot, Schneider Electric)
  • Fresh water is a scarce resource, and water sustainability must be at the core of each carbon neutral or carbon negative program. Companies can provide better products at lower costs while saving water (David Martin, Ecolab)
  • How do you mainstream environmental performance in a globalized world where every organization is becoming a technology company? 
  • How can brands be moved into the circular economy through blockchain-based solutions? (Ignacio Longarte, Szentia)
  • Electrolux wants to be the best appliance company worldwide, committing to zero carbon emissions from their facilities and striving towards circularity across the business (Cecilia Nord & Johan Martinsson, Electrolux)
  • Stora Enso is a pioneer in externally approved science-based targets to reduce the company’s greenhouse gas emissions. Fossil-based materials can be replaced by trees (Juha Maijala, Stora Enso)
  • How can circular economy become the “new normal”? 

While many climate change skeptics worldwide are still denying anthropogenic climate change, claiming that climate change is a hoax and that climate change would be used as an excuse for businesses around the world to make money, this is far from the truth. There is plenty of research and scientific evidence supporting the fact that human activities, mainly in the form of emitting high amounts of greenhouse gases into the Earth´s atmosphere, are causing global warming and climate change. Not only is rapid population growth at the core of the environmental problems, but also the way we live and consume on this planet. Making circular economies the “new normal” and businesses around the world taking science-based and carefully planned action in terms of reducing or even eliminating greenhouse gas emissions is no longer merely a competitive advantage for businesses.

Climate action and sustainable economic development have become a must for everyone, that is if we want to enable future generations a healthy planet to live on. Despite the currently even dramatic outlook for the global environment, it is far better to take action now and to prepare for the worst-case scenario rather than remaining in a state of non-action. In fact, non-action in terms of environmental sustainability and sustainable economic development is the worst thinkable solution. Artificial intelligence and various technological advancements may be key solutions for saving humanity. 

Anne-Maria Yritys

 

 

 

 

 

GCC Think Act Tank cover 2019

Sustainability is a Matter of Wise(r) Choices

During this era of climate change awakening and a realization of what is going on in terms of climate change and environmental destruction around the world, it would be very non-kaizen not to individually contribute to increasingly much sustainable economic development. Kaizen is Japanese, and can be recognized as one of the basic ingredients for the success of Japanese products on the world market. Not only the term, kaizen is actually a life and business philosophy of continued improvement, personal development, and efficiency.

 

Implementing kaizen into one’s personal life, and business, is simple. Since radical change is often challenging for anyone, methodologies such as kaizen can be implemented as a part of both personal life values and core business values. Leading an increasingly much sustainable life both in business and privately does not mean that we have to give up on everything or drastically change our consumption habits. We can, however, contribute by reconsidering our consumption and through changing some habits. For many businesses worldwide, sustainability already is a competitive advantage and at the very core of the brand. 

 

Environmentally healthy choices are in fact often better for our health too, such as biking (exercising) more, using public transportation instead of sitting for hours in traffic jams (which is very stressful), eating less red meat, eating less cheese and so on. Many people today go vegan and protest all animal farming. It is up to each one of us to decide how far we are willing to go. Even small changes matter. Instead of eating beef every day, why not just once or twice per week and consider some other options, such as having one vegetarian day per week, or replacing beef with chicken or fish. Letting go of old habits can be extremely difficult, especially if the change is forced upon us or if we are unwilling to change.

 

The bigger the change, the more important it is to take baby steps and not to force yourself or other people to change. Guilt-tripping only makes things worse.

Nevertheless, considering the fact that the vast majority of world population cannot even afford buying meat, it may be helpful in understanding that to many people, meat is in general a luxury product that they cannot afford. And while overweight has become a larger problem worldwide than hunger and malnutrition, millions of people in this world actually go hungry every day and do not get all the essential nutrients such as proteins and different vitamins.

 

Except for Europe and North America, the whole world has been eating insects as a part of culture. Not until recent years have insects made their way to European tables, supermarkets, and restaurants too. Food is one of the biggest single anthropogenic factors worldwide contributing to an increase in CO2 and methane levels. 

 

Some people and sources claim that it is too late to plant trees and vegetation to stop human-caused climate change and to prevent CO2 levels in the atmosphere from increasing. 

 

I disagree.

 

Now, more than ever, do we need to plant more gardens, more trees and more vegetation to save this planet from toxicity. Trees and plants play a significant role in the environment, absorbing large amounts of CO2, helping the environment to stay cooler than it would without any greenery or trees, and helping the environment to prevent for instance erosion. 

 

In his book “*Puukirja: puut osaratkaisuna maailman nälän ja ilmastonmuutoksen ongelmiin” (1997, Ympäristö ja kehitys), Finnish author Risto Isomäki writes about the importance of various trees not only as a source of protection for our Earth, but also as a source of food and nutrition to population all over the world. [Note:*”The Book of Trees: trees as a part of the solution to world hunger and the problems caused by climate change” (1997, Coalition for Environment & Development). The original text is in Finnish, and I have not found an English translation of this book].  

 

In terms of climate change and sea levels rising, the numbers for sea levels rising are announced very moderately and optimistically by mainstream media, meteorological institutions and research institutions perhaps since it is a) unsure how much sea levels will actually rise, if global average temperatures rise by more than an optimistically calculated three degrees Celsius (six degrees Celsius in certain regions on this planet can be more realistic unless global warming is stopped); b) the media or any scientific institutions do not want to cause panic which is understandable although the purpose and goal of quality journalism is to produce reliable information and stick to realism rather than to paint overly optimistic pictures to an audience wearing rose-colored glasses.

 

Rising sea levels are a threat to hundreds of millions, or even billions of people worldwide. A vast majority of the human population live in densely inhabited coastal areas, and coastal cities around the world are already preparing for rising sea levels. One of the main problems is that no one knows for sure how much sea levels will rise, and how fast it will take place. Due to a number of scientific factors, sea levels may rise in different proportions in various locations around the world.

 

The consequences of human-caused climate change are real and felt all around the world, in all industries and by every human being and animal.  

 

For instance in Finland much of specific crop was lost due to excess rainfall in 2017. A year later, in 2018, up to 40% of all crops was lost due to drought. Similar problems are being reported from many geographical regions worldwide. I saw with my own eyes how the environment suffered from drought just within a few weeks of time. Dead plants, trees and vegetation in forests and everywhere in nature. This is something you cannot see if you never or rarely spend time in nature, but the difference was huge e.g. in comparison between 2017 and 2018. To understand the effects of human-caused climate change and destruction does not require much more than common sense, but it is of course helpful to be interested in what is happening to our environment. 

 

If climate change is already endangering food security and food availability, imagine what will await us within a few years from now, if this development continues. The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) emphasizes in its updated strategy from 2017: We have a window of opportunity to act in terms of food security, but we must take action now.

 

Sustainable economic development is in fact no longer simply a choice, but a necessity, around the world. The sooner this is realized and concrete actions are being taken by ALL citizens, all governments, and all businesses worldwide, the better will we be able to cope with what this world will turn into in the upcoming decades. Although some people think it is too late to do anything, there is always hope and we can always do our best in terms of contributing to sustainable economic development on this only home planet that we have.

 

Anne-Maria Yritys 11.2.2019

 

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H20 (Fresh Water) – Scarce Resource and Necessity of All Life

Artist: Dan/Freedigitalphotos.net. ID-100127432
Artist: Dan/Freedigitalphotos.net. ID-100127432

If there is magic on this planet it is contained in water (Loran Eisely)

Last morning I woke up at 5 a.m. and went into the kitchen to have a glass of water, but nothing came out of the tap. In only a few seconds of time a number of thoughts crossed my mind, and although fearless about many things I must admit that the thought of running out of fresh water causes a small panic in me. Without fresh tap water, how would I be able to brew my morning coffee, and take a shower?

A couple of hours later the same morning, fresh tap water was available again, and I remembered the pipe renovation works in my neighborhood. The pipe renovation workers had started out early in the morning and turned off the fresh water supply for a while. Short break in fresh water supply, but enough to wake me up and remind me about what actually is the most important asset and necessity in life.

You do not know what you have got until it is gone. Water is the basic necessity of all life, and has unfortunately become a luxury that not everyone has access to. Do not waste it.

Do we take the existence and access to fresh, clean water, for granted?

The answer is yes, we do. 

All of us who have access to fresh, clean water every day, without having to think about whether water is available or not. However, we should not take water for granted, since according to estimations based upon research made e.g. by the United Nations, 2/3 (two-thirds) of world population will live in water scarcity already in 2025. Needless to say, we can all without difficulties understand what this signifies for all world population. Water scarcity is something that affects, and will affect, us all, both directly and indirectly.

What can we do to appreciate, and save fresh water? We can all start by understanding that each one of us can make a difference through understanding, learning, sharing information/knowledge, changing our ways of consumption in general, and developing new, sustainable ways in how e.g. business, and agriculture are run. Learn the basics of fresh water supply by watching the following TED video “Where we get our fresh water”:

 

With a rapid growth of world population (7,3 billion today according to World Population Clock) understanding the importance of fresh water supply and availability for everyone upon Planet Earth is a necessity that we cannot afford to ignore. Every individual can make a difference with his/her personal choices, and by sharing knowledge and educating others about the importance of sustainable development.

Learn more about freshwater resources (YouTube video produced by Robert Goettler):

Thank you for reading, reflecting, learning, commenting, sharing awareness, and educating others about the importance of thoughtfulness in fresh water consumption, and sustainable business development.

Water Scarcity, and Waterless World?

 

Creating The Future – Leadership Resolutions for Year 2015

(Mother Nature. Artist: njaj. Freedigitalphotos.net. 290112)
(Mother Nature. Artist: njaj. Freedigitalphotos.net. 290112)

“Mother Nature may be forgiving this year, or next year, but eventually she’s going to come around and whack you. You’ve got to be prepared”.

(Geraldo Rivera)

A few days left of year 2014 before we are heading into 2015, the year resonating with infinity, according to the Gregorian calendar. In some cultures, the New Year does not start until later in 2015, so everything is relative.

What do all cultures and traditions have in common for a New Year? Celebrations, festivities, resolutions, and last but not least, planning ahead. Yes, planning is an essential activity for anyone: private persons, businesses, organizations, municipalities, countries. Yet, there are events that cannot be planned for in advance, such as natural disasters. This Christmas, we all remembered the Asian Tsunami from 2004, where more than 200.000 innocent lives were lost due to a huge Ocean Earthquake along the Indian Ocean, directly affecting at least eight countries, and indirectly, many more.

There is no real evidence about this tragedy being caused by human beings, yet the possibility exists, taking into consideration how much Planet Earth is being manipulated by individuals.

We must remember to treat the Earth well, since “We don´t inherit land from our ancestors, we borrow it, rather, from our children” (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry). How we treat each other, animals on this planet, and our nature, is equal to leaving a legacy for future generations.

Thus, let us focus more on living according to virtues, and care not only for each other, but also for flora and fauna, the oceans that have, initially, given birth to human kind in the first place. Including and remembering these facts on a daily basis, and if forgotten, being reminded by other human beings about them, makes it easier for each and one of us to focus on creating an increasingly sustainable and lasting future for ourselves, and for generations to come.

Future is not something that simply happens to us, it is created by mankind each and every day, all over Planet Earth. The choices we make, from farming methods to the types of energy we use. Thus, let us forget about our fears for change, and be open to sustainable development, because evolution takes place when we allow it to happen.

Finally, a few general New Year´s Resolutions for 2015 that can be implemented both on individual, organizational, and governmental levels:

  1. I will no matter about my social and societal status, act responsibly and take increased responsibility for my actions.
  2. I promise to learn and develop my skills, knowledge, and wisdom on a daily basis by educating myself through all possible means, be it through media, social media, individuals with more knowledge about a certain topic, and through gathering real life experiences.
  3. I acknowledge that I am a spiritual being with a human experience, and not the other way around. As a spiritual being I understand the importance of nurturing both my mind and body on a daily basis in a manner that serves both me personally, and people around me.
  4. I promise to express gratitude for the life that I have been given, on a daily basis.
  5. I take nothing in life for granted.
  6. I respect everything and everyone upon Earth, and in our whole Universe. In challenging circumstances, I remember to pray, ask for help and guidance, and live according to virtues rather than fall into traps of the Ego.
  7. Any challenge that may come in my way will be treated with objectivity and greater wisdom than before. I understand that challenges are an essential part of life and nature, lessons for me to learn on my path towards developing my spirit.
  8. I will set clear boundaries and stand up for things that I believe in without losing faith in myself.
  9. I will say what I mean, and always speak the truth.
  10. I will be authentic, because this is the most essential part in growing as an individual and a spiritual being.
  11. I will guard memories, think long-term when creating and planning for the future, but live in the present.

Let us make year 2015 an unforgettable experience. May you be blessed upon your journey, and may the upcoming year help you reap the seeds that you have planted, and fulfill your dreams.