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

 

 

 

 

 

UN Millennium Development Goal 8: Global Partnership for Development

What does global partnership signify to you and to your country?

In terms of improving conditions in less developed countries, the UN has set a goal and defines global partnership through following:

– Existence and development of non-discriminatory trading and financial systems with openness, clear rules and predictability

– Focusing on improving conditions in least developed countries while taking into consideration their special needs (also landlocked and small island state developing States)

– Provide access to affordable essential drugs in co-operation with pharmaceutical companies

– Availability to new technologies (information and communications) in co-op with the private sector

(UN MDG´s. Quoted 19.5.2014).

In 2011, the official amount of development aid was 0,31 % of total GDP in developed countries. The percentage is decreasing, despite of the 0,7 % target set by the UN. Debt burden ratios in developing countries, however, have decreased, and products from developing countries now more easily find their way to the Western markets. The usage of mobile phones in developing countries is rapidly increasing, e.g. beneficial in the usage as payment methods with lacking, or danger of, banking systems in certain regions. (UNA of Finland. Printed Material. 2014; Business Insider. Quoted 19.5.2014).

Exactly how useful is it for a state to have increased access to mobile payments if, at the same time, there is lack of sufficient infrastructure to provide all its citizens with nutritious food? Food for thought, certainly. At least to me it seems somewhat contradictory.

In terms of natural resources, and alternative sources of energy, Africa as a continent alone has the potential to provide all of the world´s energy – through solar power. Currently, however, the continent produces only under one per cent of total world energy. (African Union. Quoted 19.5.2014; The Alternative Energy eMagazine. “Africa, the Untapped Potential for Clean Energy”. Quoted 19.5.2014).

Us humans are deeply curious by nature, through evolution, which made us the ultimate “learning machines”. As proof  for this we only need to look back into the history of humanity, our ancestors.

“Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps, down new roads, armed with nothing but their own vision”.

(Ayn Rand)

As an example of human curiosity, courage and learning through mistakes, serves the Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus, who in the 15th century accidentally discovered America in his urge to find a seaway to India. His voyages of discovery were a countdown to the European conquest of America, and he is said to be the father of imperialism, a term that today mostly awakens negative thoughts about the nature of humanity.

 
A couple of centuries later, in the 18th to be exact, the Scottish philosopher and economist Adam Smith, presented his ideas in the Wealth of Nations, a classical political economic theory, which still today serves as a foundation for economy. According to Adam Smith´s idea, a state has to secure people´s assets, solve disputes and make sure that rules/laws are being obeyed. In other words: the state needs to take care of things an individual is incapable of alone, or what the individual does without efficiency. In his description of market economy Smith argued that the willingness of an entrepreneur to make progress in his/her private privileges leads to economic advantages and benefits for the whole society. Furthermore, the foundation of the theory is based upon basic economic freedoms for everyone: freedom to choose a line of business, freedom to make decisions, free competition and freedom of trade. (Adam Smith Institute. Quoted 19.5.2014

Further on, international trade, including the terms absolute and comparative advantage, is said to be essential in sustaining friendly relations between different states. The term comparative advantage refers to the ability of producing a specific good or service at a lower cost over another leading to gains in trading between two countries, as long as relative efficiency remains different. In spoken language this means that a country has comparative advantage of another as long as it is able to produce a certain product/service with less total cost than another (cheapest possible production).

But how well does the theory take quality into consideration? Or labor law? There is no discussion at all about these important issues in the theory of comparative advantage. Luckily, many companies in developed countries have today developed business processes which take these important facts into consideration at all stages. Still, many companies necessarily do not.

According to ILO, the International Labor Organization, the amount of child labor worldwide is still as high as 168 million children worldwide. Imagine that! Who is employing all those children? Can we sleep tight at night without certainty about the fact that products/services we consume may actually involve the brutal usage of child labor?

Once again: everyone under the age of 18 is a child, and according to the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, every child has the right to be a child, to attend primary school, and no child should have to work.

Why not turn quality and transparency throughout all business procedures into competitive advantages in any business? With a world-changing rapidly only companies with sustainable business practices are those that will survive in the long run. Consumers´ are increasingly aware and critical when choosing goods/products/services to consume, and no one wants to take the responsibility of consuming products/services that have not taken quality or children´s/human rights into consideration.

“The price of greatness is responsibility”.

(Winston Churchill)

Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps, down new roads, armed with nothing but their own vision.

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