by Rich Lechner
This week marked the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, and organizations around the world are touting environmental stewardship and describing ways they’re going green. I applaud these efforts and hope to see this trend continue – because taking care of the environment, both in the short term and in the long term, is everybody’s business. Each of us, as individuals, should challenge ourselves to take action today, and every day, to create an eco-efficient, sustainable future. And organizations should do the same: how can they embrace eco-efficiency, not only for the sake of the planet but for the sake of driving innovation, creating new revenue streams and tapping into new markets?
To answer this question, IBM brought together 1,600 business executives, government officials, non-governmental organization leaders, journalists, analysts and environmental experts from more than 60 countries in the first Global Eco-efficiency Jam. Together, the group brainstormed ways for organizations to reach eco-efficiency — which, by the way, is poised to become the biggest economic game-changer over the next 20 years. Five of the top ideas:
- Take a holistic, collaborative approach. Bring together disparate systems such as energy grids, transportation networks, water distribution systems, etc. into an eco-efficient system of systems.
- Foster public/private partnerships and support transparent, measurable government leadership.
- Overlay existing physical infrastructure with digital intelligence.
- Implement measurement systems. As the saying goes, “if you can measure it, you can manage it.”
- Use data and analytics to design and deploy new technologies.
Despite fiscal constraints imposed by the ongoing global economic crisis, Jam participants expressed a strong view that there are compelling economic, social and environmental reasons for key stakeholders (governments and policymakers, and public and private enterprises) to act now to enable the new eco-efficient economy. In fact, 89 percent of jam participants expect to increase their investments in sustainability over the next three years and 59 percent of organizations said that they are already leveraging sustainability for competitive differentiation and revenue growth.
IBM’s smarter buildings projects at the Shanghai St. Regis Hotel and the GreenSpaces office park in Delhi, India are just two examples of the many ways we’re applying these strategies. We’re putting together systems of systems and looking at how we can promote resource efficiency and reduce the environmental and social impact of operations, like COSCO’s optimized supply chain or other solutions offered by our Green Sigma Coalition partners. On the island of Malta, we’re working on a comprehensive smart grid initiative for integrated management of water and energy resources; in Texas, we’re working with Oncor on smart metering, and we’ve created the world’s first Smart Bay in Galway Bay, Ireland by using sensors and analytics systems to measure and monitor wave conditions, marine life and pollution levels for smarter management and development of the bay.
The key outcomes of the Jam were analyzed by the IBM Institute for Business Value and are described in a paper available now titled “The emergence of the eco-efficient economy.” To learn more about the findings and recommendations from the Eco-efficiency Jam, and to listen to a webcast featuring some of its participants, please visit this page.
Rich Lechner is vice president, Energy & Environment, IBM