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by Rich Lechner

Rich Lechner SPThis 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

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January 23, 2016
10:01 am

I am impressed by the information that you have on this blog. It shows how well you understand this subject

Posted by: venus factor
October 2, 2013
4:49 am

IBM launched its “Build a Smarter Planet” campaign to highlight its role in using technology to solve many of the world’s problems.

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Posted by: hermes
July 27, 2010
4:10 pm

Good article. We build eco homes in the Hastings in the UK. Going eco-friendly is indeed a broad topic. We tried hard to make the biggest impact in CO2 saving so combined energy-efficiency with bespoke offsets that really work ie Biochar. I accept that eco efficiency is more than improving fuel and energy efficiency but those areas rightly get the focus as they generally form a big proportion of our footprint and we have the technology to radically change this.

Posted by: Phoenix Trinity
July 11, 2010
11:00 pm

Good general tips. i would love to see more specific ideas! As the digital age move more and more online and technology continues to advance there are many new ways to utilize such resources. Even things like outsourcing and telephone answering services are now easier to apply to your business model and adapt to the new technology to offer better services for your company.

Posted by: Kevin Warhus
April 24, 2010
6:56 am

Thank you for taking the jam initiative and the very interesting report. Eco-efficiency is indeed more than improving fuel and energy efficiency. According to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development WBCSD definition, eco efficiency is achieved through the delivery of “competitively priced goods and services that satisfy human needs and bring quality of life while progressively reducing environmental impacts of goods and resource intensity throughout the entire life cycle to a level at least in line with the Earth’s estimated carrying capacity.” I believe that the components of eco-efficiency are prosperity (growth), energy and ecological intensity but also resilience and caps. When companies or economies improve their energy and environmental performance it often leads to more energy use and emissions. It is obvious that we can not scale or way of living to a world of 9 billion people. A global cap on energy use and emissions is needed but capping growth at lower levels can have social, economic and environmental detrimental effects. High performing systems are also vulnerable to internal or external threats and failures. The challenge is indeed to find a good balance between these elements which asks for a more holistic approach, better scientific models and policy assessments as well as more public private collaboration.

Posted by: Erik van Agtmaal
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