Blue Dot Thinking
The realization that emissions are responsible for an impending climate crisis has set in motion the evolution to a low-carbon and ultimately a carbon-free economy.
Along the way, there will be winners and losers. Cleantech initiatives encompassing energy, water and air, including applications such as the Smart Grid and supply chain transformation, are naturally getting a lot of attention.
However, all businesses must make the transition or be left behind.
Supply chain touches everyone. With 7 billion consumers in the world, the global supply chain is the largest and most complex network in the history of man. A network that starts with raw materials from farms and mines, to manufacturing and distribution, and finally to the product that is in your hand or on your table. It’s huge, but inefficient, and ripe for transformation for a sustainable economy that will grow to support another 2 billion people by 2050.
No longer your grandfather’s grid, the electricity business is undergoing the first major change since its wide scale deployment at the turn of the 19th century. The evolution to a bi-direction, intelligent electricity system is setting the stage for a new world of applications that are redefining our relationship with energy. A major driver of the low-carbon economy, the Smart Grid is central to reducing the cost of electricity, enabling the wide scale adoption of renewable energy, lowering the carbon intensity of our most energy intensive applications and breaking our hundred year dependence on oil.
What is the opposite of consumable? Renewable. Better yet, make it a Negawatt. Renewable energy and energy efficiency programs provide a carbon-free means of greening our electrons from both the supply and demand side of the electricity business. From passive insulation applications to active demand-response systems, positive NPV energy efficiency programs are low hanging fruit to defer costs of adding new generation and T&D capacity. Renewables offer a carbon-free source of new power generation (centralized and distributed) to augment existing capacity or to replace carbon intensive sources no longer financially feasible when viewed through a low-carbon lens.
Is water becoming the new oil? Water scarcity is already a challenge to economies and businesses in many parts of the world. As one of the three pillars of the iron triangle encompassing water-food-energy, water is on a trajectory to become the most important global commodity. Population demand, food production and changing precipitation patterns driven by climate change and contamination will further stress water supplies, challenge long standing usage schemes and increasingly cause economic hardship. Just as wars are currently being fought for oil, water will be at the heart of many future conflicts.
If the earth were an egg, the atmosphere - the thin layer of air that connects us all - would be thinner than the eggshell. While GHGs result in climate change, criteria pollutants (ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides and metal emissions) poison this thin layer of air we all depend on. International regulatory bodies have done a good job in recent years of lowering emissions from a wide variety of sources – such as diesel engines – but it will take 50+ years to cycle through heavy duty fleets.
Sustainable transformation goes beyond the goal of tracking and reducing a businesses carbon footprint to look at ways to use natural resources more responsibly, eliminate waste and pollution, improve product value while reducing costs and manage environmental risks. When successful, it is not a green band-aid or facelift, but a change that permeates practices throughout your entire organization. Transformational sustainability practices look holistically at core business issues, ask hard questions, and consider the risks and opportunities brought about by the transition to a low-carbon economy. Companies who embrace the new realities, anticipate the outcomes and harness change, stand to be winners in a low-carbon economy.