The realities of the sustainability challenges we face grow more apparent and pressing by the day. Research shows that global temperatures are on track to increase by 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century — and some scientific models are predicting up to 6 degrees.
We know that a rise of even 2 degrees could spell disaster for the Earth, leaving us to grapple with rising sea levels, intense droughts, crop failures, and extreme weather.
Luckily, many companies, organizations, and governments across the world are ramping up to lead and drive change that’s good for business and the world — especially those in the technology sector.
As we all continue into a new year with climate change on our minds, we wanted to take some time to recognize some of the tech companies who are driving eco-innovation by taking measurable steps to improve sustainability. Below are nine tech companies that you might want to watch in 2019 and beyond.
Samsung knows that it’s all too easy for the products they make to end up in landfills, which adds waste to the environment and removes valuable materials, like metals and minerals, from circulation.
They’ve prioritized waste and landfill diversion, and to date, they’ve collected and recycled around 6.2 billion pounds of electronics globally. They don’t want to stop there: by 2030, they aim to recycle 15 billion pounds of e-waste.
Samsung seems to be continuously improving their product sustainability, too. This year, they received the highest honor in the ENERGY STAR Awards for the sixth year in a row for adding 75 new ENERGY STAR-certified products to their lineup, increasing their available energy-efficient appliances by 12%.
Supply chain sustainability can be a sticking point for tech companies, especially when rare minerals come into play. Back in 2012, Samsung established a management system to ban the use of conflict materials in their supply chain—and by 2018, all their suppliers were in compliance, only doing business through the Responsible Minerals Assurance Process. After all these wins, we’re excited to see what they tackle next.
As the definition of sustainability continues to expand to include other disciplines, like health and safety and remediation, Intel is working to protect their employees through comprehensive safety training and a strong EHS compliance assurance program.
In 2018, Intel ended the year with a 0.69 OSHA recordable rate, which is 0.21 lower than the average semiconductor industry rate of 0.9. By placing a strong focus on early reporting and job-specific knowledge, Intel is continuing to improve EHS for their employees around the world.
Water is a key component of health, safety, and security for people everywhere. Intel is aiming to restore 100% of their global water use by 2025 and reduce their water use on a per-unit basis below 2010 level by 2020. To accomplish these goals, they’ve invested over $237 million in water conservation projects at their facilities, standing strong in their commitment to water stewardship.
Autodesk creates software that allows for the development of building plans, animated movies, and more—and between storing data and operating the software, energy use can add up. Autodesk made a goal, which they recently achieved, to power their facilities and cloud services with 100% renewable energy by 2021.
Continuing down the path of saving energy using technology and innovation, Autodesk collaborated with the Volkswagen Group to design an electric-infused technical showcase vehicle: a new take on the vintage VW bus. Projects like this showcase the potential for modern solutions to accelerate real, sustainable product development.
2019 was Autodesk’s 10th year of sustainability reporting, and their CEO, Andrew Anagnost, knows that customers, investors, and employees will demand even more transparency in the future, saying “The most successful companies will be those that align business success with positive impact in the world.” We couldn’t agree more.
Dell’s 2020 Legacy of Good Plan lays out their social, environmental, and health and safety-related sustainability goals, and as of 2019, they’ve completed or exceeded over 75% of the goals—one year ahead of schedule.
Between reusing 100 million pounds of recycled plastic and other materials in their products, delivering 5 million hours of service to communities around the world, and reducing wastewater discharge in manufacturing by 4.56 million cubic meters, their diverse goals cast a wide net and seek to improve many categories of sustainability.
Their Chief Customer Officer, Karen Quintos says “We've made significant progress toward protecting the planet and empowering local and global communities, but there is so much more work to do. We know we can't wait another day to solve problems that will last generations…” Dell seeks to address these future considerations with their next set of goals related to sustainability progress, inclusion, and using technology for good, titled Progress Made Real.
Our sustainability team learned all about Apple’s recent partnership with Best Buy at Circularity 19, where they unveiled new plans to extend the life of Apple products by adding Apple-certified repair professionals to Best Buy stores across the country, increasing the stores that can repair products by 115%. With more stores that can complete certified repairs, they hope to increase the amount of damaged or obsolete products being brought back to stores or recycled.
In 2018, 96% of Apple’s electricity came from renewable energy sources. Now, they’ve met their goal and are running their operations on 100% renewable energy sources.
To help their customers save on energy, Apple has decreased average product energy use by 70% in the past 10 years.
Apple products are known for their quality and innovation, and what they’re made of is no different. Last fall, they started making their MacBook Air and Mac mini outer casings out of fully recycled aluminum—which, Sarah Chandler, Senior Director of Operations and Environmental Initiatives at Apple will tell you, aligns with their goal of “We want to make but not take.”
With innovations in technology come innovations in sustainability. This year, Hewlett Packard announced their commitment to increase recycled content plastics across its print and personal systems portfolio to 30% by 2025, meaning that more consumer products will have parts made of recycled plastics.
Heather Caliendo of Plastics Technology explained that HP’s sustainability initiatives have had great effects on profit, saying “Sustainable Impact programs drove more than $972 million dollars of new revenue for HP in 2018, a 35% year-over-year increase.” We hope that others follow HP’s pioneering vision that proves sustainability efforts pay off in both profit and positive impacts.
7. Rubicon Global
Rubicon Global is a growing software as a service (SaaS) company that connect customers and businesses with waste pickup and disposal solutions using cloud-based technology solutions. Their mission in a nutshell? Accelerate sustainability in waste and recycling management and promote smart city solutions for a greener tomorrow.
At the crux of barriers to sustainability is scalability, or lack thereof. Rubicon Global is pushing the limits of their software to new heights, implementing it in large-scale projects like their smart city partnership with the city of Montgomery, Alabama. Their goals are to reduce maintenance costs and enhance waste service quality using a mobile app, plug in tracker, and a web-based portal for Montgomery’s Solid Waste Department to better understand waste metrics, saving the city money and increasing the amount of waste diverted from landfills.
Smart city solutions like these show that big savings for individuals and sustainability go hand-in-hand, and they are definitely on our must-watch list for 2019 and beyond.
VMware is a software company that provides cloud computing and virtualization software and services around the globe. Enabling others to become more sustainable is the focus of their project that combines data with energy efficiency—the Carbon Avoidance Meter (CAM).
The meter monitors the carbon footprint and energy usage at data centers and provides data center operators with real-time statistics and suggestions around shifting to more sustainable energy sources during non-peak hours, when to purchase carbon offsets, and other energy-saving measures.
CAM is just one part of VMware’s larger framework to create transformative technology for the environment. Among their other efforts are decreasing the energy emissions, investing in a culture of inclusion and diversity, and partnering with Restore the Earth (REF) to plant one tree for every employee that pledges to take sustainability-related actions at home or work.
SafetyNet is a startup you might not have heard of, who say their “primary goal is to design and build devices to increase the selectivity of commercial fishing practices, making the industry more sustainable.”
They accelerate sustainability in the fishing industry by focusing on the user experience of fishermen/fisherwomen, scientists, and suppliers. SafetyNet applies existing LED technologies in novel ways to discover how “light can segregate between ages and species of fish…to help fisherman catch the right fish.”
The LED applications have helped fishermen reduce by-catch (unwanted marine creatures caught during commercial fishing) up to 90%, sparing unnecessary waste and creating more vibrant ocean environments.
As the future of food and beverage is continuously disrupted and improved by technology, we think companies like SafetyNet will be crucial to the development of new solutions to old problems.
Looking for more companies embracing sustainability?
Then check out our post featuring nine brands rewriting their sustainability strategies by embracing circular economy principles.