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, super 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 embark on yet another new year, 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 2018 and beyond.
It takes a lot of energy to produce your iPhones, your MacBooks, and your tablets — 77% of Apple’s carbon footprint to be exact.
In 2017, Greenpeace recognized Apple for its sustainability efforts for the third consecutive year. Some of its more ambitious initiatives have included installing 485 megawatts of wind and solar projects across China, powering its data centers with 100% renewable energy, and launching its Clean Energy Portal, which offers regional guidance and tools to help its biggest suppliers lower their carbon emissions.
Last year, Apple’s Vice President of Environmental Policy and Social Initiatives, Lisa Jackson, stated that 96% of the electricity used at global facilities came from renewable energy, an achievement that reduced their carbon emissions by nearly 585,000 metric tons. Apple’s actions represent the carbon equivalent of 125,268 passenger vehicles.
Apple’s commitment to sustainable products, practices, and clean energy appears to get stronger every year. In 2018, the company will shift its focus outward to emphasize sustainable sourcing with the goal of transitioning its entire supply chain to 100% clean energy. So far, the company has motivated seven of its suppliers to commit to 100% renewable energy by the end of the year, with others expected to join the initiative over time.
In Prineville, Oregon, sits a first-of-its-class data center. To the sustainable eye, it’s a work of art — one that was 38% more energy-efficient to build and is 24% less expensive to run. It also put the world’s largest social platform at the forefront of the sustainability revolution in the tech industry.
In true Facebook fashion, the company co-founded the Open Compute Project to make the data center’s eco-friendly designs publicly available, encouraging others to do the same. It’s an initiative that’s paid off — and led to even greater innovation.
Facebook estimates it’s saved enough electricity to power nearly 127,000 homes for a year, and the avoided greenhouse gas emissions are equivalent to taking nearly 136,000 passenger cars off the road for one year.
As part of its ongoing — and growing — commitment to the sustainability movement, Facebook aims to transition 50% of its global operations to clean and renewable energy by the end of 2018.
Cisco prides itself in a robust corporate social responsibility program that “accelerates global problem solving to benefit people, society, and the planet.” Named to the Dow Jones Sustainability World index again this year, the leader in IT and networking led the industry in topics including climate strategy, operational eco-efficiency, corporate philanthropy, hazardous substances management, and human rights.
With goals such as “positively impacting 1 billion people by 2025” and “using electricity generated from renewable sources for at least 85% of global electricity” by 2022, Cisco is indeed a company to keep an eye on — not just this year, but for many to come.
In a country like the United States, where 27% of greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation, Workhorse Group is pioneering cost-effective, electric-powered commercial transportation. According to the CEO, the company’s line of hybrid-electric delivery trucks deliver up to 400% of the fuel economy of gasoline-powered vehicles.
This year, we expect to see major advances in sustainable transportation from Workhorse Group, particularly from its aerial division, SureFly.
The division is currently working on the Workhorse E-GEN with the Horsefly autonomous drone system, pioneering technologies, to offer greater efficiency over typical gasoline-powered step vans currently in use by package delivery companies. It has already peaked the interest of UPS, who paired with the company to test residential drone delivery late last year.
The company will continue to work toward full FAA certification for the “octocopter,” the world's first personal electric hybrid helicopter this year, too.
It’s 2018. And Dell is just two years away from its end date in the series of goals it outlines in its 2020 Legacy of Good Plan. Although the company states it’s on track to achieving many of its goals, the plan in and of itself merits praise.
The need to show immediate results often incites companies to set short-term sustainability goals that fail to address major issues related to sustainability: global warming, population growth, and economic prosperity to name a few. Dell’s Legacy of Good Plan, drafted in 2013, attempts to forge a veritable culture of sustainability across the company — one that outlives any single leader.
If its new jewelry line is any indicator of the innovation to come from the technology giant in the year to come, we can expect big things from the company as it delivers on its promise of creating a legacy of good.
When confronted with the 40 billion pound food waste problem in the U.S., one Redmond, Washington startup turned it into an opportunity. WISErg creates organic fertilizer using waste it collects from its self-contained waste management system, WISErg Harvester. The company bypasses traditional approaches to managing food waste, which create odor, runoff, pests, and greenhouse gas emissions, to redefine food waste as a resource.
WISErg has already received significant attention, and the company just raised an additional $19.2 million in funding at the start of this year. We’re expecting major things from WISErg as it formalizes plans to build a production facility in Southern California.
7. Arctic Sand
Based on technology born at MIT, Arctic Sand develops ultra-high-definition LCD displays, which offer dramatic improvements in power conversion efficiency. According to its site, the company leads the industry with the smallest total solution footprint and the world’s smallest, most efficient power solutions.
The company’s disruptive technology paired with its recent acquisition put it on our list of companies to watch this year in terms of sustainable impact. Murata recently announced plans to combine the startup’s technology with the company’s existing technologies to provide highly integrated, conversion efficient solutions that span the telecommunications, data communication, and industrial electronic markets.
8. Radiator Labs
The Radiator Labs mission is to eliminate overheating in steam-heated buildings while saving billions in wasted fuel. Their patented system, The Cozy, isn’t the first to attempt to bring apartment-dwellers greater control over the temperature in their unit, but it is the first that achieves environmental sustainability.
The concept is simple.
The system controls the air around your radiator and has two components: an insulated cover and a fan attached to a thermostat. The device stops heating when rooms get too warm, pushing the heat to cooler rooms and forcing them to heat faster, with greater efficiency.
Installed in a single apartment, the system increases tenant comfort, providing them with control where they had none before. Installed in an entire building, The Cozy reduces heating costs while saving energy. If Radiator Labs can increase awareness concerning the immediate financial and environmental impact of its system with building owners, 2018 promises major things for them.
Google wants to build a city.
Rather, Alphabet-owned Sidewalk Labs, the Google parent company focused on smart-city technologies, wants to build a city. And in late 2017, the company got its wish.
Sidewalk Labs says it will “combine forward-thinking urban design and new digital technology to create people-centred neighbourhoods that achieve precedent-setting levels of sustainability, affordability, mobility, and economic opportunity.”
Sidewalk Labs will spend the next year — and $50 million (U.S.) — in a year-long planning process in partnership with the City of Toronto. It aims to combine established techniques with the kind of revolutionary technology expected from a Google company including modular construction, deep-water cooling, composting, sensors for air quality and noise, and infrastructure to enable autonomous vehicles.
No matter the outcome, 2018 promises to be a year where Google’s technology could alter the very notion of city life and community for the next generation of urbanites.
Looking for More Companies Embracing Sustainability?
Then check out our post featuring nine brands rewriting their sustainability strategies by embracing circular economy principles.