As the world’s temperatures continue to rise and forests continue to burn, the green tech industry has been heating up too. There has never been so much creativity, and solution-oriented technology bursting onto the scene as this era has brought forth. If there’s one thing that covid-19 has taught us, it’s that us humans are more vulnerable than we like to think – and to rise to this challenge, there has been an unparalleled burst of digital transformation. Alongside the disaster response to the pandemic has been a renewed sense of urgency to address the issue of climate change. Covid was the warm-up.

The new corporate must-have

Customers want it, investors want it, employees want it, it’s your new competitive advantage… sustainability has moved from a fringe ‘nicety’ to a must-have.

We explore different aspects of the tech and startup industry in Southeast Asia.

A recent survey conducted by Swytch, a blockchain-based clean energy platform, found more than 70% of the 1,000 employees in the US surveyed said “they were more likely to choose to work at a company with a strong environmental agenda.” The millennial generation is the one to watch, considering how they will make three-quarters of the workforce in six years. Almost 40% of millennials said “they’ve chosen a job in the past because the company performed better on sustainability than the alternative.”

And tech is catching-up

‘You can’t manage what you can’t measure’, an all too familiar saying in business – and it’s coming for sustainability too. It’s our prediction that sustainability reporting will become as expected and commonplace as financial reporting in 5 years. Just ask SAP, who invested a ‘significant amount’ in developing software to help corporate clients track greenhouse emissions across supply chains, claiming that “CO2 efficiency will become a differentiator for companies”. 

There has been a flurry of activity amongst start-ups building software to enable CO2 tracking for corporates too, here at Capture, we focus on another piece of the puzzle – engaging a sustainable workforce. It’s proving a popular challenge for organisations of all shapes and sizes too.

And whilst we’re on CO2 tracking, we’ve seen plenty of awesome solutions pop-up to enable individuals to track their emissions as easily as they track their footsteps too. Ultimately, if people aren’t able to measure their carbon footprint, they won’t be able to lower the emissions they produce. 

So what’s next?

The future is open for environmental initiatives to become normalized in society, and climate-friendly tech becoming commonplace. 25 years ago, food packaging started displaying its nutritional contents in order for consumers to understand how different products could affect their weight and health. With diet crazes and fads emerging over the years, it has become second nature to check the calorie, sugar, sodium levels, carbohydrates, and fat content of food and drinks before buying them. It’s our bet that the next step in response to consumer climate concern, is carbon labeling. 

Just Salad recently became the first restaurant chain in the United States to offer the carbon footprint on their food products, with the total estimated greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of their foods being calculated based on extensive databases and research that evaluates the carbon emissions associated with different ingredients. Quorn, a meat substitute product based in England, was another major brand to introduce carbon labelling on its products, using labels to help consumers understand the environmental impact of purchasing their products, using Carbon Trust

But what about carbon offsetting? This service could be included in everything we buy, making a ‘carbon neutral’ label as commonplace as ‘organic’. The future of carbon offset markets is bright, but they still face challenges. While carbon offsets can be a bridge to decarbonization, in order to be successful in fighting climate change, they must create actual carbon reductions. The Harvard Kennedy School conducted research on the future of the carbon offset market, deducting that offsetting projects need to “meet the criteria for additionality, permanence, show no leakage, and be verified by a third party”. The best outcome is that offering carbon offsets will also normalize taking climate action regularly, and integrating it into consumers daily lives.

Is it too late?

It may be. I remember attending a climate talk last year by the great Ed Gillespie, climate change speaker & futurist – at the end I asked ‘do you think we’re going to make it?’. Ed paused for a while, shed a tear on stage, and claimed that he believed our future reality would include tens of millions of people dying from climate-related catastrophes. It was an uncomfortable moment of complete honesty.

It can be frustrating for us all because the truth of the matter is – we have the solutions to fix this (albeit massive) problem, not only avoiding catastrophe, but building a wonderful future filled with nature, healthier air, and happier people. It’s not going to be a cheap transition, and yes, some companies will lose out, but hey – it’s probably worth it. Come join the green side (we have some pretty good vegan burgers too.)

This article was contributed by Josie Stoker, Co-Founder at Capture

About the author

Josie Stoker, Co-Founder at Capture, has spent the past 7 years in Asia, including two years in Mongolia, where she saw first-hand the devastation of climate change today – and wanted to build a solution to help everyday people understand & respond to the challenge of our generation. Josie is currently based in the UK, and enjoys helping organisations engage their workforces in sustainability, along with hiking and haphazard vegan cooking!