Accelerating our path forward for sustainable business

By | 3 minute read | April 22, 2021

The observance of Earth Day provides us all with an opportunity to reflect on the global environmental challenges that threaten our future well-being. With less than 30 years left to reach the goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions, the imperative to take action now to make lasting progress on sustainability is stronger than ever.

The need to address climate change has been at the forefront of public policy debates for some time. But in the past year, as with so many issues, COVID-19 accelerated trends already underway – in this case, the severe economic impact of the pandemic revealed how interconnected the world has become and how dependent we are on the earth’s resources.

For companies around the world, responding to climate change is a necessity not just for the health of the planet, but according to a new IBM survey, for the health of their business as well.

A new IBM Institute of Business Value global consumer survey found that nine in 10 consumers surveyed reported the pandemic affected their views on environmental sustainability, and many reported they are willing to pay more out of their own pockets – or even take a pay cut – for a more sustainable future.

Responding to climate change will create new business opportunities but at the same time, climate change also poses major business challenges and potential financial risks for companies, starting with their own employees and investors. Our survey found 48 percent of the full potential workforce* surveyed would accept a lower salary to work for an environmentally responsible company, and 71 percent of employees/job-seekers consider sustainable companies to be more attractive employers. Nearly 60 percent of personal investors reported they expect to buy or sell holdings in the next year based on environmental sustainability factors. The stark facts are that this is not simply about sustainable business. It’s about making business sustainable.

Being more sustainable and transitioning to net zero carbon emissions begins with data — you need to know how you’re performing against a variety of metrics, identify areas to improve, monitor performance and report it to stakeholders to make progress. Companies like The Climate Service and Yara International are applying technologies like AI, cloud computing and blockchain for these data insights.

The Climate Service, a leader in climate risk analytics for investors and businesses, worked with IBM Garage to embed climate data into financial decision-making through Climanomics, a powerful cloud-based analytics platform. The platform – built on the IBM Cloud and OpenShift – helps organizations understand, quantify and mitigate their climate risks to build resiliency and reduce financial losses.

As part of its efforts to create a sustainable world without hunger, Norway-based Yara has built a digital farming platform, Atfarm/FarmX, supporting sustainable farming globally. One of the world’s largest mineral fertilizer producers and a global leader in digital farming solutions, Yara created the platform to connect and empower independent farmers across the globe. By providing holistic digital services and instant agronomic advice, Yara helps farmers avoid deforestation and increase food production on existing farmland. The platform provides timely and accurate crop yield forecasts and nitrogen and water management recommendations, supported by hyper-local minute weather data. It uses IoT sensors and AI to provide farmers with hyper-local weather forecasting, crop damage predictions, and real-time fertilization suggestions. Already accessed by 1.3 million farmers, the platform has enabled Yara to transform its business model and create a competitive differentiator— all while supporting sustainable operations. It has also paved the way for other advanced technologies that can empower farmers, such as blockchain for transparency and trust in trade transactions.

It also has become clear that the infusion of transformative technologies that enables new business models need an open approach at their foundation, to align to and enable a company’s ecosystem of partners so these solutions can scale.

A leader in energy products and services, Shell has long-standing relationships with players across the mining and industrial sectors. Last year, the company launched Oren, the first business-to-business marketplace for mining companies to move toward net-zero carbon emissions and operational efficiency. The team brought together expert support to mining companies to help build their specific digital journey roadmap while the business-to-business marketplace provides solutions to get things done – including dedicated environmental management and compliance software that can provide detailed analysis or reporting on pollutant inventories, greenhouse gas emission, energy consumption, environmental impact assessment, mine rehabilitation and mine life cycle assessment.

Yara, The Climate Service and Shell are just a few examples of leading companies taking bold steps toward a sustainable future, and how business transformation through technological innovation can address the world’s greatest societal challenges.


*Full potential workforce refers to survey respondents who are employed full-time or part-time, unemployed but currently seeking employment, or a full-time student or apprentice.