Celebrating European Sustainable Development Week 2020

155

[ This article was originally published here ]

Last week we celebrated European Sustainable Development Week (ESDW) 2020 – an initiative with the purpose of facilitating, inspiring and bringing visibility to the activities that promote sustainable development. There are 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) chosen based on urgent action needed, including ending poverty and inequality, and putting climate action, health, wellbeing and job creation at the heart of COVID-19 recovery plans.

Why is the ESDW so important to us? In January 2019, climate change activist Greta Thunberg declared “our house is on fire” at the World Economic Forum in Davos. The impact of climate change is clear and immediate and can no longer be ignored. That’s why working both collectively and as individuals to reach the SDGs is so important, and events like the ESDW provide important opportunities to take stock of the choices we make both as companies and as individuals.


From cutting back on the amount of plastic to reducing our carbon footprint globally, there has been a fundamental shift towards more green-conscious habits in many parts of society. And, as the world grapples with the disruption of COVID-19, businesses and governments are realising that they can’t simply return to normal.

More than ever, it’s important for businesses to operate in a way that protects the environment, sustains biodiversity and respects natural resources if we want to preserve the planet for future generations. Thankfully, innovative technologies available today can help us achieve that.

Here are some of the technological innovations that drive sustainability in three sectors: Internet of Things (IoT), government, and financial services.

IoT

One area that we are very excited about is the Internet of Things (IoT) as it can help many aspects of society – from reducing automotive emissions to improving medical care and making our power grids more efficient.

It’s predicted that close to 70 per cent of the global population will be living in cities by 2050, meaning that keeping people and the environment healthy would rely on using resources more efficiently. Turning our cities into smart cities, whereby IoT sensors, actuators and technology are connected to components across the city, would be key to achieve this. Pairing devices and data with a city’s physical infrastructure and services can cut costs and improve sustainability with both water and energy usage, which in turn reduces CO2 emissions.

Managing energy consumption with the use of smart meters is another key component to making our cities more sustainable. Smart meters work by feeding back invaluable data to the grid, which in turn allows to understand peak times for energy consumption. The supply and demand of energy can be managed based on this data, which ultimately reduces waste and cost.

There are many other ways in which the IoT can help limit the environmental effects on human activities – from preventing deforestation to protecting wildlife – which we have discussed in detail here.

Government

Did you know that identity documents can also be made sustainably? UK citizens will be the first in the world to have a passport that has achieved CarbonNeutral® certification. The carbon footprint of the new British passport will be independently measured, validated and reduced to net zero in line with the global standard for carbon neutrality, The CarbonNeutral Protocol. Wondering how this goal can be achieved? There are two ways: by either purchasing carbon credits or sourcing 100% renewable electricity to match that consumed by processes such as production and distribution.

Having an identity is a fundamental human right, however, an estimated 1.5 billion people across the world do not have legal identity, meaning that they’re denied opportunities and possibilities to exercise their civil and social rights. The United Nations has recognised the importance of legal identity and as a result has established it as one of its SDGs for 2030. But to meet this goal, it’s imperative that countries openly demonstrate what steps they’re taking to combat this crisis.

We believe that the future of legal identity lies in biometric technologies such as fingerprint, face or iris. This is because biometrics has become the most trusted way to automate the various steps involved in the ID registration process and authenticate the person.

Financial services

The financial services industry can benefit from introducing processes that accelerate dematerialisation. This includes reducing the excessive and unnecessary volume of printed documents as well as paper products associated with delivering and activating payment cards. By allowing card holders to use digital technologies to manage their finances, banks can provide a sustainable alternative to paper statements and physical bank branches.

What’s more, banks and other payment providers can now provide consumers with eco-friendly cards created from a plastic substitute called polylactic acid (PLA). PLA is made from renewable sources such as plant leaves and corn which makes it biodegradable, recyclable and non-toxic if incinerated.

We are working with clients in the sector to help them achieve the SDGs by providing a “carbon offset” solution, among other things, which provides financial support to energy-saving and renewable energy programs. The goal is to offset carbon emitted as a result of card production.

From choosing green suppliers, to offsetting their emissions, through to helping consumers track their carbon footprint, there are many things companies can do with their daily processes to help the environment go far beyond the “think before you print” mantra. We are pleased to be able to support this sustainability drive through the technologies we provide, while continuing to improve Thales’ strategy for a low carbon future.

Within Thales, we are committed to a low-carbon future and have a plan of action to achieve our targets. We are using Sustainable Development Week to educate employees about our vision for the future. In addition, we have Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) best practices and are encouraging teams within our company to identify and adopt best practices.