The evolution and development of technology have transformed the way people live and work and organizations run businesses. It has helped humans to create modern, customized, and personalized products and services, enabling us to do almost everything faster and more conveniently. While the use of technology has spread across all walks of people, society, and organizations, the amount of energy consumption has tremendously increased, putting tremendous pressure on the planet and its environment.
At the same time, technology also offers many solutions that can make society and organizations more sustainable. Smart houses and buildings, robotics, cloud computing, and digital twins are some technologies that can transform organizations and simultaneously help reduce their carbon footprint. We must address the need for sustainable green technology through a two-pronged approach: by making the technology itself more sustainable and as well by using technology to drive sustainability, in a more responsible way.
Green technology is a blanket term that refers to the use of technology and science that is regarded as sustainable and environmentally friendly. Green tech - short for "green technology - also denotes the generation of clean energy, alternative energy sources in production, and supply chain, that is harmless to the environment compared to fossil fuels. Green technology is increasingly generating significant interest among investors due to accelerated governmental and non-governmental initiatives to address the ramifications of climate change and dwindling natural resources.
Green tech specifically refers to the technology that enhances performance while saving operating and capital costs, energy consumption, reducing waste, or negative environmental effects. Green tech aims to guard the environment from further damage, repair the damage already done to the environment, and conserve natural resources for future generations.
Green technology is gradually becoming a flourishing industry that attracts large capital investments to the extent that companies can state the adoption of green tech as one of the stated goals of their business. We come across these goals outlined in many companies' environmental, sustainability, and governance (ESG) statements, or in their mission statements. There is a rapid increase in the number of investors who are looking for companies that employ green technologies in their businesses.
The importance being accorded to green tech can be observed from the $1.2 Trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act 2021, enacted as a law in the USA, and similar initiatives by other governments across the globe. According to Statista, global investment in all renewable energy sources reached nearly $500 billion in 2022.
Environmental concerns include not only climate change and carbon emissions but more significantly include the need to protect and conserve ecosystems or endangered species and scarce natural resources and eliminate single-use plastics, among many others. Let us go over some of the green tech initiatives.
In order to reduce, if not eliminate, the negative impacts of carbon-generating fossil fuels, many businesses are exploring alternative sources of energy that are less harmful to the environment. Solar and wind power, are currently the most popular and relatively cheap green energy sources. The 2020 World Outlook Report of the International Energy Agency found that photovoltaic solar energy is "consistently cheaper than new coal- or gas-fired power plants in most countries, and solar projects now offer some of the lowest-cost electricity ever seen."
There are reports that consider transportation to be the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and CO2 emissions represent roughly 97 percent of the global warming potential of all greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. Many auto manufacturers are investing in research to invent alternative ways to minimize automotive emissions, either by developing more fuel-efficient engines or vehicles powered by electricity. However, electric vehicles have limitations that come from the need for high-capacity rechargeable batteries and charging infrastructure, which is still in limited supply. In addition, electric cars can be considered fully environment-friendly only when the batteries are charged by power generated by alternative sources though the emissions of fossil fuel will be eliminated.
Agriculture puts significant pressure on natural resources and the environment, land and water, and the consequences of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and livestock waste. The objective of sustainable agricultural practices is to protect the environment, conserve and expand natural resources, and maintain and improve soil fertility. Organic farming leveraging green technologies can protect soil from exhaustion, improvised cattle feed can reduce methane emissions, and meat substitutes can minimize livestock consumption.
Recycling is about reusing materials like plastic, glass, paper, metal waste, and e-waste or finding sustainable substitutes to help conserve scarce resources. In addition to the downstream recycling process, it involves upstream recycling, generating demands for recycled materials, or exploring methods to recycle materials that are conventionally not recycled. The global waste recycling market which was valued at US$ 58 billion in 2021 is expected to grow considerably in the coming years as consumer awareness about the environmental impacts of waste increases. By 2028, it is forecast that the global waste recycling services market will have reached a value of almost 90 billion U.S. dollars, registering a CAGR of 4.8 percent during the forecast period 2021 to 2030.
While green technologies are meant to preserve biodiversity and conserve the earth's resources, they can cause negative impacts in other areas. For example, the lithium used in batteries that power electric vehicles is mined from rain forests or hydroelectric dams that impact the survival of the fish and other species, or solar panels and wind turbines that require some rare minerals extracted using machinery powered by diesel. This is not to say that green technology is not beneficial, but its impacts on the environment and resources need to be studied and balanced for the benefits to outweigh the costs.
As the world struggles to deal with climate change and volatile energy prices, green technology is emerging more crucial than ever. Entrepreneurs and investors who come up with green technology business ideas stand to gain from serving a growing market need while focusing more on the renewable sector to improve the world. Small to medium businesses and startups who want to be in this segment with new ideas of using green technologies, may face the challenges of resource and talent constraints. They don’t need to be disheartened as there are various platforms like Open Talent and TaaS (Task as a Service) platforms available for them to source the required talent or team to get their green projects executed at a reasonable cost and fast, but without compromising on the quality.