Sustainability - is one of the slogans of the 21st century and growing in use. No matter the business you work in, no matter the government agency you deal with, you can’t go to a conference, read a policy briefing, analyze purchasing activity, or talk to a thought leader without hearing the term thrown around.
Yet, if we look past the buzzwords, and get to the core of what sustainability really means, the concept remains the same - a broad range of technological solutions that can be implemented to reduce energy and resource costs, as well as limit the environmental impact of our activities.
Should I Make Sustainability A Priority in My Business?
Many business leaders are in favor of sustainability - indeed, it is hard to find many who are opposed to the idea of conserving resources and environmental protection. You will find some who have concerns about its impact on their company’s bottom line.
The price is not the only factor that businesses consider when deciding whether to implement sustainability technology. Some companies are concerned about the reliability of the technology. It is a somewhat new concept, and some companies are hesitant to invest in sustainability technology, due to worries about unknowns associated with sustainability technology. Some are also concerned that sustainability technology may not be reliable enough to support the business.
One of the biggest issues with sustainability technology is the lack of knowledge about it. Most companies don't know enough about it to make an informed, confident decision. They may think that it is too new to be effective and that it will not save them enough money to justify the costs.
These concerns are all justified - but they can be overcome. Indeed, there are many organizations within the public and private sectors that have incorporated smart approaches to sustainability to improve operations and save money, all while staying in compliance with government regulations and improving their community.
Sustainability in US Businesses
Given how much Tesla has been in the news lately, to include constructing a new, massive industrial facility right here in Austin, you may think that high profile startups are the only organizations that can benefit from sustainability technology, but the truth is that sustainability technologies can be useful to any organization.
One of the easiest ways to benefit from sustainability technologies is conservation. You don’t normally think of hospitals as being a center of green tech, but in the Windy City, Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Hospital is using green technologies such as a green roof and geothermal heating system to lower their carbon footprint. The green roof’s naturally inspired ventilation system has improved air circulation and decreased infections in their wards. The hospital's efforts have lowered their energy use by 25 percent and decreased their annual water use by 15 percent.
Another example of a corporation cutting costs with sustainability technology is Apple, which uses renewable energy to power its data centers.
In the past, Apple used coal to power its data centers. However, in 2013, the company announced that it was switching to renewable energy, and in 2014, it bought enough renewable energy to account for all of its data center energy use. In 2015, Apple increased its use of renewable energy to account for 100 percent of its data center energy use. This is not just for show - unsubsidized solar and wind technology is now cheaper than coal, and is beginning to compete with natural gas generation.
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What Governmental Initiatives are Promoting Sustainable Technology?
Green building is a core tenant of US government policy to promote sustainability. The US Department of Energy’s recent program, “Zero Energy Schools”, sponsored a program to improve the energy efficiency of the nation's schools. The program was estimated to save 6.4 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, 1.15 billion gallons of water, and nearly 1.5 million metric tons of CO2 emissions. In addition, the DOE estimates that there have been $1.6 billion in savings through lower utility bills and reduced maintenance costs.
Green building is still a relatively new concept, but it's growing at a rapid rate. The US Green Building Council has adopted a rating system called LEED for the certification of green buildings. The LEED system is based on a point scale. The more points a building receives, the more environmentally friendly it is. The first step in the certification process is to build a model green building.
The US Department of Energy has a model green building called the Energy Innovation Center in Washington, DC, which is a sustainable building that environmental experts hope to use as a model for other buildings in the nation's capital. The Energy Innovation Center is also a research center that is studying ways to improve the environmental performance of buildings.
Right now, there are two trends in the sustainability technology market. As discussed above, the first is the continuing increase in technologies that have reached commercial viability, such as conservation techniques, building, and renewable energy.
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However, the increased use of artificial intelligence and cutting-edge technologies such as cloud-computing are also becoming a key component in the field. In fact, smart grid technology and increased real-time monitoring and dynamic management of agriculture are projected to save billions of dollars over the next few years.
Internationally, the Asia-Pacific region is projected to have the highest rates of growth due to government and business investment in sustainable technology. Asia, however, is not the only region where the future of sustainable technology is bright...
Looking Towards the Future
According to an Allied Market research report from 2019, the sustainability technology market is projected to grow from about 9 billion today to around 48 billion in 2027, a more than five-fold increase. This portends massive opportunities for potential investors and US state, local, and federal entities are getting involved.
The projections in this research report are likely conservative, however, in light of President Biden’s multi-trillion dollar infrastructure plan. An infrastructure bill in some form will be passing within the next year - with sustainability technology a key part of that package. The investments proposed in renewable energy, clean water, the electrical grid and other areas are posed to dramatically increase the market for sustainability technology.
If you bid on contracts, or work closely with the government, this is something you are going to want to be a part of. If you don't take advantage of it, with the significant number of related bids and RFPs being published, your competitors will.
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