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Sustainability 4.0

Article by Rahul Gupta

Year 2020, a year to forget! A year to let pass! That’s what we think and expect of it. It could be the right thing to do because when you can’t do anything you are left with nothing but to just sit, watch and let it pass. But that we can say for the current pandemic, which is COVID 19, an origin of man’s ignorance, and look now what price the humankind has to pay for it. We have seen economies shattering, livelihoods getting destroyed, people dying and what not else there is to come. The hunger for ever increasing GDP growth rate is no more seen today, what matters more is to survive this odd.

The same goes with an even severe crisis in making, about which we have known for a while now and that’s called Climate Change. A hot topic that everyone is aware of and yet turns a blind eye towards thinking there is yet some time to initiate action. As per the survey by World Economic Forum (WEF), climate change and environment related events came as top 5 risks for the world in the future. When we open our eyes and try to understand the reality we could only see an impending crisis which has started showing its effects in terms of torrential rains, severe storms, extreme dry spells, melting icecaps and rising seas, which has started killing people, devastating economies and ruining livelihood.

This is a bigger crisis, which would require more resources and collective action than what we have deployed for fighting the current pandemic. It’s a fact, but unlike COVID 19, it is not accepted as a priority by most of the world governments slowing the steps towards curbing climate change. Moreover, to deploy the resource of this scale we would certainly be requiring technology which has to be transformative, groundbreaking, affordable, scalable and reachable to everyone.

Technologies like IOT (Internet of things), Artificial Intelligence, Machine learning, NLP (Natural Language Processing), Data Analytics and Business Intelligence systems are going to play a pivotal role in coming months.

IOT is already being leveraged by several companies to understand the end of life phase of their products, maybe it could even be used to track down the wastes generated by them ending up in the natural environment, making their supply chains more robust and giving space for reuses and recyclers, through product phase and age tracking. Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning systems could chip into the setup and develop models to understand the life cycle of products and trace down its usability or suggest its optimal end of life treatment method. Or something like a live monitoring systems could be built which would be able to regulate the city’s traffic based on the pollution levels in the area, or call out for measures for curbing the flow of vehicles and eventually deploy pollution suppressors.

It is said that data is the new oil, and the same will be leveraged for making businesses sustainable and responsible towards the environment and society. In times of increasingly stringent regulations, for a corporate, it is important to monitor environmental performance round the clock, so that adequate measures are in place to curb any mis happenings. There are already technologies deployed and mandated that create large sets of data ready to be leveraged for the benefit of the businesses and the society. These gigabits of data need to be properly looked at every scale possible, because future policies and regulations must and will be based on data and facts, derived using all tools possible, right from basic data analytical tools to the most advanced Artificial Intelligence systems.

In current regulatory practices, we are already seeing live wastewater parameter monitoring, air emission parameter monitoring and even ambient air parameter monitoring in industries spread across India. These setups are not very robust but satisfies the basic need of keeping polluters under check. Though we can say they all again generate huge amount of data which has potential of causing a change for good. It can be analyzed, and industry behavior could be judged using it. Industry specific measures then can be decided accordingly, whom to monitor closely and whom to given perks for complying to the standards and even reward for going beyond compliance. This would eventually create a conducive environment for businesses to grow and economies to flourish.

These trends in regulation and technology would join forces to fight climate change. Data, technology and determination; all three would be combined to create sustainable business model in the future. Remember; Without Sustainable today, there is no future.

The author, Rahul Kumar is an MBA in environmental management from NITIE Mumbai. Currently working with one of the prominent Pharma companies.

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