The UN COP26 climate summit has mostly shuffled out of the headlines, but it’s time to turn those promises into action. Much hope rests now on the tech sector to come up with the answers that will solve the climate crisis.
But can tech do it alone?
Our data shows technology is one of the few industries that are actually trusted on climate change action, next to renewable energy and agriculture. And rightly so. There is some phenomenal tech out there, from electric passenger aircraft Lilium and vertical farming network Infarm, to food waste app OLIO and canned water brand CanO Water.
At this very moment, in every industry, there are engineers and developers, CTOs and CIOs, working night and day to come up with ingenious solutions to the climate emergency that threatens us all. Their communications and marketing colleagues work no less hard to build messages and stories worthy of those innovations, pursuing the attention and awareness of those strategic audiences that could help them scale and break through.
Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet solution in tech, and it’s unlikely we can just innovate our way out of such a complex problem. Tech will get better, faster, cheaper, and new solutions could transform how we live. But we need to see real change outside of just tech, not keep doing what we’re doing in the hope that the world will get better one day.
Governments need to live up to the commitments they make with far greater accountability. (That doesn’t mean waiting until 2030 to report on progress.) They should keep an open mind to the new tech solutions knocking on their door, to be able to welcome them in, to give them space and opportunity to prove their worth. They must be ready to confront the new realities of the world which tech has ushered in, whether that’s in housing or transport, energy or agriculture.
But while tech can’t do it alone, neither can government. The private sector is seen as an environmental leader, with the public sector lagging behind, and for example it’s financing in the private sector that’s expected to accelerate the transition to clean energy. Sustainable finance was a key talking point coming out of COP26, and companies should start preparing for more rigorous climate reporting rules. In the future, investors need to consider how greater political and regulatory scrutiny will impact the companies they invest in. Companies that are caught out for failing to address climate change risk eroding their brand, alienating their customers, and facing major regulatory action.
Finally, there’s everyone. The public. One tech solution might show a possible new way forward, but stopping and reversing the global climate emergency requires a radical shift in the cultures, attitudes and behaviours of populations. Through this support, governments can be compelled to change, purpose-driven businesses can become profitable, and technologies can reach mass adoption. So how do you go about effecting behavioural change when dealing with investors, industry, government and the public, for the good of the planet?
It starts with trust. In the misinformation age, it’s paramount for companies to better communicate how their tech actually works. Our data shows just some of the many opportunities to earn trust through comms – from ensuring your vendors, suppliers and business partners reduce their impact on climate change, to promoting your climate change experts into leadership positions to drive strategy, to working with other businesses to develop and execute climate change policy (even if they’re your competitors). The way forward depends on where you’re at in your journey.
But if it’s a journey you’re ready to make, I hope to hear from you.
Samir Mamun is Senior Account Manager at Edelman Technology.