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What does sustainable tech have to do with making money?

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Melanie George-Smith
Guest Columnist

Technology may allow us to play Candy Crush while waiting in line or take slick Instagram photos of our breakfast, but it has greater possibilities than day-to-day convenience — one of them being the ability to save the environment.

For business owners, this can be easy to forget. But if you think sustainability is all about saving the polar bears and has nothing to do with your business, then you’re missing out on an incredible opportunity.

Sustainability is a business strategy that takes into account your company’s impact on the environment, people and community. It’s sometimes called the Triple Bottom Line (People, Planet, Profit), or ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance).

How is sustainability profitable? Because your stakeholders are, or will be, demanding it. That includes employees, investors and customers.

Your employees

  • Millennials and generation Z want to work for organizations where they feel they are making a difference. 

Your investors

  • They know the studies showing that sustainable companies yield a better rate of return than non-sustainable ones. 

Your customers

  • Your customers — both B2B and B2C — see the value added in buying from or working with a sustainable company.

How does technology relate to sustainability? If sustainability is a train that has left the station, then technology is the fuel that will carry it to its destination. Our world’s problems are tremendous — from poverty and hunger to gender inequality and everything in between. We can use technology to both reduce our footprint (our negative impact on the world) and leave our handprint (something we can contribute to the world to make it better).

Can you innovate a solution to a world or community problem that’s in your company’s expertise? If your business views technology innovations as an opportunity to solve world problems, you will benefit tremendously.

Sure, if you develop an app like Candy Crush, you might make some money. But if you develop an app that, say, connects people who are hungry with restaurants that have leftover food to give away at the end of each night, not only will you be able to feed hungry people, but you can take the technology and turn it into an app that will be extremely profitable to you.

Here are some new technological innovations that have profited companies while making the world more sustainable: S. Café’ has created a technological process that transforms coffee grounds into fabric for clothes. Another technology transforms sugar cane extracts into 100% biodegradable, all-natural bottles. EcoSpears has developed a technology that fits on a foot-long wand that cleans polluted water. Clairy innovated an indoor air-purifier that takes plants and sends all of the indoor pollution into the plants’ roots for purification.

Technology makes it easier for us to reduce our environmental impact to the world. Use it to grow your company’s success while making the world more sustainable. Some initiatives will involve initial expenditures, but you will recoup the savings in lower costs. Start slow. Don’t burn out by setting goals that are too ambitious. Becoming sustainable is a life-long endeavor — a change in values, culture, and habits — not a box that can be checked off. 

Melanie George Smith is founder and president of Sustainable World Strategies, which drives organizational improvement through strategic community relations, business development and global sustainability. 

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