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EDF: Environmental Innovation Is Alive and Well in Corporate America

leonkaye headshotWords by Leon Kaye
Energy & Environment
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The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has just released its first annual survey on how top business executives both view and utilize seven technology innovations: blockchain, sensors, data analytics, mobile ubiquity, dematerialization, automation, and sharing technologies.

The results are encouraging. EDF’s findings have revealed that despite policy setbacks at the U.S. federal level, 70 percent of the over 500 respondents said their companies are investing in technologies that could help solve today’s most pressing environmental challenges. “As you know, every day companies are making sustainability and climate commitments, but this survey shows that many top companies are actually taking action,” said an EDF spokesperson.

Here are five examples of how these innovations have been implemented across various industries.

Automation


Levi Strauss & Co. recently announced a new digital manufacturing capability that automates part of the jeans production process. The technology allows Levi’s to tailor supply to meet demand, creating several business and environmental benefits: a reduction in textile waste, the elimination of thousands of chemical formulations previously needed for finishing, which together could potentially result in significant water savings.

Dematerialization


Amazon is working with vendors across its supply chain on dematerialization and waste diversion within the online retailer’s pet food category. With one of the largest global manufacturers in pet food, Amazon found a way to convert retail packaging into ready-to-ship e-commerce packaging. These redesigns reduced the number of packaging components by half and packaging volume by 34 percent. The new packaging designs also reduced damage in their distribution network by 84 percent, and damage before final delivery to customers by over 30 percent.

Sharing technologies


Over three quarters of the executives surveyed believe that sharing data with outside parties can lead to better outcomes for businesses. For example, Starbucks is working with the Closed Loop Partners to launch the NextGen Cup Challenge, a $10 million open source project that seeks to develop and commercialize fully recyclable and compostable cups.

Data analysis


Google is partnering with World Resources Institute and research institutions to launch a free global database of power plants, which would allow users to gauge data on the equivalent of 80 percent of globally installed electrical capacity across 168 countries. Such data could help researchers better monitor air pollution problems and could also spur more investments in low-carbon technologies.

Blockchain


Blockchain incorporates cryptography to provide a secure means of recording transactions in a public ledger, which makes this technology valuable for storing and manipulating sensitive data such as financial, medical, identity, voting, or chain of custody information. For businesses, this could result in a more sustainable and accountable supply chain.

Walmart, Unilever, and Nestle are among large companies working with IBM to identify blockchain applications for global food supply chains. The technology could help to secure supply chain records for commodities such as chicken, chocolate and bananas. The upside for the environment is less food waste and emissions – and for business, a boost in supply chain efficiencies and more assurances of food safety.

Image credit: EDF

Leon Kaye headshotLeon Kaye

Leon Kaye, Executive Editor, has written for Triple Pundit since 2010. He is also the Director of Social Media and Engagement for 3BL Media, and the Editor in Chief of CR Magazine. His previous work can be found at The GuardianSustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. Kaye is based in Fresno, CA, from where he happily explores California’s stellar Central Coast and the national parks in the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye