The immense level of sustainability challenges our planet faces grows more apparent and pressing by the day. Evidence suggests that the Earth’s surface has warmed by one degree Celsius. Although this may seem like a minute increase, it is enough to lift oceans and unleash a worrying crescendo of life-threatening storms, crop failures, droughts and floods on the planet. 

Future climate models predict that the Earth’s global average will rise, warming up to a problematic 2 degrees Celsius over the next ten years if we continue to emit as many or more greenhouse gases. The astonishing current levels of greenhouse gas emissions indicate we could pass the 1.5 degrees Celsius marker as early as 2030. Some changes to our climate are gradual, which enables us to predict them, but unfortunately, others are more sudden, which make them challenging to foresee.  

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To avoid global climate chaos, significant transformations need to be made in societies and the world economy as a whole. The pressure to meet consumer demands, especially in fast fashion means globally, we are using more resources than ever before. We are continually applying pressure on the planet’s natural resources and giving ourselves the slimmest opportunity to avoid unthinkable damage to the climate system, which currently supports life as we know it. Change is paramount concerning the way our global giants work as time is running out to avert disaster.  

Fortunately, many organisations, companies and governments around the world are increasing their drive to change traditional methods by converting them into sustainable businesses. This is especially true for those in the technology sector. 

What are tech giants doing for a more sustainable future?

As we begin a new year with climate change on our minds, here is what two of the most popular tech giants, Apple and Samsung, are doing to actively drive eco-innovation, ensuring they take measurable steps to improve the sustainability of their products.  

Apple

Apple is well known for its smart tech products, quality and innovation. Although this is great, it does come at the cost of using natural resources. To overcome this matter Apple recently engineered a new alloy that can be recycled over and over without compromising its quality, unlike traditional aluminium. The result of this means the enclosures of apple products like their MacBook Air and Mac mini are 100% recyclable. 

Apple has also increased the use of recycled materials inside its devices. For example, the solder in the main logic board of its iPhones is made with 100% recycled tin, putting an end to mining nearly 29,000 tonnes of tin per year for their products. Alongside this Apple products are now 70% more energy efficient than they were in 2008, and in 2018, it is thought that 96% of Apple’s electricity was generated from renewable sources. 

Apple plans to extend the life of their products by adding apple certified repair specialists at Best Buy stores with whom they have recently partnered up with. This calculated move means they have increased by 115%, the number of stores that can officially repair their products. The ambition of this plan is to increase the volume of damaged or obsolete products for recycling.

Samsung

Fast turnovers on products mean companies like Samsung know that it’s all too easy for their products to end up in landfills, directly adding waste to the environment and more importantly removing valuable and potentially reusable materials form circulation. Due to this specific reason, Samsung has prioritised waste and landfill diversion and have over time collected approximately 6.2 billion pounds of electronics on a global scale. The success of their efforts means they aim by 2030 to recycle 15 billion pounds of e-waste.  

Like many other tech giants, Samsung is continually aiming to improve their product sustainability and in 2019 received the highest honour in the Energy Star awards for adding 75 new Energy-star certified devices and products to their collection for the sixth year in a row. Not only is this impressive, but it also increases their available energy-efficient products and appliances by 12%. 

One of the most significant complications for most tech giants is supply chain sustainability and this is especially true in consideration of raw minerals. With that being said, in 2012, Samsung established a management system which would ban the use of conflict materials in their supply chain. By doing so in 2018, all of Samsung’s suppliers complied with this system and would do business only through the Responsible Minerals Assurance Process, which is excellent news for the planet. 

How can I use my tech for a more sustainable future?

As a consumer, one of the most common and effective ways to help sustainability in technology is to use your device for as long as possible. Rapidly changing technology over time has resulted in large volumes of in dated devices being made obsolete for the sole purpose of replacing them with newer ones. The attraction of owning a more modern device is largely alluring, resulting in consumers replacing smartphones and other pieces of tech more frequently than required. 

Smartphone contracts make us believe that we need to change our device once the contract runs out. Arguably, yes by 24months, which is typically how long a contract lasts, a lot has changed in the field of technology with multiple advancements. However, many phones, following Apple’s statement, are ‘built to last as humanly possible’ which is why SIM only deals are great. 

On the flip side of this, there is an argument surrounding how technology can be used to manipulate and build consumer habits to enable sustainability. In a world full of we see it, we want it and click we buy it, although this notion is great for businesses, it is a disaster for the planet which, as we know, is full of limited natural resources. Hence, posing to be an environmental nightmare. 

However, data-driven decision making could be the answer. As the number of online shoppers increases year on year and consumers gravitate to the internet, our sustainable smart tech could be the answer for a sustainable future. Just as technology has recently influenced our behaviour patterns in healthcare by providing us with data that drives us to eat healthier and be more active, technology could similarly influence our buying habits. If users were able to upload a profile that contains their ethical preferences, then brands would be able to see these and promote products that are in line with — for example, reusable coffee cups

Choice editing is another way technology can impact consumers in being more sustainable. If intelligent technologies were able to make our decisions for us, it would be able to use smart data systems which crunched the relevant data we need to effectively choice edit items for us to purchase. If we could see where our items were coming from and the levels of sustainability they provide in manufacturing right through to the end pint would we be more inclined to purchase the products over an unsatisfactory working conditioned item, probably.

The truth is giving the consumer what they want is easy, and businesses are great at it. However many a time it is bedevilled with pressing sustainability conundrums which can be a real pain. Inspiring people to want to purchase what’s best for not only them but for us all, and the planet is where real success lies. Technology is vital to us in today’s day and age and so much more than we probably think which is why our tech giants must keep striving, innovating and creating products with sustainability in mind going forward. 

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