”Without tech we will never reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals, but today the tech industry isn’t sustainability-driven,” says Professor Michael Zwicky Hauschild from DTU. UNDP is a partner at the High Tech Summit to help highlight the need for sustainable tech.
”If you eat less meat, then you can board another plane. It is that simple. In order to become sustainable we need to measure our ecological footprint in numbers and an overall budget. And the size of the budget depends on how many people we are in the world. But better and smarter technology can help us keep within the budget.”
The words come from Michael Zwicky Hauschild, professor at DTU Management Engineering. He is one of the most acknowledged experts in the field of Quantitative Sustainability Assessment.
That means, he develops tools to calculate the ecological footprint of a product and its impact on the environment – looking at everything from the raw materials to production, usage, waste or reuse. This is called a life cycle assessment, and it is something that more and more Danish companies apply in order to become sustainable.
”We develop tools to find out where the largest negative impacts are to be found when producing any kind of product. And in our newest research, we have found answers to what it actually means to be sustainable and not just more sustainable than others,” says Michael Zwicky Hauschild.
Tech to pave the way to sustainability
The research is closely linked to The UN Sustainable Development Goals, which were adopted by all UN member states three years ago as a worldwide call for action to end poverty and secure a sustainable future for all humans and planet Earth.
There are 17 goals all together, and, according to Michael Zwicky Hauschild, the key to reach the majority of them lies in tech. Because without much better and more effective technological solutions there is little hope of resolving the challenges before the 2030 deadline set by the UN.
”Business, and especially the bio- and tech-industry, have an enormous role to play if we are to succeed in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals. As it looks today, however, the tech industry isn’t sustainability-driven,” says Michael Zwicky Hauschild.
The goals are, nevertheless, drivers for change, and they will hopefully fuel a development of new and much needed solutions and ways of working.
Partnerships for solutions
This is why The United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, is a strategic partner at this year’s High Tech Summit. Just like tech, partnerships are vital for finding viable answers to the problems.
“The High Tech summit makes academia meet the private sector, and think tanks meet NGOs. People, who normally wouldn’t meet, get together and share ideas. One of the Sustainable Development Goals is to establish new partnerships and foster new ecosystems. And this is all made possible at the High Tech Summit,” says Stine Kirstein Junge, Partnership Specialist at UNDP.
Drones to save the Maldives
Already, tech and partnerships contribute to solving grand, global challenges.
In the Maldives, UNDP has partnered with DJI, a leading Chinese drone company, in order to use drones for surveying the coastline, and to identify safe zones and risks of flooding.
In China, the tech-giant Baidu and UNDP have joined forces in the development of a system to recycle e-waste safely. And in Denmark the UNDP recently launched the first SDG Accelerator, encouraging small and medium sized tech-companies to develop sustainable solutions for global problems.
According to Professor Michael Zwicky Hauschild from DTU, Danish companies are among the best in world in securing clean water, sustainable energy and efficient food production, why the SDGs are to be seen as an opportunity.
”If we add tech to all these already existing strengths, the Sustainable Development Goals can be a great opportunity and enabler for Danish business in the coming decades,” he says.
“It’s no use closing your eyes to the changes. We need to constantly keep up and try to influence the process.”
Professor Jan Madsen, DTU Compute