New technology, transparency will soon tie air pollution back to brands

By Aileen Nowlan, Senior Manager, EDF+Business team.

Most businesses contribute to air pollution in some way through their operations and supply chains. They use fossil fuels to heat and cool buildings, to keep restaurant stoves lit and machines operating. Their delivery vehicles and airplane transports release harmful gases that pollute communities and the atmosphere.

Until recently, such impacts could be easily dismissed as someone else’s problem, but sensor and satellite technology that is making pollution sources more visible — and actionable — is changing the landscape.

Businesses today have a choice: Get ahead of pollution problems and gain the added benefits that come with a proactive environmental stance, or risk eventual exposure that can prove detrimental to the bottom line.

Fortunately, technology is shining a spotlight on a problem that can be solved.

Is that pollution hot spot yours?

Pilot programs are now collecting data on local hot spots in cities such as Oakland, Houston and London. Today, technology that can detect air pollution is made available to citizens, cities and companies — and new innovations are coming to market almost daily. Open source data analytics is also democratizing knowledge about pollution sources.

Altogether, this progress means that health and economic impacts from air pollution will soon be traced to fleets and individual locations.

It also means that companies will be able to use this data to measure their impact and take action to reduce their emissions footprint. Those companies will be able to show investors, employees, communities and customers the benefits from cleaner air.

Getting ahead of the game

Tackling air pollution offers a 2-for-1 benefit. Leading brands today are already taking steps to invest in renewable energy and clean transportation, and to cut emissions from their supply chains — efforts that could help alleviate air pollution, if done right.

There are steps companies of any size can take to join access to this leader club.

Do an energy audit, invest in energy efficiency, and electrify building heat sources.
Invest in renewables or purchase energy from clean energy providers.
Work with your supply chain to set science-based targets, adopt best practices, and measure and report progress.
Partner with other companies, utilities, communities and governments to innovate, create infrastructure; and to show demand for heavy-duty vehicle electrification.

Sounds like a good challenge, doesn’t it?

We are entering a new era of environmental innovation that is driving better alignment between technology and environmental goals — and results. #FourthWave