Climate change, amongst many others, is one of the world’s biggest challenges. We are feeling its impact through rising sea levels; more species of wildlife facing endangerment or extinction; and extreme weather events wreaking havoc across our planet. It’s generally agreed by leading experts, including NASA scientists, that global warming is at the heart of these events and the situation will continue to deteriorate in the absence of intervention.
By founding Earth Day back on April 22nd, 1970 U.S Senator G. Nelson and thousands of Americans demonstrated an early realisation that overuse of natural resources was harming the planet.
The purpose of Earth Day is to raise awareness about the detrimental effects of pollution and saturating the world’s resources. Senator Nelson and his contemporaries wished to impress the gravity of a distant future their great-great-grandchildren could face. So, their vision was to set aside one day for people all over the world to reflect on how they could contribute towards a more sustainable future, both individually and collectively.
48 years later and the distant future feels much closer, while the challenge is Herculean.
This time for change is now
The 2017 Paris Climate Summit brought together 196 nations to establish pollution remission goals. While its objective was ambitious, aiming high is necessary to get on the right path. Despite some countries backing out of the agreement, marginal gains can go a long way to achieving a greener planet.
The Chinese Gobi Desert transformation – turning sand into soil that enables plants to grow on previously barren land – is an example which other nations can follow. Meanwhile, Germany’s Energiewende initiative includes a bid to reduce carbon emissions on its rail network and roads.
While the absence of large-scale changes is frustrating for some, we can take inspiration from Sir David Brailsford’s leadership lessons from his time as performance director of Team GB Cycling, based on Matthew Syed’s book Black Box Thinking.
After Team GB’s multiple Olympic successes under his stewardship, Brailsford spoke of how his winning formula was based on “the aggregation of marginal gains” concept. To paraphrase, the theory is rather than trying to change one thing by 100%, try to change 100 things by 1%.
This concept can be applied to business, but also bigger issues such as climate change. Small changes by people and organisations can add up to a big difference.
Streetlight at the end of the tunnel
One such step was recently taken last month when MOTWANE partnered up with Tata Communications to deploy 300 smart streetlights on a street in India, using an Internet of Things (IoT) network based on Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) technology.
This has significantly reduced this small area’s carbon footprint as well as led to cost savings of around INR 700 per light, per year, which can be reinvested in sustainable infrastructure.
One street at a time, MOTWANE endeavours to establish 15,000 smart streetlights by the end of 2023. Applied to one street, the impact may be nominal, but applied to thousands it is ground-breaking.
This initiative is a great example of the kind of marginal gain which, multiplied a thousand times over can have a major impact. On Earth Day, we must all consider ways in which we can transform our societies and businesses to be more sustainable.
Read more on India’s digital transformation in our previous blog.