You make a good point about eliminating the root cause. Technology can play a part in identifying where the poaching took place; by tracing the chain up to the markets where ivory is traded, perhaps the sale and use of ivory can be reduced and eventually eliminated.
I share JJCW’s concern and I’m thinking about the impact of self-driving cars on Getaround’s business model. If or when self-driving cars become mainstream, I don’t see a real future for individually owned cars. These could be replace by companies or local governments that would own a large number of vehicles that would be made available to the public. In such a scenario I no longer see a market for Getaround unless it will also own assets and concequently not be a technology pure-play anymore.
I agree that while such initiatives are admirable, it could be that the answer lies elsewhere. Natural milk production efficiency can only be pushed so far; we will inevitably have to look for alternative sources of nutrients and diversify our food base if we are to keep up with the demands of an ever growing global population. This is a first step, but the ultimate answer might not lie in increasing the number of livestock, but decoupling food production from livestock production altogether, as Art suggested above. This might have the least impact on the environment in the long-run and might prove to be the most sustainable course of action.
Very interesting article. Indeed, there is a lot of potential for improvement in the trucking industry. I agree with Stefan, logistics and transportation companies have to find a way to increase the utilization rate of the trucks, and an important role here is played by retailers and manufacturers which could work together to deliver less-than-truck-load to central hubs, where the merchandise could be consolidated in full-truck-loads and delivered via the most optimal route to retailers (with the help of tools such as Rivigo). But there are, of course, a lot of hurdles, from food safety regulations (what products can be shipped together), to environmental regulations (how long trucks can be on the road and at what times in the day or week they can be on the road, etc.) or legal concerns (liability, retailers not wanting to work together, different quality standards between retailers, etc.). Inter-modal (using both trucks and trains for delivery) can be another solution. And, of course, self-driven truck could potentially revolutionize the industry.
When thinking about this, I thought that, along with being a way to attract more users to the platform, this would be a tool to eliminate competition in the Internet Service Provider industry. But it seems that it will actually be quite a competitive landscape, as more and more companies seem to be eyeing the same thing. Google has similar intentions, to offer free internet access to everyone on the planet, through a network of satellites. More recently, Elon Musk’s Space X has announce it’s plan to bring super fast Internet to Earth by launching 4,425 satellites into low-Earth orbit. While the feasibility of these plans and the motivation behind them are subject to debate, it seems that, at least, there will still me competition in this field. Of course this also opens up the debate for topics such as information and personal data security, and privacy.
I agree with the author that fertilizer will continue to be one of the responses to ensure that food production will keep up with food demand, especially while waiting for new, innovative solutions to emerge. But one thing we must address as soon as possible is this “spray and pray” mentality that is prevalent in modern agriculture. It is becoming more and more clear that with the environmental changes happening around us, we need to be far more methodical in our approach to agriculture. Supporting and investing in new ways to deliver fertilizers, added nutrients and pesticides in a more tailored and precise way to address the specific needs of each crops, in each climate and environment in which it is grown, should be one of our top priorities. This would support higher yields, which would result in less required farmland and could potentially enable us to do agriculture in places we would have otherwise not deemed auspicious. Being able to diversify/disperse our centers of agriculture from the traditional clusters we see nowadays would help relieve the food-access inequality we see today, shorten the supply chain, increase quality and freshness and altogether reduce the carbon footprint (which today is further amplified by the oftentimes ridiculous distances our food has to travel from field to fork). This is an extremely interesting topic and one that will become more and more “mainstream” throughout our lifetime.
Thanks for the great read. I am with you and Orianne that if every major company could pitch in to the effort of reducing their carbon footprint and minimizing their impact on the environment, great progress could be made (which could also result in increased incentives from governments to continue the good work). I also agree with T@HBS in acknowledging the extremely important role clients play in this equation.
But to go a step further, I would also turn to investors and shareholders (and global markets as a whole), who have a very significant role to play in how they react to such initiatives. It’s not uncommon for such initiatives (which usually involve significant capital investments, with quite long horizons for positive future returns) from public companies to be met negatively by the market that does not yet seem to reward such behavior. This being said, I am basing this on personal observation and intuition, so if anyone has information/research that points in different direction, I would be interested to learn more about it.
Thanks for push-back on this! In the adoption of new technologies, recycling is indeed a very important and challenging topic. I think the same can be said about the eventual move to electric (or other non-combustion engine solutions). Philips has been focusing on recycling and has been a promoter of a circular economy for some time. Apart from being a member of RE100, Philips is also a member of CE100 (Circular Economy 100), an alliance of 100 global corporations, emerging innovators and regions committed to working together to build circular economy capability.
Some more information can be found below:
Thank you for the very insightful article. I had not heard about ITC before, and it’s great to see companies in emerging markets demonstrate such initiative.
Doing some quick research on ITC (Indian Tobacco Company), my understanding is that around 60% of its revenues still come from cigarettes, as it controls 80% of the Indian cigarette market. As growing tobacco for consecutive years in the same place can strip the land of vital nutrients, I am curious if ITC has a similar solution to its afforestation initiative in this regard, and if it works with farmers to ensure crop rotation and promoting sustainable and climate-resilient farming practices.
Nevertheless, regardless of the motivation behind it, I applaud ITC’s initiatives and its role in setting an example in environmental consciousness for other Indian companies and for other companies around the world.
I agree that taking old cars off the road will be an issue and this will stand in the way of large scale adoption of environmentally friendly alternatives. But even with strong governmental regulations that would lead to getting these old cars off the road (including commercial vehicles, which have a much shorter useful life cycle, as they have higher utilization rates), another issue I would consider is the environmental impact of disposing of these obsolete vehicles and ensuring that they are not just transferred/resold to another part of the world where they would continue this vicious pollution cycle. Therefore, I would argue that regulations should include the recycling of such vehicles, to ensure that valuable raw materials make their way back into the system instead of landfills. Nevertheless the economics of this sound daunting, as new materials will probably be cheaper, more reliable and more easily available as compared to recycled one, at least in the beginning. I believe that this sector should be built up and receive substantial support in order to truly make an impact, reduce GHG emissions and ultimately reverse climate change.
Retrofitting combustion engine vehicles to electric or fuel cell technology could also be a viable option, thus speeding up the adoption of new environmentally friendly technology without having to replace all vehicles on the road with new ones.
Kelly, thank you for bringing this very interesting topic to our attention. Adaption will indeed play an important role in Keurig Green Mountain’s future, as it will for other businesses dependent on farming and agriculture.
I believe that crop diversification will be key to safeguarding the long-term sustainability of our food supply. We have become proficient at improving crop yields by focusing on one or two varieties of each plant, but this puts our food supply at risk by minimizing our ability to react to crop diseases or climate change. Your example of coffee is a great one; out of the over 120 varieties of coffee that exist, we are only drinking two of them. The same thing for bananas, the fruit with the highest per capita consumption in the world, where the entire supply is dependent on one variety, the Cavendish banana, after its other sibling, Gros Michel, was wiped out by disease in the 1950s. A mutated version of the same disease is now putting the Cavendish in danger as well, endangering multiple countries and businesses dependent on this crop.
Moving forward, diversifying our crops in order to create climate-smart resilient ecosystems is one measure that can help ensure the nutrients necessary to feed an ever expanding global population.