Sustainability is a tectonic force that will impact all aspects of business and economic life in this century. Increasingly, some companies and institutions understand this today, in whole or in part, and are integrating it into their strategies, already with positive and exemplary results. Sustainable technologies are part of this solution. Without minimizing the complexity of the issues of Sustainability, Chandler Reed’s view is that the resources, knowledge capital, technological capabilities and innovative prowess exist with which to integrate the premises of Sustainability, and, doing so, create new value and viable on-going economic opportunities. To think less would be a failure of the imagination.

   
 SUSTAINABLE TECHNOLOGY:  Opportunity
   

Sustainability has many definitions of varying complexity, being developed by many individuals and organizations. It is important to focus on the necessity of improving or creating new economic value as part of Sustainability’s goal, so that there is an internal economic motive force for Sustainable systems to proliferate, and not merely rely on outside imperatives or mandates.

Specifically, Factor Four defines the goal of doubling resource efficiency while halving its cost, thus netting a ‘fourfold’ increase in resource productivity. “If resource productivity were increased by a Factor of Four, the world could enjoy twice the wealth that is currently available, whilst simultaneously halving the stress placed on our natural environment….this quadrupling of resource productivity is technically feasible and would produce massive macro-economic gains, i.e. make individuals, firms and all of society better off”. FACTOR FOUR, Doubling Wealth, Halving Resource Use, Wiezsäcker, Lovins & Lovins 1997
 
  For general purposes, Three Guiding Principles of Sustainable Technologies can be defined as:
Deliver economic value using less energy;
Deliver economic value using less mass and/or material;
Deliver economic value with less load on the environment.
There is, of course, much to explore and develop in these principles, and, in speaking in these terms, it is not intended to minimize or ignore the importance or impact on human systems, across the range of stakeholders.
 
Called the Second Industrial Revolution, the concepts of Sustainability place emphasis upon a global focus on resource productivity as opposed to the emphasis on labor productivity traditionally associated with ‘industrial progress’.
 
  Perhaps the One Key Question, is how to develop strategies by which Business, as the global institution with the greatest resources and impact, understands Sustainability as economic self-interest. Some have already begun this process. BP/Amoco has reduced CO2 emissions 10% in the last three years and generated $650 million in new corporate value as a result. The leading Sustainability real-estate developer routinely generates 30% to 50% returns for its investors.
 
   
 SUSTAINABLE TECHNOLOGY:
 Productivity & Resource Strategies
   

Sustainable technologies are multi-sectoral, in the sense that they can be found and apply in and across many of the traditional frameworks of business and investment categories. In each case, the technology is Sustainable not by virtue of the category, but by relation to its Sustainability principles, particularly with respect to the standard practice in that industry.

Sustainable
technologies leapfrog
changes in energy
and materials
productivity through
innovation and
system design.
   

There are many significant and sophisticated, elegant and economic, approaches to Sustainable technology strategies, that change resource usage patterns. Below are a few brief synopses:

Reframed Economic Relationships: Some of the most potent Sustainable technology strategies come from reframing economic relationships, for example delivering services rather than products. This changes the custodial relationship and responsibility for the material and energy usage during the ‘products’ lifecycle.

Energy: Sophisticated analysis of energy usage – its sources, forms, generation, conversion, distribution, utilization – can lead to unique Sustainable technology strategies that reduce bottom-line costs. Renewable energy, distributed generation, power technology have become important growth areas of Sustainable technology receiving major investment bank recognition and being linked even to fundamental security issues.

Substitution of Information for Mass: There are many ways to substitute information for mass/matter/material/molecules. For example, by designing smarter materials (composites, nanotechnology); by integrating information technology into the product, process or service; by sending the ‘intelligence’ of the material to its point of use rather than shipping the mass of the material; by increasing component complexity and thereby reducing number of components, etc.

Distributed Systems: Unforseen benefits and synergies can often be discovered by developing decentralized systems, often using information technologies, such as satellite-based eLearning systems; or distributed power generation; or distributed production.

Conversion of Waste Streams: Agricultural and industrial waste streams hold new sources of economic value (new products or commodities with a near $0 or even negative material cost, while simultaneously reducing an environmental load). Recycled materials are a beginning.

Use of Alternate or Underutilized Resources: Efficient means to accomplish goals, such as: the use of salt-water irrigation (avoids energy cost of desalination); the use of the temperature gradient of the ocean thermocline (avoids energy cost of cooling); or the use of enclosed integrated reservoirs for agriculture systems (avoids water waste and evaporation losses).

 

   
 SUSTAINABLE TECHNOLOGY:  Gallery
   
 
 
 
 

The following is a brief Gallery of Sustainable Technology New Ventures. Visit us again as we update and expand this section, or email us with companies we should know about.

Enzymatic Micro-Fuel Cells: This company is developing enzyme-based technology to power micro-fuel cells. When there products are commercially available, you will be able to use your cell phone for a month or laptop for a week without recharging. It has many unique advantages compared with PEM fuel cells, including the ability to follow the load, operate in closed environments at room temperature and provide higher power densities. The cartridges can be made of recycled plastic and the waste product is water. Most batteries contain toxic chemicals by comparison.

Thermoplastic Truck: This company has built the first commercial van truck body out of recycled plastic. It has more interior space, longer life cycle, and translucent, compared to standard metal and wood construction. More importantly it is over 1,000 pounds lighter, thus improving cargo carrying capacity or fuel economy.

Coastal Desert Agriculture: This company has developed a system of growing high-protein chicken feed on salt-water, thus creating new economic opportunity for coastal desert areas.

Composite Materials: This company has developed a unique honeycomb material from post-industrial recycled plastics that achieves lightweight and high strength by mimicking nature’s truss design of a bird’s wing. When integrated into composite materials for architectural or industrial applications it typically generates a Factor 40 improvement in materials performance.

Fleet Management: This company has developed a wireless, Internet-based vehicle management system that is allowing organizations to more effectively utilize their transportation resource. Result: fewer cars/trucks accomplish the same work as previously.

Solar Water Pumps: This company has developed sophisticated new electronic control systems that allow improvements in solar-powered water pumps from a previous five gallons per minute to 500 gallons. Factor 100x. This can not only bring new agricultural productive capabilities to certain remote regions, but provide economic benefits (reduced cost) to farmer’s in New Jersey and California as well.

Regenerating Tires: This company has developed a system that extends tire life by up to 20% and eliminates flat tires (waste) due to punctures. With 260 million tires on US highways, that translates into a potential reduction of 40 million tires. In addition, flat tires from punctures are a cost and source of lost time for many commercial operations.

Renewable Hydropower: This company has developed underwater ‘windmills’ that generate electric power on a distriubted and scalable manner from natural river, tidal or ocean currents without the necessity of creating dams.

Building Materials: This company is developing a system whereby an aesthetic pattern similar to natural stone is stored in software and regenerated in three-dimensions on-demand through a CNC-like control of the casting process. This compares to the current business model of natural stone which requires the movement of tremendous amounts of mass (stone) around the world and their storage in inventory until a buyer wants it.

Soil Amendment: This company has developed a soil amendment that improves and strengthens the soil ecology of agricultural lands. Independent tests have shown a 25% increase in yield on corn crops with a simultaneous 50% reduction in fertilizer use. In addition to the improved economic value, this reduces agricultural run-off a main source of waterway pollution (creating dead zones in rivers and seas) by both using less fertilizer and improving the health and holding capacity of the soil.