Sustainable technology is that which can contribute to a more resource-efficient future and is mainly found in four areas: renewable energy, digitalization, decarbonization, and the circular economy. It has been gaining ground in recent decades amid wider technological advances that can deal with many of the planet’s problems. Investing in sustainable technology is a major theme for strategies targeting trends, renewables and the circular economy.
The most visible use of sustainable technology has been in renewable energy. Advances in light refraction technology has led to the development of solar power farms the size of cities. The largest wind turbines now stand over 300 meters tall, or as big as the Europe’s tallest building, the Shard in London. This has led to major investor demand in the makers of solar panels and the high-strength fiberglass composites used in wind turbine blades.
Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance
The digitalization trend is revolutionizing all forms of business, and is particularly prominent in financial technology which is transforming payment systems. Demand for cashless payments were further boosted by the coronavirus pandemic, while disruption to supply chains has raised interest in better logistics. Both can be tapped by fintech or industrial trends strategies.
Decarbonization is causing business models to change, most notably in the move away from the internal combustion engine towards electric vehicles. This has switched attention towards components for products such as car batteries, though the mining of lithium and cadmium present their own sustainability challenges. Smart mobility strategies have tapped into the opportunities offered not only by electric vehicles, but also autonomous driving and shared transport systems.
The circular economy theme has been growing as the world gradually moves away from the take-make-dispose model of extracting resources to produce goods that are then mostly discarded. The circular model focuses on technology that can aid recycling, extend product life and reduce wasteful packaging. New technologies, such as those developing biodegradable plastics, as well as changing consumer preferences regarding longer lasting products are seen as major drivers.
While these are the four largest themes, virtually all technology is being made more sustainable in one way or another, as the world becomes more efficient. Innovations range from making a dishwasher use less water to air conditioning systems that use less energy in office buildings, and satellites that can check up on deforestation. The biggest challenge is seen in further developing carbon capture technology, as its ability to remove CO2 from the atmosphere is currently too small to make a noticeable difference.