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Technology Is the Key To Solving the Global Climate Crisis

Updated: Jun 4, 2021

How do you wrap your arms around a problem as big, complex, and consequential to humanity as climate change? At the center of all the solutions is sustainable technology.


[®HAKAN & SOPHIE/Stocksy United]

The first documented mention of environmental issues at the World Economic Forum (WEF) occurred in 1986 when Volkswagen Chairman Carl Hahn offhandedly called for more attention to environmental protection. “In the long term,” he said, “this is our only chance.”

In 2020, WEF’s 50th anniversary, climate issues — unresolved and undeniably far more serious — were elevated to the top of the agenda. So it’s no surprise that leaders from industry, academia, and government again addressed the issue of climate change and environmental sustainability at WEF 2021. Given the intractability of the problem, it’s likely that climate will be a top issue for years, and that technology is the most important element — maybe even more important than human behavior — to containing the crisis.

Technology is part of the [climate] solution, not part of the problem, said Inger Andersen, executive director, United Nations Environmental Program


Despite the seriousness of the climate issue, there has been important progress made recently. To name just a few:

  • -INGER ANDERSEN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UNITED NATIONS ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRAM growth rate of VC investment in artificial intelligence between 2013-2019.

  • 90% of companies in the S&P 500 now publish annual sustainability reports, an indicator that industry is putting its money where its mouth is.

  • The global pullback on travel due to COVID-19 resulted in a more than 9% drop in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2020. While not sustainable, it shows that real change is possible and within reach.

  • The cost of renewable energy sources continued to fall, hitting record lows in 2020.

  • Thirteen additional major companies signed on to the Climate Pledge, a commitment to be net-zero carbon by 2040, a decade ahead of the Paris Agreement’s goal of 2050.

Harnessing technology for environmental sustainability

At the WEF, one group of leaders addressed how technology facilitates better and faster action on climate.

“Technology is part of the [climate] solution, not part of the problem,” said Inger Andersen, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program. “We in the UN and our Secretary General speak about two mega-trends that we need to be mindful of. One is climate change, and the other is digital technology.” Understanding how these two mega-trends intersect will be key to combating climate change.

Salesforce is doing its part to help organizations get a grip on their own carbon footprint. One example is Sustainability Cloud, which started as an internal tool to track and control our own emissions. Now, any organization can understand its impact and take action. The tool enables a deeper look at everything from business travel to raw materials transport and electricity consumption — all of which are crunched into emissions data and reported in a pre-built dashboard.

Salesforce has recently built on this work by officially including climate as a part of the company public policy platform, joining priorities like equal rights, privacy and security, and others.

It is the obligation of tech leaders to shape technology as a force for good.


As a business maneuver, this is increasingly important as consumers seek products and brands that align with their personal values.