Sustainability: the role of technology – and of blockchain

Anoop Nannra, Global Blockchain Segment Lead, Amazon Web Services
Anoop Nannra, Global Blockchain Segment Lead, Amazon Web Services

The age of carbon tax is upon us. From the implementation of Local Law 97 in New York City to other governments taking a keen interest in this legislation, there is a rising global trend towards greater climate awareness and accountability. Indeed, at Amazon Web Services (AWS), we have committed to sustainability on the cloud, by running our business in the most environmentally friendly way possible, and achieving 100% renewable energy usage for our global infrastructure.

While elected officials in cities around the world are paying closer attention to the methane emissions of their corporate constituents, it is important to note that the technology to measure and report carbon footprint adequately is not yet universally available.

This opens opportunities for AWS partner start-ups and enterprises to innovate with solutions to meet this trend. As sustainability innovation today falls into the mature category of ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance), it is becoming clear that this more relevant than ever before.

Sustainability – the new governance metric

There is also growing evidence that sustainability will be one of the strategic pillars in corporate governance. We are now seeing companies outline comprehensive mechanisms and controls based on the value attributes of sustainability. This not only governs how companies will operate and how they hire, but how they go to market, how they define channels to market, how and who they partner with, and how they select vendors and suppliers. While we are seeing very early signals of this new sustainability driven corporate governance model, impacts across supply chains are starting to emerge. Could this be the emergence of a new business norm?

It is customary to consider ties between supply chain and carbon offset commitments as an obvious benefactor of a sustainability initiative, but we are also seeing the broader value chain benefit. As newer corporate governance models surface, changes to HR policies, procurement policies, partner strategies, and more, will evolve as well.

However, as with most efficient markets, considerable business process automation needs to occur in order for this to happen. More importantly, the efficacy of these processes and the data they consume must be treated as a first-class design consideration.

This is where I believe the application of blockchain technology and its integration with machine learning and analytics can form a powerful combination to automate many of what I believe will become shared business processes. Fundamentally, for an ecosystem to become more holistic in its approach to sustainability goals, data efficacy is critical.

Business continuity and sustainability – interdependent benefits

While much of the attention in the blockchain space is focused on data integrity, process integrity is equally important. The continuous execution of shared business processes, as is exemplified and put to practice through smart contacts in blockchain networks, yields the creation of an operating environment where business functions never stop.

Applied to the vast number of sustainability use cases, this new perspective on business continuity results in metrics and actions that not only provide automation of the validation of sustainability goals, but can also automate course corrections and adaptation to dynamic ecosystem conditions.

Whether it be applied to renewables, e-waste, food scarcity, or consumer packaged goods, the application of blockchain technology in combination with machine learning and analytics enables enterprises to accelerate not only their own ESG goals, but also the ESG goals of entire ecosystems.