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COP28: Climate action not threat, but opportunity for businesses – experts |

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COP28: Climate action not threat, but opportunity for businesses – experts

Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo -
COP28: Climate action not threat, but opportunity for businesses â experts
From right to left: Jerry Kao, Acer Chief Operating Officer; Shelly Blackburn of Microsoft Cross Solutions; Gokul V Subramaniam, Intel India President and Intel’s Vice President CCG for Sustainability Strategy; Elizabeth Sturcken, Environmental Defense Fund Managing Director at COP28 in Dubai / Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — “Sustainability is good business.”

Such was among the key messages of leaders from global tech giants Acer, Intel and Microsoft at the panel discussion “The Future PC: Designed with Our Planet in Mind!” held in Expo City, Dubai yesterday.

Jerry Kao, Acer Chief Operating Officer, said that he learned from his around 20 years of experience with the company that there is no use of growing the company to become very big if the planet would be hurt just as much.

He believes that even just five to 10 years of unified actions can impact many, many years and generations to come. As such, the company has setup sustainable programs that always make the Earth a part of the company’s mission. They make sure to extend their mission from their employees to their suppliers and customers.

At Acer, their sustainability programs touch on six areas: energy consumption, product design including packaging, production, logistics and recycling.

He admitted, however, that budget is always an issue in the road to sustainability. 

“For these actually, we spend a lot of effort for energy saving, energy efficiency, for example, all of our office requirements, all our suppliers and partners, we manage their energy efficiency with close monitoring…”

He acknowledged the challenge that in order to keep prices affordable, businesses should employ mass production – and many businesses and people are already used to this business model that they share for generations.

Despite the high cost of sustainability and sustainable supplies, Acer chose to still position themselves as affordable so they can reach more end-users with their sustainability advocacy as well and to inspire people to invest in sustainability, Kao said.

But to be sustainable, a company should find its or leverage and stick to its core values from Day 1 and share these sustainable core values to its suppliers and to reach as much customers as possible, businesses should give options to end-users with different sustainable goals – companies should, for example, have services to offer for those who want to repair or recycle their products, noted Kao.

The company’s efforts are starting to gain traction: Companies can start to influence from the inside such as their suppliers – and Kao proudly shared that more than half of their suppliers are now environmentally compliant.

Also now, more and more customers are approaching their brand to ask for more sustainable products. Kao recalled of a friend from another company who told the company his friend is working with, “Look at what Acer did. How can’t we not follow?”

Companies’ goal now should be to excite customers and make sustainability attractive to the market, said Gokul V Subramaniam, Intel India President and Intel’s Vice President CCG for Sustainability Strategy. 

“Sustainability is a journey that all of us must hop in… If we don’t make a commitment, we’ll all be responsible for it,” he pointed out. 

To achieve singularity in climate action, the business sector has to find a way to cut across their cultural barriers and differences. Businesses, he said, should realize that a unified climate action can make their businesses more efficient – by using solar or renewable energy, reducing waste, and picking the right materials from conflict-free sources. 

“All of these, in some ways, can impact the appraisal of our efficiency that is going to help the business," he ensured.

“While it seems like not business-friendly, there is a lot of opportunity... A lot should be done and all of these should be in partnership with the ecosystem – operating system, PC manufacturers.”

According to him, companies that are into sustainability are often criticized that “we’re spending a lot of time to measure.” 

“But if we don’t measure, we don’t know where you are (in terms of sustainability progress),” he noted. 

Measuring, according to Elizabeth Sturcken, Environmental Defense Fund Managing Director, is not an unnecessary expense, but rather, a means to help them reach their sustainability goals.

Environmental Defense Fund is a global non-profit organization tackling climate change, which has been dubbed as “the greatest challenge of our time.”

“While half of the world’s largest companies have set planet goals, the vast majority don’t know how they’re going to get there,” Sturcken said.

“Business has a very big role to play in our circular economy and many, many products, as you know, are created in linear way…”

E-waste, energy consumption, greenhouse emissions, natural resources, carbon footprint – these are just some of the areas where tech companies and everyone from their value chain – from employees to suppliers and customers – can monitor to measure their impact on the environment.

Third-party regulatory bodies like Environmental Defense Fund can help companies decide what to prioritize and for companies to be critical of their ecosystems that will eventually lead them to a business culture that could find a win-win solution for every part of their ecosystem.

“There should be change and unity in views, markets, policy, science, media and businesses working together to meet their goals,” Sturcken said.

“Technology is of course, for progress and also for sustainability.”

Technology, she noted, can be used to address climate change. It is key “to repair, recycle, reuse and really bring us forward toward sustainability.”

According to her, the transition to going green could either be the biggest economic threat or it could be turned into a multi-trillion-dollar business opportunity of our generation especially now that the youth, the next wave of customers, are expecting more and more brands to go zero-waste.

“We’re in a decisive decade. Our actions in the next eight years will determine our climate needs for future generations,” Sturcken stressed. “It’s really not an over statement. The truth is we can do this. Technology can help us, too.”

Businesses should share their eco-friendly behavior with partners and customers and equip their employees with sustainability skills not only for integrity but for its overall impact to the business, said Shelly Blackburn of Microsoft Cross Solutions.

“We can’t control or predict the future,” she said, “but we can start establishing the status quo today for the future.”


Editor's note: The tour to COP28 was hosted by Acer. At no stage does the host organization have a say on the stories generated from the coverage, interviews conducted, publication date and story treatment. Content is produced solely by following editorial guidelines.

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