The pandemic also saw a clear rise in e-commerce, expanding its scope in terms of firms, consumer segments and products2. In order to adapt, businesses had to move online, amping up the strong data proliferation that pre-existed the pandemic. While we believe Covid-19 has accelerated key technology trends such as cloud computing, digitalization, data proliferation, and that these will last, we also have to keep in mind the risks they carry in terms of cybersecurity and data privacy.
Most of all, it did not change the environmental and social challenges that we face, and how technology can address these. We believe that, without sustainability, the risks for our populations and planet will likely offset the potential benefits of Technology.”
Volume of Data/Information Created, Captured, Copied, and Consumed Worldwide from 2010 to 2024 (In Zetabytes)
Source: Statista, 2021
Technology is an enabler of innovation. Information Technology equipment, for instance, is essential to the development and implementation of potentially higher sustainability solutions across all other sectors. It is a key component for renewable energy and essential support for the socio-economic development of emerging countries.
Yet, if we look at a company providing semiconductors for solar panels for example, it seems like a sustainable development opportunity, but is it really – what about the risks?”It all depends: the components rely on minerals that are often present in countries where violations of fundamental rights are widespread (e.g., child labor, forced labor). In addition, if you consider the life cycle approach, they often end up as non-recycled toxic waste!
Appearances can also be deceiving if we look at companies providing applications to access knowledge and banking services in emerging countries facing unstable geopolitical situations. Insufficient cybersecurity measures or abusive use of personal data can very well lead to the risk of people losing their money and seeing their privacy violated.
Thus, while it may seem like technology helps companies that are steering the planet towards a greener future and society on a fairer path, we do not believe it’s necessarily the case. That’s why our analytical framework looks for companies developing sustainability solutions, but only where environmental and social risks are properly managed.
However, we feel that if we keep developing new technologies such as 5G but cannot maintain this growth in energy efficiency, there is a clear environmental risk.”Our view is that many companies have a role to play in preventing the Tech industry from becoming an energy intensive sector. Video traffic currently accounts for 66 percent of all mobile data traffic, a share that is forecast to increase to 77 percent in 20265.
We believe companies can refrain from embedding autoplay videos everywhere and can also start matching videos’ resolution to the viewer’s internet network (e.g., broadband or cellular).
Global Trends in Internet Traffic, Data Center Workloads, and Data Center Energy Use, 2010-2019
Source: International Energy Agency
We think technology can be a true enabler of innovation. However, it’s a matter for all (businesses, consumers and public authorities) to make sure it doesn’t hinder us from moving toward sustainable development in our planet and society.
- The pandemic witnessed faster adoption of certain technologies such as Cloud computing or e-Commerce, as well as a strong data proliferation.
- However, it did not change the environmental and social challenges that we face, and how technology can address these.
- When it comes to technology, sustainability can be quite an odyssey, as solutions never come without risks.
- Our analysis framework looks for companies developing sustainability solutions, but only where environmental and social risks are properly managed.
*CFA® and Chartered Financial Analyst® are registered trademarks owned by the CFA Institute. **Mirova US is a U.S.- based investment advisor that is a, wholly owned affiliate of Mirova. Mirova is operated in the U.S. through Mirova US. Mirova US and Mirova entered into an agreement whereby Mirova provides Mirova US investment and research expertise, which Mirova US then combines with its own expertise when providing advice to clients.
1 Source: Gartner
2 Source: www.oecd.org/coronavirus/policy-responses/e-commerce-in-the-time-of-covid-19-3a2b78e8/
3 B2C: Business to Consumers
4 Source: International Energy Agency (IEA).
5 Ericsson Mobility Report, 2020
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