Environmental Solutions Learn how to correctly analyse this topic.

Sarah Simon

24 min Read Time | June 23rd 2022

Key takeaways

1

The topic addresses a company’s products and/or services that have positive impacts on environmental issues related to biodiversity, climate, natural resources, landscape, and others.

2

The range of solutions includes the provision of efficient management and supply of energy, waste, water, and other natural resources (forests and ecosystems conservation, fauna/flora biodiversity, air quality, and others).

3

To consider only the direct and intended impact of the products and/or services offered by the company (not the indirect impact).

Analyses must be written from a positive angle.

Executive Summary

Today, many companies are working to provide solutions to prevalent environmental issues. 

The focus should be on providing a solution to environmental issues through the conservation or protection of ecosystems, biodiversity, landscapes, and natural resources.

The range of solutions includes providing efficient management and supply of energy, waste, water, clean mobility, renewable energy, even through digital means, and others.

The analysis should be comprehensive and mention all environmental solutions that have a significant impact. To be substantial, it must be widely used. It should be considered 'game-changing.' In other words, to a certain extent, it should have revolutionised the industry. 

The topic aims to address solutions offered by companies that can be considered pioneers or trendsetters in their industries or companies that are players in incredibly impactful sectors where only a handful of competitors offer similar products/services. Therefore, the solutions must not be considered standard practices in the market.

The analysis must assess the final impact of the products and services in the form of solutions that allow individuals and other businesses to benefit.

SDG poster UN emblem PRINT 2020

SDG Choice

General Impact assessment

Green solutions are defined as technologies, products, and processes that have a more positive environmental impact compared to their current alternatives.

Source: https://www.investopedia.com/t...

To measure how a product or service offered by a company is providing an environmental solution depends on which type of solution(s). The guide is, therefore, broken down by different types of environmental solutions.

No matter the industry or the group, all analyses treating this topic should consider the following points:

1/ In your analysis, start by describing the product(s): the what, how much, and the who, following the IMP framework.

Then, describe the impact by linking studies on this product and its widespread impact, comparing with competitors or the industry average, when relevant.

2/ You must mention the direct and intended impact of the product or service and measure how significant it is.

You can also use studies as proxies.

Learn more in the article Step 5: Assess scale and value.

If a company is providing a service that is deemed critical for the proper functioning of a product, then we can accept it. Examples include consulting services, engineering, providing parts, or know-how, amongst others, that allow access to a product or service in a more 'indirect' manner.

The product or service discussed has to be a critical component for a project or product to be realised, that only a handful of companies can do

For example, not every company can build a nuclear power plant, as they would have to be highly specialised (probably more than solar and wind or other because there is such a high risk).

It is good to research the following:

  • Is the company providing a critical service?
  • It would be good to establish that they are big players (number of projects, market share, etc.). Shouldn't be a one-off or small side project.
  • Is the company specialised in the product or service that they are providing?
  • What is the company's track record in such solutions? Are the majority of the company's projects aiming to provide one type of solution?
    • Note that sometimes firms try to diversify themselves, rendering the solution a one-off project. Therefore, they are not specialised.

3/ This topic is highly interlinked with the following (that can be included in this high-level topic):

  • Digital Environmental Solutions
  • Clean Mobility Solutions
  • Renewable Energy Solutions


4/ The introduction should provide background information about the energy/waste/water solutions that are being discussed. It should include general background information on why energy/waste/water efficiency is important in the current world.

Studies can be used to provide further context in relation to the environmental impacts involved. It can also discuss the role of business and solutions in relation to these raw materials.

Read more on how to build a strong introduction in this article.

5/ Make sure to be comprehensive. Assess whether there are multiple environmental solutions provided by the company: clean mobility, water- energy- and waste- efficiencies, renewable energy, and other solutions.

The analysis should be comprehensive and mention all environmental solutions that have a significant impact. To be significant, it must be widely used, and to avoid remediation, it should be considered 'game-changing'.

In other words, to a certain extent, it should have revolutionised the industry. The topic aims to address solutions offered by companies that can be considered pioneers or trendsetters in their industries or companies that are players in incredibly impactful sectors where only a handful of competitors offer similar products/services. Therefore, the solutions must not be considered standard practices in the market.


6/ Make sure to describe the scale of the impact by taking into account:

6.1 The breadth of the impact

  • Is the impact local, national, or global?

  • How many people are concerned? Thousands? Hundreds of thousands?

6.2 The depth of the impact

  • Is the life of people concerned deeply affected, or does the issue just marginally impact them?

  • Are the changes brought by the issue profoundly changing society or the planet?

6.2 The persistence of the impact

  • How long would the impact described last for? Months? Years? Decades?

  • How reversible is the impact described in the impact analysis? Can it be easily stopped/extended?

7/ The analysis should remain critical and nuanced. What are the downsides and/or limitations?

To make sure to avoid greenwashing, check out our article Golden Rule #4: Go beyond Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

In your analysis, make sure you add value to your readers and go beyond the company’s CSR report by not merely reporting data from the company’s report but going the extra mile of providing additional metrics, studies, and sources to make your analysis robust and the impact value and scale are clear.

Caution: Make sure the topic you are discussing is not overlapping with the Core Business Impact analysis.

Below you will find a breakdown of different solutions that companies can provide. Make sure to be comprehensive if a company is providing more than one solution all having a significant impact.

Efficient Energy Solutions

What is it?

In an evermore “energy-hungry” world with limited resources, how can businesses, governments, households, and individuals perform accordingly with less? That’s when Efficient Energy Solutions come into action in a fundamental role in fostering the sustainable usage of the elements required in power generation and helping mitigate its impacts on the environment and climate change.

Homes today spend about 37% more energy than they used to back in 1980, with all the electric devices commonly present in modern times. Efficient appliances and equipment are more cost-effective options to reduce energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, businesses can also benefit from a lower carbon footprint in their production.

Through innovation and energy savings we already have the technology and knowledge to reduce our natural gas and electricity consumption by over 25% in different ways such as in building, heating, cooling, energy wasteless generation and distribution, insulation materials, efficient vehicles, and industrial machinery, smart homes, cities, and devices, among others. 

Sources

https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/smart-energy-solutions-improve-energy-efficiency
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Efficient_energy_use
https://www.eesi.org/topics/energy-efficiency/description
https://www.energy.gov/articles/future-home-tech-8-energy-saving-solutions-horizon
https://cleanenergysolutions.org/resources/technology/appliances-equipment
http://efficientenergysolutions.com/


Impact Assessment


This topic addresses the impact of products and services that allow other individuals and businesses to use energy more efficiently and reduce their electricity consumption. 

CautionThe topic does not include a company's own energy consumption. 

Some examples include but are not limited to energy-efficient home appliances and industrial machinery, LED lighting, construction materials such as insulation technology, insulating windows, and roofing.

Core Analysis

The core of the analysis should disclose the company’s solution(s) and how it impacts other companies/individuals.

The environmental solution can relate to the company's core business product or service. The solution cannot be for the company's own benefits, such as reducing the energy intensity for its own operations.

You should look at the wider impact, thereby including:

  • What is the issue that the company is tackling?
  • How is the company tackling this issue (i.e. the product/service)?
  • How many people/businesses have benefited from this solution? What is their geographical reach?
  • Have the solutions disrupted industries?
  • Are the products/solutions widely used? What's the market share?
  • Quantitative assessment of the impact,
    • for instance, how many kWh and/or how much GHG emissions are being avoided thanks to such solutions?
    • here, electricity consumption or CO2 emissions per capita can help translate the data found into an estimated equivalent human impact.
  • How long-lasting or profound are these solutions? Are they permanent or transitional solutions?
  • What is their depth? How profound a change do they make?

How to measure the impact of Efficient Energy Solutions?

Example: AMD's processor saves energy consumption by 84%

The issue: "Global energy consumption reached 173.34 Tn KWh in 20191. Out of it, 84.3% of energy (146.1Tn KWh) was derived from fossil fuels1. Energy consumption by using fossil fuels has given rise to increased emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs)2. The emission of GHGs is correlated with negative impacts such as global warming and climate change2."

The product or service: "AMD has improved the energy efficiency of its processor, reducing energy consumption by 84%.5"

The solution: "AMD did this by emphasizing the development of a highly integrated and efficient system-on-chip (SoC) architecture, as well as real-time power management and silicon-level efficiency enhancements6."

The output: "An organization that updates 50,000 laptops with AMD's latest processor saves 1.4 million kilowatt-hours of electricity in three years (about 470,000 kWh per year)."

The impact: "and saves 971,000 kg of CO2 emissions, the equivalent of 16,000 trees cultivated for ten years."


For the analysis to remain nuanced and critical, avoiding remediation, it should:

  • State how many, out of the total portfolio, products are considered energy-efficient.
  • That the products discussed save more than half of the energy that would have normally been consumed*
  • What are the drawbacks and limitations?

*Threshold: products that save more than 30% of the energy are worth discussing. As many products are moving towards being more energy-efficient, we need to make sure that the impact is significant.

Efficient Waste Solutions

What is it?

The traditional model of a linear economy based on the “take-make-disposal” logic of production/consumption is inherently unsustainable by definition in a closed system such as our planet where there is no real “throwing out” since there is no actual “out”. 

Much of the goods, packaging, and general waste produced end up in landfills or are incinerated, emitting carbon dioxide and methane gas when not treated accordingly. These are two massive contributors to the greenhouse effect and the climate change crisis we are currently facing globally. By 2050 there could be more plastic than fish in the oceans according to studies.

Waste management consists primarily of the 3 “R’s” program, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, while greater efficiency can be achieved through the so-called Circular Economy concept, where the products and supply chain are designed in such a way that there is minimal waste in the whole process, which is based on a closed-loop strategy where the “traditional waste’ can be recycled and reinserted in the value chain. Further, Waste-to-energy processes burn waste for electricity generation.

For instance, it is estimated that 75% of the American waste stream is recyclable, but only 30% of it actually is. What we need is to transition from the “Cradle to grave” model of production/consumption into the “Cradle to cradle” one as much as possible.

Sources

https://www.igi-global.com/dictionary/operationalization-of-circular-economy/75076#:~:text=An%20economy%20based%20on%20'take,they%20are%20accumulated%20as%20waste
https://www.ipcc-nggip.iges.or.jp/public/gp/bgp/5_3_Waste_Incineration.pdf
https://solarimpulse.com/waste-management-solutions#
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circular_economy#:~:text=A%20circular%20economy%20https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-recycli
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/01/20/by-2050-there-will-be-more-plastic-than-fish-in-the-worlds-oceans-study-says/
https://ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/topics/circular-economy-introduction/overview?gclid=Cj0KCQiA15yNBhDTARIsAGnwe0UQ1onpvPKhkf88e5j0Xfc5E1Zo0e-bHMSGZWNqNsvmBRDDxL46It4aAtlAEALw_wcB
https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/biomass/waste-to-energy-in-depth.php


Impact Assessment

This topic addresses the impact of products and services that allow other individuals and businesses to manage their waste more efficiently and sustainably.

These solutions can be in the form of waste reduction, classification, and disposal.

Caution: The topic does not include a company's own waste production. 

Core Analysis

The core of the analysis should disclose the company’s solution(s) and how it impacts other companies/individuals.

The environmental solution can relate to the company's core business product or service. The solution cannot be for the company's own benefits, such as reducing the energy intensity for its own operations.

You should look at the wider impact, thereby including:

  • What is the issue that the company is tackling?
  • How is the company tackling this issue (i.e. the product/service)?
  • How many people/businesses have benefited from this solution? What is their geographical reach?
  • Have the solutions disrupted industries?
  • Are the products/solutions widely used? What's the market share?
  • Quantitative assessment of the impact,
    • for instance, the volume of waste being saved, reduced, and/or recycled thanks to such solutions
    • here, waste production per capita can help translate the data found into an estimated equivalent human impact when such pieces of information are not available
  • How long-lasting or profound are these solutions? Are they permanent or transitional solutions?
  • What is their depth? How profound a change do they make?

How to measure the impact of Efficient Waste Solutions?

Example: Veolia recycles 1 billion PET bottles every year in Rostock, Germany

The issue: "Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) is the most used polymer in the world. 30.3 million tons of PET were produced in 20171. PET bottles take around 450 years to break down, and if not recycled will end up in landfills, the natural environment, or incinerated2."

The service + solution: "Veolia, specializing in resource management services, has engineered a low-energy system that recycles PET bottles into certified food-grade secondary plastic flakes. [...] The flakes are sold to their customers to produce 'new' bottles'."

The output: "Since 2002 it has recycled 1 billion PET bottles a year3. "

The impact: "Producing new bottles from 1 billion recycled bottles decreases reliance on oil, saving 31,000 tonnes of oil per year3. Additionally, 110,000 tonnes of CO2 are avoided."

For the analysis to remain nuanced and critical, avoiding remediation, it should mention:

  • What the drawbacks and limitations are

"Even if ¼ of plastic produced was PET, 174 trillion is significantly more than the 1 billion bottles recycled by Veolia, meaning that Veolia's impact is not highly significant."

Efficient Water Solutions

What is it?

Water is a basic human need, be it for personal consumption, hydration, hygiene, or sanitation, without water life is impossible. No wonder it has a whole SDG (6) to call its own. Water scarcity is a reality in many places of the world while over 600 million people do not have access to clean water, and another 2.7 billion suffer from water shortage for at least a month every year. 

Freshwater accounts for less than 3% of the planet’s total water supply and its demand has been increasing twice as much compared to the global population’s growth rate.

Agriculture is responsible for 50-70% of all water withdrawal in the world, with industries representing around 22% of the resource’s consumption globally. The electric power production industry, including hydroelectric, nuclear, and coal and oil-fired power stations account for 50-70% of industrial water use. Paper and pulp production, chemicals, mining and metal processing, and petroleum refining are also known to use substantial amounts of water in their operations.

Water efficiency aims for the sustainable use of the resource through a variety of solutions that comprise water conservation/reduction, pumping technologies, pressure management, wastewater treatment and reuse, desalination, among others.

Sources

https://projectworldimpact.com/cause/Water-Scarcity?gclid=Cj0KCQiAtJeNBhCVARIsANJUJ2EY2iYCY3a2ekrkB296INilZDK1ETl1WEnaK-i4pA1kICIIQNwEpxkaAvNeEALw_wcB
https://www.indiahomehealthcare.com/blogpost/the-importance-of-water-in-our-daily-lives/
https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/other/industrial/index.html#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20United%20States,%2C%20food%2C%20and%20paper%20products
https://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/energy-government-and-defense-magazines/industrial-water-use
https://smartvatten.com/water-efficiency/
https://www.danfoss.com/en/about-danfoss/articles/cf/three-efficient-solutions-to-tackle-the-water-challenge/

Impact Assessment

This topic addresses the impact of products and services that allow other individuals and businesses to manage their water more efficiently and sustainably.

It can be in the form of equipment, infrastructure, and services. 

More specifically, it addresses solutions including, but not limited to, water efficiency, reducing water intensity, and implementing water recycling that benefits other businesses, households or communities.

Caution: The topic does not include a company's own water consumption.

Core Analysis

The core of the analysis should disclose the company’s solution(s) and how it impacts other companies/individuals.

The environmental solution can relate to the company's core business product or service. The solution cannot be for the company's own benefits, such as reducing the energy intensity for its own operations.

You should look at the wider impact, thereby including:

  • What is the issue that the company is tackling?
  • How is the company tackling this issue (i.e. the product/service)?
  • How many people/businesses have benefited from this solution? What is their geographical reach?
  • Have the solutions disrupted industries?
  • Are the products/solutions widely used? What's the market share?
  • Quantitative assessment of the impact,
    • for instance, the volume of water being saved, reduced, and/or recycled thanks to such solutions
    • here, water consumption per capita can help translate the data found into an estimated equivalent human impact when such information is unavailable
  • How long-lasting or profound are these solutions? Are they permanent or transitional solutions?
  • What is their depth? How profound a change do they make?

*Threshold: regarding water efficiency, products that save more than 30% of the water are worth discussing. As many products are moving towards being more water-efficient (end-users consuming less water), we need to make sure that the impact is significant.


How to measure the impact of Efficient Waste Solutions?

Example: Flowserve's products are installed in 90% of world's desalination plants

The issue: "About 1.1 Bn people lack access to safe drinking water worldwide, and approximately 2.7 Bn people face water scarcity problems3."

The product or service: "Flowserve's portfolio includes pumps, valves, seals, and automation services5;p6."

The solution: "Moreover, the company has a spectrum of equipment specially designed for reverse osmosis desalination plants9;p4."

The output: "Flowserve's products are installed in 90% of the world's desalination plants6. As a consequence, the water desalinated by Flowserve's equipment comprises around 87 Mn m3 per day4, which corresponds to the daily water consumption of roughly 76 Mn American households."

The impact: "Flowserve significantly contributes to a sustainable future through its portfolio. Flowserve's technology enables access to freshwater to individuals and companies in water-stressed areas."

For the analysis to remain nuanced and critical, avoiding remediation, it should include:

  • What the drawbacks and limitations are

*Threshold: regarding waste efficiency, products that reducre more than 30% of the waste are worth discussing. As many products are moving towards a circular economic model, we need to make sure that the impact is significant.

Industry-Specific Solution Examples

Aerospace and Defense

Radars and satellites are fundamental technologies widely used for data building and managing biodiversity protection, deforestation, wild and human-caused forest fires, and others. Such visual and statistical mapping supports decision-making processes regarding how governments and society can curb climate change and protect biodiversity.

For instance, the most significant and crucial forest globally is the Amazon, located in Brazil. It has been suffering from increasing rates of deforestation throughout time. The satellite's tree cover loss mapping is used to track such issues and show how agriculture and illegal deforestation have advanced toward the native forest.

https://www.globalforestwatch.org/blog/data-and-research/tree-cover-loss-satellite-data-trend-analysis/
https://www.usgs.gov/center-news/satellite-data-shows-value-monitoring-deforestation-forest-degradation?qt-news_science_products=1#qt-news_science_products
https://agencia.fapesp.br/scientists-use-radar-data-to-measure-the-impact-of-forest-fires-in-the-amazon/36726/
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-12737-x
http://www.inpe.br/amazonia1/en/uses_applications.php

Agricultural Products

Environmental solutions include sustainable alternatives such as plant-based products, products free from palm oil (that are otherwise mostly made using palm oil), alternative agricultural methods, etc.

Auto Parts

Environmental solutions include but are not limited to clean air, battery-powered products, hydrogen-fueled transportation technology, and electric transportation technology.

Building Products & Furnishings

Innovations in building materials are a vital component in developing sustainable infrastructure. The environmental impacts lie in adopting sustainable building materials and processes that are more resource-efficient and can improve the environmental impacts of buildings throughout their lifecycle.

Sustainable building products and furnishings can lead to lower energy or water consumption, lower waste production, and promote a circular economy.

Construction Materials

Concrete and steel have been used as construction materials for centuries and are known for being too carbon-intensive. A transition to more sustainable building is fundamental to fighting climate change. New solutions include wood, bamboo, cork, straw bales, recycled plastic, cob, etc.

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-02612-5
https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2020/1/15/21058051/climate-change-building-materials-mass-timber-cross-laminated-clt
https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/sustainable-construction-materials.php
https://www.barbuliannodesign.com/post/eco-friendly-building-materials-list

Engineering and Construction Services

Civil engineering and related areas are fundamental for human well-being worldwide but are also responsible for severe environmental issues regarding natural resources withdrawal and carbon footprint. It accounts for 39% of global energy-related emissions. The concept of Green Building aims to tackle such negative impacts by either mitigating or eliminating them, using innovative technologies and design in a wide range of themes, including efficient energy, water and waste, retrofit, sustainable construction materials, biomimicry and permaculture, and others.

A few examples of sustainable or green buildings are the Pixel Building (Melbourne, Australia), One Central Park (Sydney, Australia), Bahrain World Trade Center 1 and 2 (Bahrain), and Museum of Tomorrow (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), among others.

https://www.worldgbc.org/what-...
https://ashden.org/news/emergency-response-climate-crisis-demands-a-building-revolution/?gclid=CjwKCAiAhreNBhAYEiwAFGGKPHczDZKGNwnobyffnuLjPEHCoyA-isnTVeDajb_cu1Gfh3cbwTk5DBoCCZ8QAvD_BwE
https://edition.cnn.com/style/article/green-buildings-world-sustainable-design/index.html

Electrical and Electronic Equipment

A wide range of home appliances and electronic devices make people's and businesses' lives easier worldwide. However, they also have profound environmental impacts regarding natural resources withdrawal and carbon footprint, especially energy-wise, in terms of production and consumption. The so-called eco-friendly or green products are designed for water, energy, and waste efficiency, including sustainable components, laptops, water usage controllers, solar chargers, intelligent batteries, biomaterials, and others.

https://technobyte.org/eco-friendly-green-electronic-gadgets/
https://matmatch.com/resources/blog/top-5-green-materials-for-electronics-and-advanced-technologies/
https://neuronicworks.com/blog/environmentally-sustainable-design/
https://www.vttresearch.com/en/news-and-ideas/five-ways-towards-sustainable-electronics

Industrial Machinery & Goods

Ever since the industrial revolution driven by the invention of the steam engine, large-scale manufacturing has boosted living standards throughout the world, but not without an environmental price that only recently humankind has been acknowledging and trying to address. Currently, efforts are developing more sustainable industrial processes and machinery, producing greener goods due to various innovations towards ecodesign, decarbonization, and efficiency in water, energy, and waste, among others.

Sustainable sourcing and conscious consumerism are pushing this agenda forward. For example, the packaging company Tetra Pak claims to present significant environmental impact mitigation by using its innovative and efficient equipment considering water and energy consumption, both in its operations and for its clients, reaching 40-50% reduction levels.

https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/sustainability/our-insights/reimagining-industrial-operations
https://www.etmm-online.com/10-examples-of-sustainability-in-machine-tool-manufacturing-a-903599/
https://www.tetrapak.com/sustainability/food/customer-focus/sustainable-equipment

Professional & Commercial Services

Environmental solutions include but are not limited to supplying services for other companies to become more sustainable through resource efficiency, reducing waste, reducing pollution, and others.

Pulp & Paper Products

The Pulp & Paper Products industry can provide environmental solutions through more sustainable materials such as cellulose and recycled materials to reduce raw material use, waste accumulation, and GHG emissions.

Semiconductors

Semiconductors are ubiquitous and used for many different purposes, acting as engineers providing solutions on all grounds. Innovations in the semiconductors industry include but are not limited to driving advances in new technologies for the digitised era, ultimately enabling advances in transportation, clean energy, air pollution, and countless other applications.

This topic aims to capture the company's most incredible advancements that have significantly impacted specific industries.

Waste Management

This topic concerns products and/or services that help individuals and other businesses manage their waste more efficiently and sustainably. These solutions can be in the form of waste reduction, recycling, classification, and disposal.

The solutions topic for this industry is meant to separate the recycling and recovery portion of their operations from the "traditional" waste management activities.

Water Utilities & Services

Solutions in the Water Utilities & Services industry include but are not limited to sanitation services, hygiene, distribution infrastructure, and other innovative approaches.

As some companies in this industry help treat waste in addition to water, some examples include recycling waste and transforming waste into energy.

Topic Webinar

Related
Articles

Based on the article you've just read, here are some more we think you'd be interested in.

17 Min read

Renewable Energy Solutions

Learn how to correctly analyse this topic.

11 Min read

Clean Mobility Solutions

Learn how to correctly analyse this topic.

13 Min read

Digital Environmental or Social Solutions

Learn how to correctly analyse this topic.

World Green Background Sustainability small

Let’s take action together

With the right investment companies having a positive impact on the planet are able to flourish. Our community forms part of that mission by measuring their impact.

Join Us