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New global initiative to help harness technology to tackle environmental issues.


PwC supports initiative launched at World Economic Forum’s first Sustainable Development Impact Summit.

A new initiative to identify, fund and scale new ventures, partnerships and business models that harness Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies to transform how the world tackles environmental issues, was launched today at the World Economic Forum Sustainable Development Impact Summit.  

The 4IR for the Earth initiative is a collaboration between the World Economic Forum, Stanford University and PwC, with funding from the Mava Foundation. It will bring together tech entrepreneurs, environmental experts, government and industry.

The initiative will identify and scale innovative new ventures, partnerships, finance and policy instruments that harness 4th Industrial Revolution technological advances to tackle environmental challenges. This includes identifying the investment opportunities for commercial, impact and blended finance; supporting governments to develop policies; and assisting entrepreneurs to implement innovative solutions at scale.

“Companies are still in the early stages of grappling with what the 4th industrial revolution’s technological advances means for their business.” comments Dr Celine Herweijer, partner, sustainability & climate change, PwC UK. 

“The challenge for investors, entrepreneurs and governments is not just to help unlock technology breakthroughs for urgent challenges like climate change, but to mainstream the environmental and social impact considerations into wider technological advances. This means the positive impacts on people and the planet can be maximised.”

The initiative comes as technology companies come under increasing scrutiny and a realization that some advances could also have unintended negative consequences for the environment and society. These include e-waste, the energy consumption of the vast and rapidly growing network of energy-consuming devices, and unsustainable demand for materials like cobalt, nickel, and lithium, through to the impacts of automation on jobs, data privacy, cyber security, and bio-technology. 

“We are really just at the beginning of this technology revolution. That means it’s not too late to do our best to make sure it is a sustainable one. The right enabling environment – including safeguards, investment, partnerships, policies, and oversight – needs to be put in place,” continues Dr Celine Herweijer, partner, sustainability & climate change, PwC.

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution provides an opportunity to fix the world’s burgeoning environmental challenges – but they need to be tackled by design,” said Dominic Waughray, Head of Public-Private Partnerships and Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum.  

“It is possible that a tipping point of widespread innovation to tackle some of the Earth’s most urgent challenges is within humanity’s grasp. There is great potential – and increasing interest – in exploring how innovations could also be applied to improve our environmental and natural resource security, including through technology and system innovations that we might not yet be able to even imagine.”

The World Economic Forum is convening its first Sustainable Development Impact Summit in New York on 18-19 September 2017. The Summit is dedicated to accelerating progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and the Paris climate agreement through public-private cooperation and the application of technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The first series of insight reports from the team covering 4IR opportunities for cities, Life on Land, and oceans will be published in the coming months. 

PwC recently examined how ten technological innovations including augmented intelligence certification (AI), blockchain, robots, Internet of Things (IoT), cloud technology and advanced materials could come together to enable the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions; clean power, smart transport systems, sustainable production and consumption, sustainable land use, smart cities and homes.

Notes to Editors

1. The 4IR for the Earth initiative will support public and private stakeholders through:

  • Insight reports to highlight specific opportunities for applying 4IR innovations to environmental solutions in climate change, oceans, biodiversity, cities, air pollution, food systems, water resources and sanitation. 
  • New networks of practitioners to co-design and innovate for action on the environment in each of these areas, leveraging the latest the 4IR has to offer. 
  • Developing a public-private accelerator for action to identify and accelerate a portfolio of innovative ventures, partnerships and finance instruments, which can have a transformative impact on our environment. 
  • Helping government stakeholders develop and trial the requisite policy protocols that will help 4IR solutions for the Earth to take root and scale. 

2. The World Economic Forum is convening its first Sustainable…