Internet of Sustainability
The new paradigm in climate action
Sustainability is an omnipresent topic currently driving our economy and society. With 70% of consumers already looking for more sustainable alternatives, businesses around the world are increasingly preparing to meet this growing demand, whilst regulatory bodies are ensuring the development and alignment of adequate standards and consistent sustainability reporting.
Yet these initiatives also require more transparency at all levels. The changes happening to our environment affect us all and, just like knowing what the ingredients of the foods we consume are, knowing who and to what extent one is involved in those changes should be our human right. In light of this new paradigm, companies not only need to measure their impact on the environment, but also need to ensure that everyone has access to that information. While we are seeing an increase in regulatory initiatives such as the EU taxonomy, which provides clear guidelines on the reporting requirements for each sector, policymakers often forget one critical aspect: an open access to this type of information and its underlying data.
Our answer: Data sharing is climate caring
Our suggested solution is what we call the “Internet of Sustainability”. The foundation of this system will be a digital public infrastructure (DPI) which standardizes the access to individual sustainability data. The infrastructure is designed to allow everyone to participate, access and share sustainability data, whilst also making it available to the public in a machine-readable way.
The infrastructure will consist of so-called “data pods”, which will contain various information and data, ranging from a companies’ carbon accounting report to the Life Cycle Assessment of a specific product. A classification system will then connect these pods to create a transparent overview of a companies’ supply chain and its emissions. The data pods will be published with a reference to the underlying measurement methodology, which will be managed by the publisher, being either build on an existing standard, a designated third-party entity or the company itself.
Additionally, a digital identity system will be in place, destined to establish the identity of data publishers. This will be done through third-party auditors such as carbon accountants and other sustainability analysts, which will ensure the traceability of the published information. The possibility for the public to comment or verify the data will also be available.
Different actors can then formulate the obtained data into sustainability reports matching different standards, highlighting the interoperability of data formats. Thus, by using data pods, complex supply chains are modelled, double accounting issues become evident, and the DPI will therefore become a key element for an economy based on the principles of sustainability: the impact economy.
The conceptualization and realization of the “Internet of Sustainability” must follow an open innovation approach. We aim to create a network of interested parties to develop those necessary standards and implement adequate measures, to ensure that competing interests do not neglect the climate benefit of the project. Additionally, it is crucial for the technical implementation to be managed as a free and open-source software project.
The industry consortium will be initiated by ofcc, a nonprofit organization for sustainable consumption which, in partnership with ecolytiq, acts as a think tank to provide innovative solutions towards open sustainability data and an impact economy. Our aim is to invite business representatives and sustainability managers, to discuss how we can work together to achieve our vision of an open data and knowledge infrastructure based on shared principles and standards. Through the means of co-creation, ecolytiq and the OfnK will provide a first draft of the digital public infrastructure to kick-off the community driven approach.