Exploring approaches to tackling CO2
Mats W Lundberg, Sustainable Business Manager at Sandvik Materials Technology, explains why it’s time to open up about sustainability efforts.
Back in 2015, signatories of the Paris Climate Agreement pledged to collectively follow a familiar goal — to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below two degrees Celsius and pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees. Nearly four years after 196 countries signed on the dotted line, most countries are still way off course.
The world is nearly one degree warmer than it was before widespread industrialisation, according to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), with the 20 warmest years on record having all occurred in the past 22 years, and 2015-2018 making up the top four.
While one degree might not sound like it will trigger us to peel off our winter coats and flock to Finland for a sunny getaway, an increase in temperature could cause catastrophic change. Sea levels will rise, ocean temperatures and acidity will grow and ecosystems will irreparably transform.
So, what are we actually doing to prevent these disasters? The truth is, not as much as we’ve promised. Global carbon emissions increased by 1.7% in 2017 and a further 2.7% in 2018, with data from 2019 forecasting levels to reach even higher.
As a global society, efforts to tackle climate change drastically vary. On one hand, the UK reduced its emissions by 44% between 1990 and 2018, but its own government Committee on Climate Change has advised that the country is lagging behind many of its long-term goals. China is on course to meet its Paris targets, yet these are not ambitious enough to limit warming to below two degrees.
Elsewhere, Sweden’s target is to have zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2045, while the US has notified the United Nations (UN) of its intended withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. Together, we make up a mixed bag with inconsistent results.
The bathtub model
Sporadic global efforts and varying goals can make it difficult to visualise our current carbon situation. The carbon dioxide (CO2) measured in the atmosphere is the key marker of progress or failure, so a clear understanding of our current actions can help us make plans for the future.
Despite not being the most water-efficient hygiene method, a bathtub is surprisingly useful when bringing this vision to life. Articulated by MIT professor John Sterman and author Linda Booth Sweeney, the Climate Bathtub model represents the vicious circle of attempting to remediate our carbon consumption.
Consider a bathtub filled with water. The water represents the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and the bathtub represents the Earth’s atmosphere. The ‘water’ level rises as we add more into the tub, corresponding to the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere, and the drain at the bottom of the tub corresponds to the removal of the gas. The water level rises if the flow of water into the bath is larger than the flow out of its drain, and vice versa. The Paris Agreement’s targets of two and 1.5 degrees could be seen as two water level markers on the tub.
But what does a bathtub mean for climate change? First, we need to realise that the flow-in is larger than the flow out at the moment. Then, we need to, at a minimum, make the flow out equal to the flow in. This solution seems simple, either turn off the taps or create a greater drainage hole. However, in practice, there are thousands of taps that we need to turn off and just as many drainage holes that need discovering.
While we must all work to reduce the flow of the CO2 taps in our daily lives, we mustn’t forget the responsibility of industry in the effort to tackle climate change. It is here where the truth may hurt even more.
According to the World Steel Association, steel is responsible for between seven and nine per cent of all direct emissions from fossil fuels, and each tonne produced results in an average of 1.83 tonnes of CO2. As painful as this may be to admit, honesty is the first step towards change. Steel is a material central to our modern economy and is the second most traded commodity after oil, making it a vital resource.
Just like it has been for the past 150 years, steel will continue to be one of the world’s most sought after materials. As we’re not going to stop producing steel, it is vital that we evaluate its production in order to improve its environmental footprint. There are technology routes that can lower emissions from steelmaking, such as changes to blast furnaces and rethinking its core metallurgical equations. However, the catch is that many of these breakthroughs are a long way from making an impact, and customers must be prepared for the elevated cost of products that is incurred by these changes.
Humans used more resources than we were able to replenish inside one year for the first time back in 1970. Dubbed Earth Overshoot Day, the date that the Earth’s biocapacity is breached creeps forward each year, falling on 29 July in 2019.
Instead of looking to change the way we make carbon-intensive materials such as steel, we should examine how we can improve its existing lifecycle. The circular economy presents an opportunity to tackle the causes of global challenges by effectively making the most out of resources rather than wasting them. Instead of metaphorically adding more water to the bathtub, we need to make sure everything we’ve already put into it is used to its maximum potential to achieve a state of responsible consumption and production.
The energy-intensive nature of steel production makes circularity an effective option to maximise existing resources and reduce the amount of carbon added into the atmosphere. With plans to become more than 90 per cent circular by 2030, Sandvik is driving the shift in an industry that not only needs to be honest about its inherent inefficiencies, but must also do all it can to enact positive change and improve its environmental impact.
Now, it is more crucial than ever that we are honest about our CO2 consumption. Not only do our varied global efforts to meet sustainability goals need to be confessed and addressed, but we must also be open about the outputs of some of the world’s most vital industries in order to effectively tackle their challenges. After all, a bathtub can only hold so much water.
By Mats W. Lundberg, Sustainable Business Manager, Sandvik
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.