UN Environment Assembly sees innovation as the way to #SolveDifferent

By Pierre Courtemanche
Sustainability and Supply Chain Strategist, OPTEL

The time has come for a global collaborative effort to come up with sustainable solutions to some of the world’s most pressing environmental, social and economic problems.

This was the primary call to action of the fourth United Nations Environment Assembly, held March 11-15, 2019, in Nairobi, Kenya. More than 4,700 heads of state, ministers, business leaders, senior UN officials and civil society representatives gathered to exchange ideas under the theme “Innovative solutions for environmental challenges and sustainable consumption and production.”

I had the privilege to co-moderate a session with the president of the UN General Assembly, the head of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, and the president of the African Chapter Global Network supporting SMEs on sustainability. The topic of the discussion was “Innovative sustainable business development at a time of rapid technological change.”

The following is a summary of my presentation. These points were not only considered particularly relevant, but also accentuated what OPTEL can do to help attain sustainability in business.

People and businesses must collaborate and build global digital platforms and networks where data will flow freely, and investments and benefits are shared among stakeholders, from the smallholder farmer to the consumer.

Big data is giving rise to a new economy where the largest markets are no longer in producing goods but in capturing and processing information, giving consumers and smallholder producers’ data substantial value in a multi-billion-dollar market.

In fact, data is now so valuable that we need to be mindful. We need to ensure that data harvesting and mining, as well as emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, serve people – regardless of their status.

As the world’s leading provider of supply chain traceability solutions and a Certified B Corporation committed to using business for good, OPTEL is in a unique position to help make a new digital ecosystem a global reality.

We use and develop disruptive technologies to build a better world, and we believe end-to-end traceability is the best solution to:

  • Connect all stakeholders in an empowered, inclusive supply chain
  • Fight product counterfeiting across all industries
  • Identify and stop human rights abuses such as forced and child labor
  • Increase productivity, control waste and promote a circular economy through smarter supply chains
  • Build trust and confidence among consumers and end users
  • Enable accountability
  • Address these and other issues on a global scale because our technologies can identify where they are and who is involved

But technology is only one part of the solution. We need improved traceability legislation and global policies to protect the very poor and vulnerable, who are often the most important drivers of local economies. It’s a textbook illustration of thinking globally and acting locally.

We have the technology to create the enabling conditions for positive change. What we need now is the will of all stakeholders, from laborers to legislators, to join forces to make it happen.

Image source: March 14, 2019. Nairobi Kenya. The 4th United Nations Environment Assembly UNEA 4. © NATALIA MROZ/ UNEP