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Seven innovations for the C-Suite to accelerate sustainability

September 11, 2022

Innovation is shaping sustainability in every industry. Based on our work at the Bain Innovation Exchange with corporate clients across industries, connecting with hundreds of start-ups focused on this topic, and ongoing conversations with venture capitalists and other investors, we focus here on innovations poised to have an important impact on the sustainability of seven industries: advanced manufacturing services (AMS), automotive, retail, banking, energy, healthcare, and consumer products.

Each industry is affected by multiple trends and innovations, and each climate tech and green innovation highlighted is likely to disrupt several industries. We’ve focused on those currently gaining momentum in a given sector, and on the start-ups with an approach that could shake things up in the sector.

The construction sector contributes 37% of energy-related CO2 emissions, according to data from the International Energy Agency. 3-D printing’s latest advances in printing new materials, including cement and metals, and in printing larger objects can reduce natural resource use and waste in the sector, while increasing efficiency. Construction 3-D printing also allows faster and more accurate construction of complex or bespoke items.

The construction company Alquist uses 3-D printing to lower the cost of building sustainable single-family, multifamily, mixed-use, and senior-living residences in economically distressed and underserved communities. Using 3-D-printed concrete, Alquist saves up to 15 percent of the typical cost of building a home with wood. The company breaks ground this summer on the world’s largest 3-D construction project—200 3-D printed houses to be created over several years in southwestern Virginia.

Ninety-five percent of retail emissions are scope 3 indirect emissions in their supply chain, making the industry one of the leading emitters in this class. While scope 1 covers the direct emissions from sources owned by a company, and scope 2 focuses on the emissions from the electricity and heating or cooling sources they buy, scope 3 is particularly complex to manage since it involves a system, much of which is beyond the retailer’s direct control. Technologies including artificial intelligence (AI) can help monitor the system’s carbon footprint, forecasting and reducing emissions by optimizing internal operations and those of external partners.

Sweep built a carbon emission management platform on which retailers can monitor, forecast, and reduce scope 3 emissions along their entire value chain. The company raised $73 million in April 2022, evidence of growing interest in this type of sophisticated carbon accounting.

Banks continue to create new forms of sustainable value, including greener, impact-driven products and services.

As the rise of fintech confirmed, banks are always competing with digital natives. While banks have a relatively small direct environmental footprint, through their loan portfolios and product offerings, they greatly influence how companies and consumers act, invest, and address their environmental footprints. Among consumers, the market for green products is growing quickly, and with the broader green transition estimated to cost $125 trillion, according to the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, an enormous financing opportunity exists for lenders. Increasingly, regulators are also requiring banks to measure and disclose their environmental impact, a task sometimes made difficult by limited access to reliable portfolio data and consistent standards of measurement.

Established banks are sponsoring decarbonization projects and offering services for cutting emissions. Start-ups are pushing into new sustainability-focused products and solutions, including green investment strategies, transaction-based carbon offsetting, and the allocation of profits to compensation projects. One of them, Aspiration, focuses on helping its more than 6 million consumer and enterprise customers become carbon neutral. Its debit and credit cards embed carbon reduction solutions, such as automatically offsetting the carbon footprint of purchases. Enterprise clients can access software-based carbon footprint monitoring and a broad inventory of carbon reducing assets. Operating since 2015, in December 2021 the company secured $315 million of incremental equity financing. READ MORE

By Truc Mai Dupont Vohong, Laurent-Pierre Baculard, and Christian Tooley


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