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From Open Source to Open Sustainability: Collaboration is the Solution to the Climate Crisis

Chris Howard

Senior Business Analyst, Open Source Lead, EPAM
Blog

June 5, 2022, marks the 48th annual World Environment Day, the largest international day to honor the importance of environmental action and wellness. Led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNPE), the event has blossomed into the largest global platform for environmental outreach, engaging millions into planet protecting activities and practices across more than 150 countries. EPAM’s participation and support of the open source community is a valuable contribution to efforts encouraged by World Environment Day. Through collaboration as a problem-solving tool, open source widens the field for effective sustainability in areas such as climate change now and in the future.

In 2015, the leaders of nearly 200 countries convened and reached a landmark agreement to collectively tackle climate change by expediting the efforts and investments required to decarbonize and restabilize the planet. Over half a decade later, the Paris Agreement’s climate neutrality promises are shadowed by a dispiriting accumulation of shortcomings as many countries struggle to deliver on their emission-reduction commitments, rendering doubt that climate objectives can be met without more ambitious and radical action.

If a grade were assigned to the overall progress made in the Paris Agreement, “based on whether we have any prospect of meeting a 2°C target, from that point of view, it’s probably a D or an F,” says Michael Oppenheimer, a climate expert at Princeton University. He further states in the same Science.org post, that despite the lackluster results thus far, he believes the agreement has made a real difference by helping make climate change a “top concern of all countries.”

Climate change is a systemic and multilayered problem with causes and consequences that transcend all societies, national borders and sectors. The growth of global climate ambitions is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, but turning ambition into action demands the overhaul of siloed systems to create strategic alignment on the issue.

The Open Imperative

The emergence of open source and more largely, open culture, has launched a global paradigm shift toward openness and co-creation as a problem-solving solution. Key actors in the open movement believe that the fundamentals of open source – collaboration, transparency and inclusivity – extend beyond software and have the power to unlock a more efficient path to climate stability.

The word “open,” in the context of climate action, refers to inclusiveness and meaningful collaboration between traditionally disconnected sectors to create alignment on sustainability targets and action plans. With the open approach, each respective stakeholder group, while inherently different, brings diverse perspectives and expertise to the table. The open model uses these differences as assets, leveraging cognitive and experiential diversities to accelerate value creation.

Consider last year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, where open technology advocacy group OpenUK shared a collaboratively developed framework for transforming data centers, the backbone of the greenhouse-gas-emitting information and communications technology (ICT) industry, into a net zero infrastructure through open technology and economic circularity. By making the blueprint freely available, OpenUK hopes to gain widespread organizational alignment on sustainable data center practices and effectively decarbonize the ICT industry.

“The climate emergency is a planetary puzzle that knows no borders, and the only way it can be solved is through openness and global collaboration – that’s what the blueprint is all about,” says John Laban, European Director at the Open Compute Project Foundation.

While the focus of the blueprint is data centers, it has much bigger implications on how the world approaches climate action going forward. It is a proof of concept, or a representation of what the world could accomplish by harnessing shared aspirations and working together to create and implement innovative solutions that help heal the planet. As the open movement accelerates, we must look for more synergies and opportunities to collaborate.

Engaging Diverse Groups for Maximum Impact

Catalyzing sustainable change requires that entities from all sectors – business, nonprofit, government and beyond – take the open approach and join forces to create shared purpose and collective impact. Here are a few forward-looking groups leveraging collaboration at scale to help mobilize climate action:

  • The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is a principal byproduct of the Paris Agreement and the largest climate fund in the world. Through scaled collaboration and a variety of financial vehicles, GCF is sparking climate innovation, creating 1.5°C-compliant business models and streamlining climate investment.
  • The Science Based Target Initiative (SBTi) is a partnership between CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Wide Fund for Nature Compact (WWF) that fosters collaboration from all sectors to help businesses set science-based decarbonization targets and implement replicable climate solutions aligning with Paris Agreement objectives. With commitments from more than 1,000 companies across all sectors, the group is quickly proving the viability of sustainable business models at scale.
  • The UK Climate Business Forum, while still relatively new, has brought together 11 major UK businesses and a select group of young scholars and business leaders to innovate and bring awareness to the imminent need for cross-sector collaboration. The Forum looks to encourage aligned efforts between the public and private sectors to effectively “bridge the gap between ambition and action.”

EPAM too recognizes the urgency of climate change and the vital need to engage in meaningful collaborations to conserve and protect the environment. Through strategic partnerships, sponsorships and science-based targets and commitments, EPAM is continually working to improve organizational CSR performance and support the collective movement towards net-zero. Some of these engagements include:

  • Carbon Footprint UK: We’ve coordinated the company’s carbon footprint journey, consisting of meaningful carbon offsetting projects and the creation of emissions reduction initiatives to move organizational commitments forward.
  • UN Global Compact: With commitments to 10 different ESG pillars, EPAM is seeking to elevate organizational impact on both the environment and society as a whole.
  • EPAM’s Carbon Footprint Calculator: To help employees and outside users measure their carbon usage, EPAM engineers designed a Carbon Footprint Calculator to raise awareness of personal climate change contributions and encourage changes in daily lifestyle habits.
  • Pachama: EPAM and Pachama work together to leverage technology for global forestry projects that reduce carbon, restore wildlife and support local communities.
  • Footprint Zero Partnership: An estimated 1-3% of all plastic bags are recycled across the globe, which means the vast majority end up in landfills, waterways and blowing around the corners of our planet.  EPAM Continuum teamed up with startup Footprint Zero to co-create a first-of-its-kind affordable and maintenance-free device that consumes household plastic bags and compacts them for easier storage and recycling. 
Connecting the Dots on Solutions Through the Open Source Framework

With the intensifying impacts of climate change, the notion of working together is no longer discretionary. The global nature of climate change demands a coordinated effort worldwide from all sectors to ideate, test, create and implement sustainable solutions. An open source-inspired strategy is the key to facilitating the required level of widespread collaboration needed to curb emissions at scale.

Learn more about these efforts with a recent podcast featuring Xavier Houout, Schneider Electric’s Senior Vice President of Sustainable Business and Operations, and Elaina Shekhter, EPAM’s Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer, as they discuss Schneider Electric’s, the world’s most sustainable corporation, approach to ESG.

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