The role of innovation in environmental protection

Environmental technologies offer companies a viable solution to reduce pollution throughout their production cycle while lowering costs and obtaining a competitive advantage.

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Climate change and environmental degradation are the greatest challenges facing humanity. Concern about the state of the environment is growing among consumers, who are demanding more eco-friendly and sustainable products, strategies and production techniques from businesses.

Among the latter is the implementation of clean technologies. ‘Cleantech’ offers a way to address major global problems linked to the environment by applying technological innovations in organisations. This can help to pave the way for a decarbonised and greener economy.

What is cleantech?

The term ‘cleantech’ was originally coined in the 90s in reference to a class of new technologies offered to investors to reduce environmental damage. Today, ‘cleantech, ‘greentech’ and ‘ecotechnology’ are used interchangeably to refer to any equipment, facility or process that helps to reduce the negative impact of existing technologies or processes on the environment or to improve the quality of polluted natural resources.

‘Clean’ technologies address the pollution caused by ‘dirty’ technologies such as fossil fuels or transport by offering more eco-friendly alternatives or by helping them to minimise their environmental impact. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) refers to them as ‘a subset of goods that contribute directly to environmental protection and climate change mitigation’.

What's the difference between cleantech and climate tech?

These two concepts are often confused. Climate tech refers to technologies aimed at mitigating climate change by reducing global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This includes both removing GHGs from the environment and preventing future emissions. But emissions are only part of the effects of humans on their environment.

Cleantech covers a broader area, including clean water and energy, air quality or waste reduction. Climate tech thus focuses on technologies that reduce emissions of CO2 and other polluting gases (forestry, carbon capture, agro-technology, geo-engineering), while cleantech covers a wider range of technologies designed for environmental purposes.

Innovation in environmental protection: why is it important?

So-called ‘environmentally sound technologies’ comprise all tools and strategies that can help minimise waste or prevent pollution. The benefits of cleantech include reducing risks to the environment, but also fostering innovation, economic development and job creation, while promoting climate resilience.

Investments in eco-friendly technologies have grown considerably since they began to gain relevance around the year 2000, and this trend is expected to continue in the coming years. A clear example is clean energies. Technological advances are making them increasingly viable.

Improvements in solar PV technology (more powerful and efficient solar modules, solar cells, tracking systems, etc.) will decrease costs along the solar value chain during the current decade, supporting the sector's growth prospects. Solar energy’s share in global power generation is expected to increase from 3% to 11%, according to Global X data.

Another area where ecotechnology is expected to have a significant impact is ‘green’ employment. Jobs related to the energy transition are among those with the strongest prospects for the future, together with digitalisation and artificial intelligence. The ILO believes that decarbonisation will help generate 24 million new jobs in the world by 2030, in areas such as renewable energy, energy efficiency and low-emission technologies.

Technology for a circular economy

Energy (efficiency, renewables), mobility (electrification of vehicle fleets), air pollution and quality, clean water... Virtually any sector of the economy can improve its environmental performance by implementing cleantech, which helps provide solutions to the ecological crisis. Professional waste treatment and management is another area where the advantages of digitalisation can be successfully applied.

The circular economy aims to minimise waste and maximise resources by promoting the continuous use, recycling and regeneration of products and materials. In this sense, digital technology is an ally to optimise waste management processes, leading to considerable economic and time savings for businesses while achieving progress on climate action.

Cleantech is an organisation-oriented approach to address the climate crisis and environmental degradation. Its ultimate goal is to achieve environmental improvement in the areas of water, air, soil and waste, among others. In recent years, the greentech sector has also benefited from ‘smart’ technologies such as IoT and AI. These synergies will lead to interesting advances in environmental protection. At TEIMAS, we’ll be sure to tell you all about it.

Selected by among the 101 most innovative sustainability companies and startups in Spain, at TEIMAS we focus on smart waste management, the circular economy and sustainability.


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