Technology And China’s Green Development

Michael McComb

China, the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, is energy and natural resource intensive and produces significant amounts of toxic waste. While aiming to ensure stable development, the country’s central government has made clear its commitments to improving the environment. One of the key ways China will achieve its ambitious development goals is to innovatively apply technology to solve environmental sustainability challenges.

China’s economic might will undoubtedly continue to grow under long-term strategic government programs such as the “Belt and Road” and smart manufacturing initiatives. China’s President Xi Jinping is acutely aware of how environmental issues affect the country’s health and productivity. “It is important to protect the environment while pursuing economic and social progress – to achieve harmony between man and nature, and harmony between man and society,” Xi has said. At the same time, China’s long-term roadmap places a top priority on using technology and innovation to support its development goals.

China’s government is implementing more stringent regulations to curb negative environmental impact. China’s enterprise market has tremendous potential to move the country towards achieving its Sustainable Development Goals. Company leaders often know what needs to be done and are now faced with the question of how their organization should best address the enormous range of opportunities. This is driving large and small enterprises alike to look at ways to integrate sustainability into their overall corporate strategies and use advanced technologies like Big Data, artificial intelligence, blockchain, and IoT to improve environmental performance.

A new whitepaper, Technology and China’s Green Development – Innovating An Environmentally Sustainable Future, outlines how companies in China and around the world use technology for sustainability in three different ways: tactically for compliance and mitigating risk, opportunistically to improve efficiencies, and strategically to transform their business for responsible growth.

Big Data, for example, is playing a key role in China by helping the government establish and monitor national regulatory frameworks and compliance guidelines. China’s Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs (IPE) is a nonprofit research organization dedicated to collecting and analyzing environmental data from the government and corporates. Its website and mobile app, called the “Blue Map,” uses this data to support green procurement, enable green finance, and monitor government policies focused on green development.

Precision agriculture uses technology to combine weather forecasts with data from sensors, aerial photos, and soil properties to maximize crop yields while minimizing the application of fertilizer, pesticides, water, and other costly resources and their environmental impact. Large agriculture firms in China are inspired by Stara, based in Brazil, which uses IoT and SAP S/4HANA to use real-time data to apply the exact amount of fertilizer required for each individual plant and then analyzes results for increased productivity and minimal use of inputs. Optical sensors on tractors identify weeds and precisely apply herbicides. By better forecasting weather and local market demand, farmers can optimize harvest times, reduce food waste, minimize environmental costs, and improve their bottom line.

Wanhua Chemical, one of China’s largest industrial chemical firms, uses advanced technologies to “reduce, reclaim, and render harmless” solid wastes in its manufacturing. All the waste generated in its thermal power plant, for example, is used to manufacture new building materials.

Another China company, XPENG, is focused on designing Internet-enabled, environmentally friendly electric vehicles. Its latest product incorporates autonomous driving technology that eventually will lead to new transportation models. In the meantime, the company has teamed up with a local car renting partner to deliver a “product as a service” business model. XPENG vehicles are used by one or many customers through a lease or pay-for-use arrangements, reducing resource consumption across the value chain.

China is developing rapidly and has set ambitious sustainable-development targets. State-owned and private enterprises are leveraging the country’s strengths in technology to build a greener future. Significant investments have been allocated towards achieving this objective. The government recognizes the role that innovation will play in accelerating it towards its sustainable development goals and will continue to foster technological advancements.

Download the SAP whitepaper on sustainability and technology in China.