Web Summit

Web Summit 2018: Can Tech Save the Environment?

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Web Summit 2018

Will, Charlie and Alex attended Web Summit in Lisbon this year as part of the launch of Compare Your Footprint, a software developed by Green Element that simplifies the process of carbon footprinting for organisations. While a tech conference showcasing some of the most innovative technologies in the world, there was a strong theme about environmental awareness and sustainability. Of course, this was strongly seen in the Planet Tech talks and exhibitors in the clean tech/environment stream, but the message that all businesses need to consider sustainability as a part of their core business was reinforced through many other speakers and in the operations of the conference itself. Below are a few key takeaways from some of the amazing talks we were able to catch showcasing the environmental messages of Web Summit 2018. You can view all of the talks from Web Summit 2018 on their Youtube channel.



Lisa Jackson – Apple, VP of Environment

“There is no conflict between a healthy planet and running a successful business”

Environment lead of the world’s most valuable company explained how they have worked to reduce the production of aluminium in their supply chain through using recycled aluminium. Explained that CEO Tim Cook prompts all employees to ask themselves; “what type of world do we want to live in and how can Apple help us to get to that point.”


Antonio Guterres – United Nations, Secretary-General

Noted it will be impossible to achieve the targets set in the UN Sustainable Development Goals without the fantastic speed of cutting-edge technologies that are being developed. He gave an example of the UN High Commission for Refugees using biotechnology to better support and protect refugees by allowing them to access basic provisions without the need for documentation. Warned of the social impact of technology in the future, with new jobs created and old jobs disappearing, the world will need to manage this clash.  




Daphna Nissenbaum – TIPA, CEO

They have developed a sustainable packaging solution to tackle the problem of plastic waste, with the food industry being the largest contributor. The staggeringly low worldwide recycling rates of 9% need to be addressed and their ‘package’ can go to the regular organic waste stream and composted in 6 weeks. It is designed for fruit, meat, perishables etc that can’t be avoided in the supply chain due to food safety issues.


Tony Milikin – AB InBev, Chief Sustainability Officer

Mentioned how the world’s largest brewer is incorporating zero-emission trucks for long-range deliveries that run on hydrogen. They are also trailing the use of electric trucks, that can be charged using the energy sourced from local renewable energy such as solar and wind generated on site.


Rick Ridgeway – Patagonia, VP of Public Engagement

With Patagonia, like Green Element, being a B Corp, his talk was centered around that fact that we need more responsible business. They have a number initiatives that contribute to community and environmental development including 1% for the Planet, Patagonia Provisions responsibly sourced food and their Blue heart of Europe campaign to save the last wild rivers of the European continent. He explained how Patagonia has struggled with the paradox of growth when becoming so large how will they continue to live by their values and avoid being part of the problem? They asked themselves as a company, “who are we to challenge growth when we are growing so big?” They found the answer in their mission statement; they had to build the best product possible that will be durable (reducing waste) and won’t cause unnecessary harm in their supply chain. He finished on the note that “business needs to have a purpose beyond just business.”


Christiana Figueres – Mission 2020, Convenor

A hugely influential figure who, as Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change from 2010-2016, is known as one of the architects of Paris Agreement. She explained the difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees celsius global warming, and what a huge difference this half a degree will make. Around the world 50-60% of economies are moving towards decarbonisation, in many cases, this is not driven by environmental motives but for business continuity.

Exponential growth towards decarbonisation is what needed, like what is described in Moore’s Law. We are on that path with renewable energy and beginning to see it with electric vehicles, but we are not on this trajectory in the built environment, land use, and manufacturing sectors. These are the sleeping giant for energy efficiency opportunities exist, for the tech industry to innovate not just in the developed world but in developing nations as well. She finished by asking the audience to think about what is your passions are in life and to follow it. For her, it has been climate change but explained that every human endeavor needs to think about climate change as it impacts everything in some way.




eToro – Yoni Assia, CEO 

Crypto has shaken the financial system through decentralisation, but in reality is not decentralised itself and shows large inequality with 0.7% of cryptocurrency wallets holding as much as 87% of total Bitcoins in supply. He announced the launch of GoodDollar, a new project based on the idea of providing universal basic income using crypto and blockchain technology. This would be available to anyone, even the ‘unbankables’, and provide a way to climb out of the poverty trap. This would involve building a social identity system for logging into GoodDollar, but with much greater transparency than the current cryptocurrencies. He finished with the remark that it is “our responsibility to make sure there are good cryptos, to try to solve global inequality and wealth issues” and announced $1 million in funding from eToro.




Deirdre McGlashan – MediaCom, CDO; Tim Kobe – Eight Inc, CEO

They discuss points about the future of communicating with consumers. A thought that can come up often at a big forward-thinking tech conference like Web Summit is that many technologies are constantly being developed, but that doesn’t mean each will need to be deployed by organisations. They stressed the importance of brands creating emotional ties with their clients or consumers, and with 50% of decisions made based on the consumers’ beliefs, there is a need to communicate your organisation’s values. An interesting question from the audience was asked about how e-commerce will contribute to increasing or removing waste in the supply chain. This was answered by the speakers predicting that optimisation of online purchases is going require more things on demand, so supplying direct to consumers in close geographic proximity will be of more value. As the cost of production becomes lower, things will be printed closer and quicker than before, increasing the reliance on locally sourced goods.


Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa – President if Portugal

The leader of the host country Portugal gave the closing remarks to a full arena. He expressed his desire to continue to promote technology not just in Lisbon but around the world. It was great to hear his reinforcement that climate change is real and not “fake news”, that we all need to work towards protecting the environment.

We’d love to hear your thoughts about this subject – why not join our Facebook Community and join the conversation or even start a new one. We started this community so that you can network with like-minded professionals interested in the environment, sustainability and creating an impact in our world. 

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