Real Leaders

7 Business Innovations that Will Save the Planet — and Your Bottom Line

Smart Modular and Connected Pallets for Logistics and Transportation 

Switzerland: Matthew Reali, CEO, Ponera Group (above)

Think of Ponera as the “LEGO” of pallets. A smart, modular, and digitally-enabled solution can be assembled to reach any size. Thermoplastics allow for extended life and reusability — more than 10 years and 100 usages. Embedded sensors in the modules allow for unprecedented traceability and transparency in the value chain, resulting in a 90% reduction of transport-related CO2 emissions. “Approximately 92% of the world’s natural resource consumption is not circular,” says Reali. “The industrial packaging industry still works with inefficient and non-sustainable one-time use consumables. Thirty percent of global industrial wood consumption is used for industrial packaging. Our smart modular and digitally-enabled industrial packaging solution enables circular logistics, reduces industrial packaging costs by up to 90%, and reduces wood consumption by 95% and CO2 emissions by 80%. In addition, we provide the foundations for more digitized and transparent logistics networks.”

An Affordable and High-Performance Energy Efficiency Window Retrofit Solution 

United States: Rachel Rosen & Ron Wexler, president, CEO and cofounder, WexEnergy 

WindowSkin panels are attached to the inside window glazing of existing windows and optimize the volume of air trapped in between the existing window and the insulation retrofit. Like the gap between panes in a double-pane window (or the pockets of air in a down comforter), this layer of enclosed air — and its thickness in particular — creates an insular barrier and improves the efficiency of the window, reducing energy loss by 45% on single-pane windows and 22% on double-pane windows. “Focusing on a solution to poor window insulation allows us to engage with others across socioeconomic strata in battling climate change. We can demonstrate that it’s possible to positively impact climate change while improving comfort and quality of life,” says Rosen. “Creating a solution to poor window insulation is good business sense as it addresses a highly relatable problem with an affordable solution that is easy to understand and implement.”

A Vertical Farm Using Automated and Remote Management Software for Better Crop Growth 

United States: Alexander Olesen, CEO, Babylon

Vertical farming is a technology that has been out of reach for many until now. The Cloud Farm is the world’s largest fully distributed vertical farm. It offers remote management of on-site vertical farms and eliminates barriers to entry for businesses looking to grow their own food. The farms provide the most sustainable and nutrient-dense produce on the market. Fifteen square feet produces the equivalent yield annually of 2,000 square feet of conventional farmland, uses 90% less water than conventional farming, and has zero pesticides. “Our goal is to remove the barriers that previously prevented access to vertical hydroponic farming at the community level and, in doing so, enable people to grow fresh, sustainable food,” says Olesen. “This method increases access to nutritious food while drastically reducing the environmental footprint of crop cultivation.”

Artificial Intelligence to Reduce Water Losses in Water Distribution Networks

Spain: Ainhoa Lete, executive president, BuntPlanet

Water scarcity is one of the most critical global challenges we currently face, and BuntBrain software reduces leaks and commercial losses by up to 50%. The product aims to address this global business problem with a scalable and affordable solution for water utilities that can reduce and prevent water loss in water distribution networks. “Climate change expert James P. Bruce observed: ‘If climate change is a shark, water is its teeth,'” says Lete. With the number and frequency of drought and flood events increasing, we have adopted Smart Water Management to help fight climate change. BuntBrain helps water utility companies detect and pre-locate early leaks, saving water, energy, and time.”

Sustainable Paper and Packaging From Waste

United Kingdom: Florence Miremadi-Nafici, CEO, Nafici EcoPulping

Millions of tons of wheat straw and other agricultural wastes are burnt or left to rot, causing millions of tons of carbon emissions globally every year. EcoPulping is an innovative low-carbon process that transforms agricultural wastes (e.g., cereal straw, reed, maize stover, and more) into unbleached paper pulp to produce paper, packaging, or molded products. The pulp produced is an alternative to pulp made from trees. “Millions of tons of agricultural residues are burnt, causing massive carbon emissions globally every year,” says Miremadi-Nafici. “Wheat straw, as an example, is a great source of fibers and a fantastic alternative to felling trees for paper and packaging products.”

A Green Casting Process that Creates Thin Yet Strong Sheets of Iron 

United States: Sarah Jordan, CEO, Skuld

Ductile iron has the optimum combination of strength, density, and cost compared to alternative materials. However, its use has been limited because casting defects occurred in thin sections under 6mm. Using the environmentally friendly lost foam casting process, innovations in foam blowing technology, and a metallurgical alloying process that prevents casting defects, Skuld’s ductile iron can be cast as thin as 1mm. The method uses 27% less energy, 7% less raw materials, can save 70% on cost versus iron or steel parts, and 66% versus aluminum. “The lost foam casting technique is the greenest metal-making process there is,” says Jordan. “With our Thin-Walled Ductile Iron solution, we are in discussions with a major automotive OEM to implement this solution. Their interest is three-fold: environmental impact, new lightweight designs, and cost reductions.”

Photovoltaic Trackers That Follow the Sun

France: Louis Maurice, president, Groupe OKWind

Smart photovoltaic trackers allow professionals and individuals to self-consume their renewable energy production at a more competitive rate than the electricity grid and therefore escape the constant rise in the cost of energy. Like a sunflower, smart photovoltaic trackers follow the sun’s course and produce 70% more power than a fixed photovoltaic installation. In addition, their mobile shadow protects crops and grassland biodiversity from sun irradiation and allows farmers to improve crop yields while producing renewable energy.  “Energy is at the heart of the transition to a green economy,” says Maurice. “Our self-consumption solutions, combining green energy generation and energy management, give everyone the chance to take their energy destiny into their own hands and contribute to creating a better future. Moreover, self-consumption also offers fixed-price energy during exploitation, freeing our customers from price fluctuation.”

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