• Charlotte Dorrington, Manager |
3 min read

Bill Gates states that “Innovation is the only way the world can cut greenhouse gas emissions from roughly 51bn tonnes per year to zero by 2050”[1]. Our latest Leaders 2050 event aimed to explore this theme in detail and, in particular, we were keen to highlight the role that the Danish startup sector has in helping to solve issues related to sustainability and climate change.

A large number of sustainability startups are increasingly employing digital tech and AI to augment how we approach the problem of sustainability. A lot of new, exciting innovation is now taking place at the intersection of AI and tech, entrepreneurship and sustainability. At the event we met a number of inspirational founders working in impactful start-ups at this intersection, including WAWA Fertility, The 0-mission, The Upcycl and Legacy.

Here are a couple of key insights that we learnt as part of the event and now want to share with you:

  1. AI is being utilised across different sectors to tackle climate change. Examples include using AI to map icebergs much faster than human capabilities, employing machine learning for wildfire forecasting and forecasting floods in Denmark's rivers. These applications underscore AI's potential to significantly contribute to environmental conservation and disaster preparedness.

  2. The environmental impact of AI development however is significant, with CO2 emissions from model training and the operation of data centres being major concerns. The "bigger is better" approach to AI models may not be sustainable, highlighting the need for a balance between AI advancements and environmental impact. Ireland's position as a leading host of data centres and the global energy demand from these centres is equivalent to multiple times Brazil's annual usage and underscores the urgent need for sustainable practices in AI development and deployment.

  3. There is a notable gender gap in tech entrepreneurship, with women founders receiving a fraction of venture capital investment compared to their male counterparts, despite evidence suggesting higher ROI from women-led startups. The challenges faced by women entrepreneurs include lower participation rates, higher risks, lack of role models, and biased investment processes. This disparity is significant because women are more likely to innovate for social and environmental causes, suggesting a missed opportunity in leveraging diverse insights for sustainable development.

  4. We learnt that there are several actions that could be taken to address these issues, including raising public awareness, providing women with necessary tools and networks, and encouraging the inclusion of diverse perspectives in AI and entrepreneurship. Emphasising the importance of mentorship, early education on AI to build confidence and remove fear, and the need to integrate women more effectively into startup ecosystems are highlighted as key steps toward building a more inclusive and sustainable future.

  5.  We can take inspiration from the startup sector to help understand how we can better deliver sustainable changes in larger organisations. In particular, empowering others to ensure we have diversity of thought, creating an open work culture where all ideas are welcome, and invest in upskilling our workforce in new tools within tech and AI.

Entrepreneurship and tech are therefore important for driving sustainability, but to accelerate action we need to break down the remaining barriers to help ensure that we empower the individuals who are working at this intersection. One thing is clear: we can’t deliver on net zero without considerable investment in innovation.

Please share your thoughts with me and let me know if there are any areas you would like me to dive deeper into in our next blog post.

And if you are interested in joining our Leaders 2050 network as a young professional, don’t hesitate to sign up here

[1] Gatesnotes (2021)

Multilingual post

This post is also available in the following languages