Quick question: What does organisational sustainability look like in 2024?

Donna Lyndsey is Strategic Market Lead for Sustainability at Ordnance Survey, one of the key forces in climate measurement and modelling. Taking five, here she shares thoughts on the what we can expect from the sector this year.

What do you think is going to be new in 2024?  

‘Validation and verification processes are going to grow in significance for companies as they wrangle new regulations and disclosures that affect their corporate reporting.  These regulations are increasing focus on sustainable practice, emissions, environmental impact and climate risk.  We need to have trusted monitoring, reporting and verification systems in place, which must be objective and transparent.

‘Confidence must be restored in the accuracy of claims made in the voluntary carbon credits market. We can achieve this now by combining monitoring capabilities from space (Earth Observation), air and ground data collection. OS VeriEarth®, which was launched last year, combines satellite and ground-based data with location intelligence to create and visualise a baseline of a habitat in a target location.  

‘We may also see greater citizen engagement as technology enables companies to understand individual values through digital fingerprinting and AI capabilities, in turn leading to a greater need to protect individuals’ data from being harvested. AI will enable mass efficiency savings in the processing of data to enable patterns to be identified faster for predictive and preventative measures, such as to ensure appropriate use of land and the reductions of harms.

‘An example of this will be the impending mandatory requirements for Biodiversity Net Gain in England. But the quality of data used to inform the AI will be critical to ensure that the insights created by AI models can be checked or validated and the provenance of training data, specifically ground truth data, is known, otherwise we run a real risk of bias and skewed results leading to poor outcomes. 

‘Encouraged by the successes of last year’s COP28 we will see greater global corporate collaboration in the move forward to drive systematic change and to help the markets become a protective force.  There will be significant battle lines drawn between those who resist the transition and those who see great opportunity and the need to change. The winners will be responsible for our planet’s future. 

What’s going to stay the same in 2024?  

‘I think it’s clear that the relationship between EO (Earth Observation) and Geo (geospatial data) will remain critically important. At OS we are working on several projects to help customers get more insight and detail from this information. EO data can show many things, but to make informed, on-the-ground decisions, it needs context. This is where accurate geospatial data can support. By providing a geospatial lens, users can see the detail and the true impact.  

‘One good example of this is heat mapping information. In a project backed by the UK Space Agency, OS collaborated with the National Centre for Earth Observation, using satellite data to monitor and map heat in urban locations. The aim was to provide meaningful insights for policymakers to manage the impacts of climate change in hot spots across the UK and further afield.

‘Geospatial data can be combined with other datasets such as climate data to unlock insights into the impact of climate change.  One of the outcomes was to show definitively that the presence of vegetation in urban neighbourhoods means these areas are much cooler than those without. Higher levels of tree cover and green space – or both – can make a drastic difference to temperature.  This helps planners conclude that the future mapping of cities must include more green space and cover to help mitigate the risk of serious heat events.   

aerial photography of city

What would you like to change in 2024?  

‘There are some key things I learnt from COP28 and that I would like to see actioned in 2024 to meet the climate challenge we all face. There are a lot of Cs in COP; climate, carbon, even conflict of opinion. But the three C’s I’d like to take forward this year are:  

Collaboration: COP is an unusual environment, but it is an amazing place to meet new and old friends from totally different sectors and disciplines around the world who have a common interest in driving the change to ensure we all have a fighting chance to save nature and humanity. What is clear is the urgent need and want to collaborate across those I met, and on a scale never seen before, breaking silos down to ensure we can mobilise the skills and technologies needed. 

Communication: It also became clear that many of us have been shouting in our own echo chambers – not sharing the intelligence needed by others wide enough. Talking to the finance sector it became very clear that space and geospatial data have not done enough to communicate the value of, and access to, our data to these sectors who really need it. We really need to find a way to communicate what we do far better to those outside our industry. 

Call to action: Beyond talking, we must now move forward faster than ever before and that will take effort and funding. Frustration was often heard from those with either transformative technologies or on the ground projects delivering results – many of which seem to be unable to move beyond Proof of Concept or grant funding to scale fast.

‘They cited corporate investment need for high returns as a barrier to early investment, which of course means corporates can’t also support not-for-profit enterprises. I met several who need to scale fast so if organisations want to really put their money where their mouth is and truly make a difference, then get in touch, I know some companies and organisations who really need help. So, I move on from 2023 into 2024 with hope that the people I met have the will, the want, and the capacity to drive forward. I just hope we can move fast enough.’

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Image: Ordnance Survey (top) / Dennis Kummer (bottom)


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