The push for green technologies has been brought to the fore in recent years as companies realize how technology could be used to address sustainability issues.
There is great potential for such technology, known as sustainability tech, to create value and investment opportunities for companies in the long-term.
However, the green push presents problems of its own as interconnectivity also raises cybersecurity risks. This could be seen from the increasing frequency and sophistication of cyberattacks on operational technology systems which run critical infrastructure services. The distributed nature of sustainable technology expands the threat surface to make protecting information technology resources even more challenging.
Pen Bumanglag, country manager of the Philippines at Exclusive Network, talked to The Manila Times on why sustainability technologies are good investments, but whose adoption must be accompanied by safeguards against serious threats in today's increasingly interconnected world.
The Manila Times (TMT): What are the sustainability technologies currently available, the opportunities they present to greening the environment and their affordability for a developing country like the Philippines?
Pen Bumanglag (PB): Sustainable technologies foster economic and social development without compromising on our natural resources. There is currently a myriad of green technologies available, ranging from solar and wind power for clean energy production, recycling robots and electric vehicles to fintech as well as smart city solutions. Such technology reduces the impact on the environment, is ecologically safe, and - it is hoped - improves the quality of life.
It is even more important for the Philippines to prioritise green infrastructure for the survival of not only the country but also its economy. Naturally, for an emerging market like the Philippines, factors such as cost, pace and scale are key considerations. This makes small low-carbon technologies such as solar-powered heat pumps, solar panels, and electric bikes attractive. These low carbon technologies offer lower investment risk, rapid deployment is much more achievable, and they even create jobs. Not only that, small low-carbon tech has been found to be more likely to drive faster transition in the race for decarbonization.
However, these smaller scale technologies are not yet able to act as a substitute for larger alternatives in all circumstances. For maximum efficiency, these small-scale technologies must be integrated within existing green tech infrastructure in order to create a broader decarbonization impact.
As the Philippines adopts more sustainable technologies it would be exposed to heightened cybersecurity risks. Modern green technologies would inevitably have to be linked to the internet where users are vulnerable to hackers and other bad actors. In which case, the Philippines needs to have an adequate cybersecurity strategy to accompany its green technology push.
TMT: Also, what would be the attraction to private companies to adopt these new technologies, more so if their adoption would have an impact on the financial bottom line and the prospect of engaging special equipment and specially trained people to help manage these technologies?
PB: Despite being in a pandemic, interest in sustainability is at an all-time high. According to the Asian Development Bank, there is a global demand for green debt instruments like bonds, loans, green index products etc. Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors are also becoming increasingly important to investment decisions. Institutional investors are also integrating ESG in their investment process in Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations).
This provides a huge opportunity for private companies to attract foreign investments for their business, especially if they have a strong ESG policy.
Green efforts are being supported by governments across Southeast Asia, with many guidelines, initiatives and subsidies to aid transitioning businesses. The government particularly has long been developing national and regional policies to facilitate growth in green finance.
Green growth would also allow for emerging market economies to reduce unsustainable and wasteful production and consumption patterns. Green sectors are the key to realising sustainable growth, with investment in green sectors in developing countries expected to reach $6.4 trillion in the coming decade. Around $1.6 trillion of that investment would be accessible to small and medium sized enterprises.
TMT: Is interconnectivity necessary for the benefits of the new sustainability technologies to make a significant impact across industry and to the general state of the environment? If so, would there be challenges in interconnecting firms in an industrial zone where large-scale companies are situated side by side with small and medium-sized enterprises, which may have little capacity to interconnect, much less adopt green technologies?
PB: Interconnectivity is necessary to ensure efficiency and coordination in green technology. The information technology/operational technology convergence allows for more direct control and more complete monitoring, bringing about improved decision-making as there is access to real-time data and insights.
So, interconnectivity is vital for the efficient allocation of energy, etc. However, one company with weak cybersecurity could be attacked by a hacker, who could then go on to bring down the internet or power grid of multiple companies which are connected to the first hacked firm. Therefore, it is crucial that all firms invest in and deploy robust cybersecurity technology and procedures, from endpoint protection to regular staff training and education.