In the fight against climate change, it’s all hands on deck.
Driven by United Nations and UK goals to achieve net zero, where the amount of carbon reduced balances the amount of carbon emitted, Oracle is doing its part. Besides joining the UN Race to Zero and the Exponential Roadmap Initiative, a climate partnership with businesses, Oracle is setting lofty goals.
“We are going beyond our 2025 goals of powering our operations with 100% renewable energy,” says Jon Chorley, chief sustainability officer, Oracle. “We’re also setting a target to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in key areas by 2050 and halve our global emissions by 2030.”
The UN convenes a crucial climate summit in Glasgow on October 31, 2021. The summit, known as COP26, will address the UN’s number one climate goal, set by the 2015 Paris Agreement: to limit the increase of global warming to well below 2 degrees and pursuing efforts to limit it by 1.5 degrees. Looking ahead to 2030 as a make-or-break point in the climate battle, the UN will need unprecedented cooperation from governments and major industries. While it is important for Oracle to improve its own sustainability performance in alignment with the Paris Agreement, Oracle also recognizes that it can have a manifold greater impact by helping its customers with their sustainability journeys.
Indeed, 390 miles south of Glasgow, Oracle teams will be working to build a facility where customers test technology that reduces carbon output, delivering long-term solutions across all industries and regions. The Oracle Industries Innovation Lab opens in spring 2022 in Reading, UK. At the lab, customers and partners will experiment with innovative strategies to lower carbon outputs in alignment with UN, British government, and Oracle corporate goals.
“The goal of our lab is to enable our ecosystem of partners and customers to solve really hard problems,” says Mike Sicilia, EVP, Vertical Industries, Oracle. “Climate change is certainly one of the most significant issues of our time. The UK lab—from the way it’s built to how it runs and the use cases it demonstrates—will explore how to create more sustainable and accessible solutions.”
Bringing labs into the real world
The Reading lab will expand on the work of Oracle’s first such lab, launched in Chicago in 2018. Initially, the Chicago lab concentrated on construction and engineering. Today, it also works with companies in the utilities and communications industries.
The Chicago facility is hardly a traditional software lab, according to Burcin Kaplanoglu, vice president, Oracle Industries Innovation Lab. “If we're going to help customers solve problems, we have to solve them in the physical world,” he says. “To spark the best ideas, we needed to replicate the customer’s world. That’s why we simulated a construction site, which over time morphed into a smart apartment building, outfitted with solar panels and energy-efficient appliances.”
While the Chicago lab is a single building, its counterpart in Reading will resemble a town center, complete with electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, wind turbines, and a small urban farm showing humans and nature living in balance. The facility will even host a simulated train station, featuring a sustainably built railcar—repurposed from an existing train using green materials.
The materials for the facility—from carpeting and wood to concrete and steel—are sourced in ways that reduce carbon. By saving so much carbon, the site will offset its emissions—and demonstrate carbon reduction strategies for customers.
“Technology offers every organisation in the world an opportunity to help reduce carbon emissions,” said Richard Petley, senior vice president and managing director, technology and cloud, Oracle UK and Western Europe. “However, the challenge can be understanding how they can use it to do just so. What we are creating in Reading will enable our customers to look across the entire breadth of their business and understand just what it is that they can do—on both a large and small scale—to help support the UN’s goals. It’s a pretty exciting project for us, and is another key component in Oracle UK’s commitment to supporting the UK government in its green objectives.”
Helping industries reduce carbon
In Reading, Oracle will continue working closely with the construction industry—a sector responsible 39% of all carbon emissions, more than any other—along with utilities, communications, food and beverage, hospitality, and transportation.
Geoff Roberts, Oracle’s director of energy industry strategy who will manage the new lab, says smaller carbon footprints start with the basics of construction. “Take steel and concrete, which are only two elements of a major project. We’re starting to see low-carbon choices in both of these materials.”
But he adds that construction environments must be sustainable throughout. Oracle’s software helps by streamlining project management and construction time—the less time a project takes, the smaller its environmental impact. The software also drives compliance, providing dashboards where key metrics are shown by project or vendor, making it easier to furnish reports to governments and shareholders.
“Our innovation partners do a lot around sustainability too,” Roberts says. “For example, they’ll use blockchain to manage the authenticity of sustainable materials. Or they’ll provide site logistics to ensure that people in cities aren’t sitting around with their engines running.”
Kaplanoglu gives another example: If a partner develops a concrete sensor that sends data to construction scheduling software, Oracle can invite customers to the lab to test it out. “We’ll explore and validate approaches by matching partners, customers, and technology,” he says.
For customers in food and beverage, reducing wasted food and packaging is a top challenge. In the US, nearly 40 million tons of food are thrown away every year, and in the UK that figure is 9.5 million. As a result, many Oracle customers have strong commitments to net-zero food waste, according to Amber Trendell, head of global marketing, Oracle Food and Beverage. This is an area where experiments in the lab can make a real impact.
“Our technology stack lets restaurants manage supply chains, source locally, and curate menus, so look for customers to seek smart ways to waste less food,” says Trendell. “Maybe they’ll use inventory management in really creative ways, for instance, partnering with nonprofits that feed the community.”
Another challenge the lab will likely tackle: giving consumers the information to make better purchasing decisions based on where their food comes from or the packaging that delivers it. Supported by Oracle platforms, knowledgeable consumers can stay true to their values, or in some cases even collect “green rewards” points.
The ultimate reward, of course, will be a livable planet. “Like governments and the UN, Oracle and our customers are strongly committed to sustainability,” Kaplanoglu says. “The only way we’ll get there is to accelerate innovation.”
Mark Jackley is an Oracle digital content specialist.