On the 31 of January 1999, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, announced the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), a pact to encourage businesses to adopt sustainable practices. The UNGC aims to enable strategic actions to advance societal improvements, such as the Global Goals for Sustainable Development. This is a large list of seventeen goals with 169 targets to tackle poverty, reduce inequalities and fight climate change to create a more sustainable world.
Now, twenty years later, the UNGC has over 15,000 participating companies and institutions worldwide. Arm is a LEAD member of the UNGC and is committed to help achieve the Global Goals through industry-leading initiatives. For example, our 2030Vision initiative, founded and funded by Arm, and social innovation partnerships with companies such as Simprints and Amplio.
Technological improvements underpin the delivery of all the Global Goals and can help develop concrete solutions to overcome the challenges. At the same time, we need technology to be less wasteful, and more careful with consumption of energy and precious materials. To get this balance right, we need to strategically use technology to make sure it assists in the achievement of the Global Goals in the most efficient way possible. This is not only the right thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do from a business perspective: the commercial opportunity linked to the delivery of the Global Goals is estimated at $12 trillion. Doing good will be good for business.
That raises the question: aside from partnerships, what should a company like Arm do to assure that its products and technology will be ready to assist delivering more sustainable practices for 2030?
To help companies with questions like these and find the breakthrough innovations needed, the UNGC set up the Young SDG Innovator Program, which ran for the first time between October 2019 and June 2020. Over the course of five workshops, almost 40 people from 13 different companies came together to work on their ideas, develop pitches, and brainstorm ways to measure impact. At the end of the program, all participants got the opportunity to pitch their ideas to their executives and participate in the UNGC Leaders Summit.
The companies involved were very diverse: ranging from investment and legal firms, to consultancy and technology companies. This diversity in backgrounds and viewpoints was invaluable to help us think about global challenges from a new perspective.
Representing Arm, we were very proud to participate in this program; our delegation consisted of Fran Baker and Rosalie Tribe from Arm’s Sustainability team, and myself from Arm Research. We set out to investigate if we could do more to ensure that Arm would find the technological innovations needed to achieve the Global Goals. This meant that during the brainstorming sessions, we not only needed to consider the technology, but also the operational angles of the changes we were proposing. The feedback that we got from the YSIP network was invaluable in shaping our ideas.
Since we want to be ready to deliver solutions in the next ten years, there is a huge opportunity for researchers to help find the right answers and develop the right solutions. As such, there is an opportunity for research groups to consider sustainability when identifying research opportunities. For Computer Science, we have identified multiple research topics that need investigation if they are to make a positive contribution to the Goals. We see a great opportunity for novel low-power sensor devices, where recycling is considered during the design. Better AI solutions are needed to greatly increase the insight needed to address these difficult topics. We need more advanced Machine Learning techniques that manage noise better, express uncertainty reliably and show resilience in adverse conditions. All these technologies should be accessible, accountable, explainable, and fair for everyone. At Arm Research, we are beginning to find innovative solutions to these needs. Explore our recent work, including ultra-low power CPU M0N0, and the SMARTER project which is exploring the use of cloud-native technology and methodologies in edge environments. Our Machine Learning Research Lab have combined low-precision and complexity-reducing techniques without the usual unacceptably high prediction accuracy loss. Within these topics, there are interesting research questions that focus on solving the Global Goals:
On the 16 of June, at the end of the 10-month program, we had the opportunity to present our work in the UNGC Virtual Leaders’ Summit. Over those ten months, a lot had changed in the world. We had been talking about what a future conference might look like in a world where we may need to travel less, but none of us had imagined that we would have to present virtually.
This underlined to us the gravity of what we are investigating: change is coming, and we need to be ready. These changes challenge the way we do business, and the way we interact with technology. In the last months we have seen how technology can make a monumental difference in challenging situations: apps, trackers, tests, and dashboards are just the start. We need tools to ensure we can manage the change that is coming our way.
While working on this program, we continued to discuss the Global Goals with our Arm colleagues, and found they were increasingly enthusiastic about the subject. Several projects have improved tracking, to enable them to document their potential impact on the Global Goals. The Global Goals continue to climb higher on the agenda in Research, and a new team is ready to participate in the next Young Innovators program.
Technology alone is not enough. We need to work together to make the world more sustainable. Having seen the enthusiasm and energy of the other participants in the program, I have no doubt that the will is there to achieve them. Technology can support that energy by creating more tools and options to assist in managing these changes in a more adaptive and resilient way. Together through partnerships, we can make sure the right tools reach the right places, at the right time.
Which tools would you like to have in ten years’ time to make sure that you can manage the world in which we will then live? We are in a unique place to shape the future and create a world that works for everyone. We are committed to being a part of the solution, and together we can directly contribute to the achievement of the Global Goals.
If you have any questions about our work, please do reach out to me.
Learn More about the Global Goals Contact Rene de Jong