Solar energy and water condensing trees in the Sustainability District


Expo 2020 Dubai: How we can pave the way for a more sustainable future

Andy Tomkins
Andy Tomkins

EMEA Sustainability Engagement Manager

How can we be more sustainable? It’s a question that is at the forefront of everyone’s minds – from world leaders at November’s COP26 discussing how to battle climate change, right down to our individual purchasing decisions as consumers. It’s certainly not an easy question to answer and not an issue that can be solved in silo either.
The importance of collaboration is key to driving a more sustainable future, and it’s a core focus at Expo 2020 Dubai – an event I have been lucky enough to be part of through Canon’s partnership as official Printing and Imaging Provider. As a sustainability team we recognise the role that diversity has to play in the discussion for change. That’s why, over the course of six months from October 2021 to March 2022 we will have seen the presence of not only our Sustainability Director and Environmental Specialist at World Expo, but also our charity partners and the young people we support through our social initiatives giving them a chance to speak out about their sustainability work.
Expo 2020 Dubai brings together 192 countries to showcase current and future sustainable solutions to the world’s challenges and seeks to inspire others to build a better world. It is set within futuristic looking grounds and offers an impressive experience where innovative ideas are powered by tech and inspired by sustainability. Each part of the experience really is considered and offers a taster of the change that could be made outside of the Expo world. For example, I’ve personally never received water in a can before, but it’s accepted practice here, as one of the standards introduced by the event organisers is the Expo 2020 Plastic Pledge, where businesses attending are asked to make a commitment to choosing the planet over plastic. It is something that we at Canon signed up to and we are proud to be 100% compliant with the RISE Guidelines, the organisation working with Expo to measure sustainability performance of the suppliers, partners and pavilions. For us, this meant not bringing non-recyclable plastic packaging into the Expo. Suppliers were also asked to consider using alternatives to single use pre-packed plastic bottles, which is how I found myself drinking canned water.

Dubai Expo 2020 Plastic Pledge Badge
The RISE GSES Plastic Pledge is set in place to measure the sustainability performance of Expo’s suppliers, IP's, Commercial partners and pavilions.

Sustainability is also at the heart of Expo’s structures. The grounds are filled with unusual features including thousands of solar panels in the Sustainability District and water condensing ‘trees’.

Solar energy and water condensing trees in the Sustainability District
The Good Place Pavilion is an innovative hub for inspirational innovation.
Photo credit: Neville Ngomane

During my stay, I also had the pleasure of joining a panel discussion with two tech innovators, Luhui Yan, Founder of Carbon Stop and Brian Bauer, Sustainability Manager at Algramo. The live event was hosted in the Sustainability District’s Good Place Pavilion. Part of the Expo Live Impact Series, the discussion explored how the simplest of technologies can play a large part in mitigating the negative effects of our footprint on the planet.

The Good Place Pavilion in the Sustainability District
Solar energy and water condensing trees surround the green design at the Sustainability Pavillion Direct.
Photo credit: Neville Ngomane

Carbon Stop is a carbon management solution that helps to quantify the emissions of products we purchase, helping us to make more informed and sustainable purchasing decisions based on carbon footprint. In time, Luhi hopes that this will become a badge of honour for brand reputation and in turn, make manufacturers realise they need to prioritise environmental standards in product if they want to retain business.
Algramo offers products in small quantities in reusable containers across a network of 1,200 local convenience stores in Chile. It supports lower income economies in reducing waste by offering affordable everyday products without the need for single-use, non-recyclable packaging. Using Internet of Things powered technology, Algramo has developed a promising dispenser system for small volumes of liquid products at low cost, which simultaneously fosters a circular economy mindset and saves people money.

Brian Bauer, Andy Tomkins and Luhui Yan
Andy Tomkins speaking with Algramo and Carbon stop representatives during Climate & Biodiversity Week

As companies, we are all very different and have different propositions. But what we have in common is a dedication to realising a more sustainable world through a circular economy that has innovation and tech at the heart. And what was so interesting from the panel discussion – and backs up why collaboration is so integral for a sustainable future – is that we all approach this in different ways.
Our Canon commitment to using imaging to transform our world is guided by our corporate philosophy of Kyosei, which means living and working together for the common good. A key element of this can be found in the way we build our products and run our operations sustainably to contribute towards a better world – from responsible manufacturing and an eco-friendly supply chain, through to energy efficient design and promoting the repair, reuse and recycling of used products and parts.
We’re particularly proud of our remanufacturing strategy including the launch of the updated EQ80 range of remanufactured office printers and the five recycling sites we operate in four regions around the world. But we are always exploring new and innovative ways to continue becoming more sustainable, and technology often holds the key.
So, all of us are clearly committed to driving more circular practices forward – but is this enough?
Something crucial that came to the fore during our discussion was that at the centre of all our approaches is consumer demand. And if consumers demand something new, it doesn’t matter if we make more sustainable products or offer greener processes – they need to buy into them. The same principle goes for private organisations and public sector procurement too.
One of the key takeaways was that we need more education to shift the mindsets of people, both consumers and business decision makers. That’s why it’s important that events such as Expo, which draws in 78,000 people a day, take place, so that people can meet, learn and share ideas. We can drive long lasting change by coming together as individuals and as businesses in order to combine innovation, collaboration and education solutions.

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