Innovation showcase

The business of sustainability

How companies are using Oracle technology to protect the environment.

By Margaret Lindquist | April 2021

On April 22, people the world over will come together—mostly digitally, due to the COVID-19 pandemic—to celebrate Earth Day and commit to creating a cleaner, more equitable world. Many Oracle customers are using technology not just to achieve their business goals, but also to ensure that their impact on the environment is positive and that they’re supporting the fight against climate change. Oracle is supporting sustainable businesses and nonprofits with technology and funding. Here are a few companies and organizations that we’re celebrating this Earth Day.

Energy company takes aim at climate change

National Grid US is a leader in the fight against climate change with its aggressive decarbonization plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. “We needed to not only reduce emissions from our own operations, but also enable the decarbonization of society more broadly,” says Badar Khan, president of National Grid US. “We’re building a world that’s more sustainable for future generations, but doing it in a way that segments of society aren’t left behind.” National Grid and Oracle Utilities Opower have worked together for about 10 years, and since the start of the relationship, National Grid has saved its customers 4 terawatt hours of energy, which is equivalent to the annual output of the Hoover Dam. “As people say, the cheapest kilowatt hour is the one that you don’t consume, and the lowest emitting kilowatt hour is the one that you don’t emit,” says Khan. “Expanding our capabilities to help customers lower their consumption will continue to be a key part of achieving net-zero emissions.” – Margaret Lindquist

National Grid

Protecting public waterways with drones and high-performance computing

Climate advocates separated by 5,000 nautical miles are using drones and AI to detect, measure, and clean up waterways . In a newly launched project codenamed CityShark, the Danish Ministry of Climate, Energy, and Utilities and several partners are enlisting drones to help identify and clean up liquid and solid waste from the Port of Aarhus, about 116 miles (187 kilometers) from the country’s capital city of Copenhagen. In California, the San Francisco Estuary Institute, a nonprofit science institute focused on the health of San Francisco Bay, sent aerial drones over the San Francisco Bay and neighboring tributaries, collecting, classifying, and analyzing some 35,000 images of trash. Having trained a machine learning algorithm with more than 2,000 annotations, the team now has a tool that can identify the type, quantity, and location of each particle of trash depicted in those images, and then measure the impact that the trash is having on the environment. – Sasha Banks-Louie


Giving new life to plastic waste in the ocean

Companies that claim to be using ocean plastic waste to manufacture their products need to be able to ensure that the material actually is what recyclers say it is. Oceanworks, an online marketplace for recycled plastic materials and products, is coordinating with global brands to source raw materials from its global network of plastic recyclers. The company uses a track-and-trace application that runs on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. The Oceanworks application stores data about each container of recycled ocean plastic, generates certificates of authenticity for the resin content, and provides details about the material flow, such as the place where the plastic was collected, when it was recycled, and the locations of the compounders, recyclers, and manufacturers that handled it. “Without an offering like Oceanworks, brands are forced to do a lot of legwork to find and validate these materials,” says Oceanworks CEO Vanessa Coleman. Oceanworks’ customers turn the recycled material into all sorts of new products, including zippers, credit cards, fabric, buttons, and yarn. – Sasha Banks-Louie


McNeilus protects the essential “waste warriors” who brave hazards to collect our refuse

When the pandemic started, United States trash collectors “didn’t miss a beat,” says Jeff Koga, vice president and general manager of the refuse collection unit of McNeilus Truck and Manufacturing. “They were out there on the front lines, courageously picking up the trash. We’re proud to back them.” The work of these waste warriors is critical for keeping neighborhoods clean and healthy. While making the trucks safer, McNeilus also has made the trucks quieter and reduced environmental impact by pioneering compressed natural gas as a fuel option. “We needed a better, stronger, more powerful tool to be able to configure the product and price it more consistently and get a faster quote turnaround to our customers,” Koga says. “We implemented the Oracle CPQ tool, and it’s done nothing but produce for us since.” The McNeilus sales team can now act as consultants to customers, exploring their needs. Will they use the truck to pick up trash from residences, businesses, or manufacturing sites? What is the area’s geography—flat, mountainous, coastal? How wide are the streets? What is the traffic like? With that insight, they use the Oracle tool to add the right features and calculate the price. – Linda Currey Post


Can shovel-by-shovel data analysis make mines more sustainable?

Even before the pandemic, the mining industry had been dealing with ongoing pressures, including mining ore deposits in ever-harder-to-reach locations and myriad changes aimed at improving sustainability in their business. One consensus: The way forward is to make operations much more efficient. “A lot of the mining companies have built ‘innovation teams’ to look for ways that they can mine more efficiently and sustainably,” says Frank Hoogendoorn, chief data officer at MineSense, a Canada-based tech company that’s helping mines become more sustainable. MineSense shows operators exactly what grade of ore is in each dip of their massive shovels. Hoogendoorn’s team uses Oracle Autonomous Data Warehouse to store data for access by data scientists, and to deliver client-specific dashboards using Oracle Application Express (APEX), which is Oracle Database’s built-in, low-code development framework. This information has two powerful effects: It can help miners avoid throwing away useful ore, and if the ore grade they’re digging is lower than what they modeled, they can avoid wasting time, water, and energy trying to process it. – Jeff Erickson


Dying species, climate change, COVID-19—What other evidence does an ecologist need to get his point across?

Enric Sala has been sounding the alarm about the health of oceans for years. Now, with the waters warmer and more over-fished than ever, he’s turning up the volume, warning about the planet’s future, not just the vulnerability of life in the high seas. Dr. Sala, a marine ecologist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, is the founder of Pristine Seas, a project he launched in 2008 to explore and protect the ocean’s last wild places. Since 2009, the year Oracle started supporting Pristine Seas as a major donor, there has been real progress. But not nearly enough, Dr. Sala says. “The science is telling us that we need 30% of the oceans protected by 2030 if we are to prevent a massive extinction of species and the collapse of our life support system.” When Pristine Seas began its mission to create marine reserves free of commercial fishing, only 1% of the oceans were protected. Today, it’s 7%, though only 2.5% is fully protected from damaging activities. Dr. Sala asks people to remember one overarching premise: “We cannot recreate what nature gives us for free. Life on earth is a miracle.” – Mark Jackley

Pristine Seas

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Photography: Sarayut Thaneerat/Getty Images, National Grid US, J-Elgaard/Getty Images, Oceanworks, McNeilus, Minesense, Pristine Seas

Margaret Lindquist

Margaret Lindquist

Margaret Lindquist is a senior director and writer at Oracle.