The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 9 encompasses three important aspects of sustainable development, “Industry, Infrastructure and Innovation”.

Investments in infrastructure, such as transport, irrigation, energy and information and communication technology are crucial in empowering communities in many countries. Industrialization drives economic growth, creates job opportunities and thereby reduces income poverty. Innovation advances the technological capabilities of industrial sectors and prompts the development of new skills.

This week we take a look at Autodesk, a global company providing software and services for 3D design and engineering.  They believe that further innovation in design can make a significant impact on the major issues facing the world today and provide the tools necessary for designers to meet these challenges.

We spoke to Autodesk’s go-to man for sustainability and clean tech in Asia Pacific, Joachim Jack Layes, who believes that sustainability is certainly the key in creating a better world and it can be driven by the fast developing region of Asia.

He is the Global Director for Entrepreneurial Impact at Autodesk and is responsible for sustainability programs and initiatives at Autodesk, including Autodesk’s Entrepreneur Impact Program, which helps early-stage and entrepreneurs in the social, climate, and environmental sectors to get to market faster, leading a global team in Asia, Europe, North and South America.

Q: With the implementation of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals last year, what opportunities and challenges arise for a company like Autodesk?

The UN Sustainable Development Goals definitely create more opportunities than challenges..  Autodesk’s vision is to help people imagine, design and create a better world, and our tools are used to create almost everything in the world around us. This puts us in in a unique position to help change outcomes on the planet.

Our Autodesk Sustainability & Foundation team invests in and supports the people using our software to creative positive impact by developing solutions to today’s social and environmental challenges. Our Foundation grantees, and the entrepreneurs and innovators in our Technology Impact Program and Entrepreneur Impact Program are designing solutions for many of the Sustainable Development Goals set forth by the UN.

Some examples are Water for People, a US-based non-profit striving to bring safe, sustainable drinking water and sanitation to every human being; MASS Design Group from the US, which designs and makes infrastructure and buildings for underserved communities around the world; and Vantage Power from the UK, which makes a self-contained hybrid powertrain to retrofit existing diesel buses, cutting fuel consumption and emissions more than 40 percent.

Inspiring examples from Asia Pacific include China’s Pionovasion which is outfitting airships, bicycles and mobile chargers and more with their unique solar cloth and bendable thin-film solar cells to bring the power of the sun to everyone; Australia’s Nexus eWater, which has a grey water solution enabling us to recycle two-thirds of our water; and Singapore headquartered Floatility which is solving the challenge of the “first and last mile” in urban mobility with their ultra-lightweight, solar charged, electric network vehicles .

While much of Autodesk’s opportunity exists in helping others design and make solutions for the Goals, we’re also taking action as a company to combat climate change and its impacts. We’re a leading voice for climate action in the private sector, and recently announcing that we were the first US Company to set seven of the We Mean Business climate commitments. This includes powering our business with 100% renewable energy, putting an internal price on carbon, and integrating climate change information into our financial reporting. We’re also deepening our commitment to procure renewable energy that is more additional, local, and that spurs innovation.

Q: In 2015 Autodesk committed to powering it’s business with 100 percent renewable energy by 2020. What are the biggest challenges for Autodesk in achieving this target?

I’m pleased to share that we actually met this goal in 2016 through the purchase of renewable energy certificates (RECs). The greatest challenge has been that we aspire to do more, and to truly accelerate innovation and recognize all of the co-benefits renewables have to offer, we are committed to purchase renewable energy that is additional, local, and that spurs innovation. This is the kind of renewable energy procurement we need to see from the corporate sector, and we hope to help guide the industry on this journey.

We want to catalyze and accelerate renewable energy markets in the areas Autodesk and our customers work. Autodesk’s goal is to work with our customers to implement the new technologies that they are designing with our solutions, and to experiment with new procurement and financing approaches. In doing so, we hope to pave the way for many more companies, of all sizes, to pursue 100% renewable energy goals.

Renewable energy and clean technologies are essential in the transition to the low-carbon economy. They’re also good for business. Investing in renewable energy gives us a hedge against future energy price volatility. Our customers and employees have also come to expect us to lead by example in driving sustainable business practices ourselves.  By taking a leadership role in helping to stimulate the market for renewable energy, we can better anticipate and respond to the challenges our customers will increasingly face as they design and make the low-carbon built environment for the future.

Q: How do you think the public is evolving in how they look at companies and their sustainability efforts?

We’re seeing increased interest in corporate sustainability efforts, particularly among younger generations.

A 2015 Nielsen poll surveyed over 30,000 consumers spanning 60 different countries and found that sales of consumer goods from brands with a demonstrated commitment to sustainability grew four times faster than brands lacking sustainable visibility.

This type of conversation is becoming less niche and corporate sustainability efforts are becoming more commonplace. Ideally, sustainability practitioners will eventually work themselves out of jobs as sustainability becomes more ingrained in everyday business practices.

Q: Autodesk recently announced the availability of Industry Collections to entrepreneurs and non-profit innovations around the world. Could you tell us more about the release and what makes it unique?

Autodesk Industry Collections are our latest and greatest software offerings from Autodesk. Industry collections provide continuous access to the latest software releases and enhancements and flexible term lengths, as well as access to more cloud services, technical support and administrative tools.

To ensure more designers can create impact and continue their important efforts, all of our programs that provide software grants—Entrepreneur Impact Program, Technology Impact Program, and the Foundation—have been updated to offer Industry Collections.

Q: What role do partnerships play for Autodesk in finding solutions to the complex problems people face with regard to climate change?

Our partners in the Autodesk Entrepreneur Impact Program and Technology Impact Program play a huge role in finding solutions for climate change. For example, we seek partnerships across many sectors to best positioned to help those with impactful, scalable and innovative solutions.

While we can make strides as our own corporate entity, in order to truly scale, Autodesk’s opportunity exists in helping others create positive impact through software grants, training, marketing, pro bono services and other support.

We believe helping others use design to create impact can lead us to a world where people live well and live within the limits of the planet.

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