WHEN GREEN INTENTIONS CREATE ETHICAL DILEMMAS

By Alexander Loft Birkemose

Technology can accelerate the green conversion. But at the same time new technology raises ethical dilemmas that affect all of us. This was the focus for the Green Tech theme during Internet Week Denmark 2021 – Relive ‘TECH & SUSTAINABILITY: TRICK-OR-TREAT?’ by Anders Quitzau and Kim Escherich.

This year, Green Tech had a special place at IWDK’s festival and we shed light on technological solutions withingreen transition and sustainability. “We’re introducing a Green Tech-theme because sustainability is an important topic that all companies need to consider in their strategy. Technology can make a difference so the green conversion can happen faster. We’ll only be able to achieve the ambitious climate goals by intensifying the development of new technology,” says Anders Quitzau, digital sustainability advisor and one of two chairs for the festival’s Green Tech events.

Sustainability as a part of everything

With the development of new technology comes a great responsibility and a list of ethical considerations. The topic of ethics is very important to Green Tech’s second chair, Kim Escherich. In his work as executive innovation architect and AI ethical advisor, he’s particularly focused on the dilemmas new technologies bring with them: “As a company, it’s about having a holistic view on things. If you do something where you think you’re being sustainable you have to keep in mind that the world is becoming more and more transparent.

If you’re greenwashing by pretending to be more sustainable than you actually are, you’ll be exposed very quickly,” says Escherich. Escherich points out that we have an ethical commitment to use technology to improve our surroundings. A tendency that, according to him, is going in the right direction. “My understanding is that we’re starting to experience the world as developing more ethically than the sole focus on economy that otherwise runs the world. Ethics are more important now in our decision-making, and Green Tech is very closely connected to the sense of responsibility that we’re increasingly experiencing.”, Escherich says.

Where’s the line?

Companies can be a part of the green conversion and according to Anders Quitzau, there are many Danish examples of how businesses are pushing the conversion forwards: “To give an example of a Danish company, Too Good To Go has created a succesful business model that is all about sustainability, by reducing food waste – and thereby also greenhouse gas emissions and resource usage – in a relatively simple online platform.” While Too Good To Go does not give many ethical dilemmas, other solutions requires many and very detailed data. For example the required smart grid solutions that are required enable maximising the

amount of solar and wind power in the Danish grid. In short, these solutions will require lots of data and intimate insights into the daily lives of households and businesses, Anders Quitzau explains. And this, according to Kim Escherich, is a a good example where the green conversion also requires a higher level of policy regulation.

During IWDK, one of the events will present concrete scenarios of ethical dilemmas within Green Tech and let the audience consider them. One example could be whether we as citizens should have a – perhaps – publicly available climate score where we’re either rewarded with tax exemptions or punished with tax payments depending on how sustainably we live. “Theoretically, my carbon footprint as an individual can be calculated and made public, but the scenario goes against our fundamental ethics in Denmark. The paradox is, however, that we’re not doing it on our own, so we have to do something like that if the climate crisis gets closer and it becomes strictly necessary. But how do we do it without creating too much inequality in society? How do we avoid creating too many restrictions to each individual’s freedom?” Escherich says. You can learn more about Green Tech and the ethical dilemma Thursday the May 6th during IWDK2021, when Anders Quitzau and Kim Escherich will inspire you and raise interesting questions about technology and sustainability

This article was an extract from the IWDK 2021 Festival Magazine and made in collaboration with Aarhus Panorama.