Southwire’s sustainability-themed series on megatrends has identified how Southwire contributes to the solutions to many of the challenges facing our planet and our communities today. In our final blog in this series, we build on our previous article on increasing urbanization, and examine future needs for innovation and infrastructure.
Politicians and business and community leaders alike are vocal advocates for increased investment in American infrastructure. Most notably, they have adamantly stated that our critical infrastructure has not been adequately maintained. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave American infrastructure a D+ rating in 2017, demonstrating that most of the system is cause for “serious concern” and shows “strong risk of failure.”
What could cause an infrastructure failure?
Over the course of this series in sustainability trends, we explored several challenges straining our systems. The World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Risks Report identifies failure of critical infrastructure as being interconnected with other sustainability challenges in a web, including rising urbanization and cyber-dependency, an aging population and a growing middle class economy in emerging markets. As urban populations continue to grow, the demand on our transportation, water, energy, waste and commerce systems will threaten to exceed their capacity. Climate change will expose already vulnerable structures like power lines, roads and bridges to more extreme weather events such as highly variable temperatures and catastrophic storm systems bringing flooding and damaging winds.
What are the opportunities?
Of course, improving crumbling infrastructure would require significant capital investments. In Goal 9 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals: Infrastructure, Industrialization, & Innovation, the United Nations identifies those three “I” areas as key drivers of economic growth, spurring job creation, efficiency gains and small-scale industry expansion.
Beyond potential job creation, rebuilding our critical systems provides our communities, states and national systems an opportunity to implement new, innovative solutions to resource management, digitalization, durability, design, security and capacity. Rising digitalization will require a rapid integration and implementation of smart systems and the Internet of Things to manage resources in a global market. For example, TrendOne’s megatrends report for 2017 points to smart technologies, such as responsive traffic systems, in the creation of what they call Collaborative Cities, where residents voluntarily share data (like traffic and air quality metrics) to improve the services in their communities.
These opportunities for impactful innovations and more resilient infrastructure inspired a bold, new goal for Southwire: “Develop and commercialize four breakthrough solutions to customers’ sustainability challenges.” Without knowing exactly what the future will bring, or how Southwire’s expertise can help, we’re committed to being part of the solution.