How people who create software can have an impact on making our society more sustainable

Beau Gordon
2 min readSep 20, 2023

I am a Product Manager and User Experience designer who makes digital software and I thought I wouldn’t be able to have a meaningful impact on Climate Change considering it’s primarily driven by the creation of physical products and resources, like energy or cars, which emit fossil fuels into the environment.

It turns out I can have an impact because sustainable products need to be manufactured, managed and distributed. And humans use software systems to do this work.

Bill Gates says, to mitigate climate change we need to create sustainable cheap alternatives to existing products. The levers we have to achieve this are innovation, policy, and markets. We should use innovation to invent new products, markets to distribute them globally and policy to incentivize people to make and consume them.

I work for a carbon credit marketplace that protects and restores forests to sequester CO2 from the atmosphere. Our end product is growing trees, which I have no skills in. However, in order to grow a tree and then generate and sell a carbon credit, we follow a very complex process, which is incredibly inefficient and needs to be digitized in order to grow the carbon credit marketplace. This process includes finding eligible land, convincing landowners to plant trees, using artificial intelligence and satellite imagery to measure the biomass of those trees so we can quantify how much carbon is being sequestered, educating our customers and the market so that people trust carbon credits are an affective climate mitigation tool etc. Recently I’ve been focused on building tools to enable our supply team to more efficiently find land, measure biomass and grow forests.

There are many other examples where we need better software and systems: recycling, commercializing and globally distributing fusion energy, software to manage electric cars sensor data and power consumption, optimizing our electrical grids transition from central power production to decentralized renewable power production etc.

If you would like to move into sustainability, not all companies are focused on sustainability so it may be difficult for you to implement sustainability at a company that doesn’t have sustainability goals. You could look for companies who have E.S.G. plans (Environmental, social, and corporate governance) and products you’re excited about. If your company does not have an E.S.G. plan, you may be able to influence them to create one because there are many examples where creating more sustainable products also improves companies bottom lines e.g. Coca-Cola’s sustainability plan focused on combating obesity, so they created Diet Coke, which is one of their fastest growing products.

You can make a difference, I believe in you.