In the face of the climate crisis, businesses can no longer ignore the urgent need for change. I passionately believe that now is the time for businesses to stand together to make systematic change for our planet, and we must all act quickly to implement more sustainable practices at the forefront of our operations. Knowing that we can be a part of the solution to the climate crisis has created an enhanced sense of purpose for CGI as an organisation, one which our employees value, support and contribute towards.
Digital technology has a vital role to play in enabling us to live and work sustainably. Not only do we look to our activities and those of our supply chain, but we strive to protect the environment by developing and delivering sustainable solutions for our clients. A real benefit of this multi-faceted view is where we sometimes get the opportunity to bring these together for the greater good. For example, combining our development of Earth Observation technology for our space clients with our desire to be involved with carbon reduction initiatives. This led us to work pro-bono with Project Seagrass to help quantify the volume and health of this amazing resource to aid its protection and restoration.
Seagrass meadows–helping rebalance the Earth
Seagrasses are flowering plants that live in the oceans, forming complex meadows creating an entire ecosystem that supports thousands of marine animals and fish. These underwater meadows also support endangered species such as turtles and seahorses, increasing the biodiversity of coastal waters by providing food and habitat. Seagrasses are a relatively unknown source of CO2 consumption for the UK and are one of the most promising carbon sinks. Their ecosystems absorb organic carbon 35 times faster than rainforests. Seagrass meadows are critical to the survival of every living thing on Earth. They produce oxygen, clean our coastal waters, absorb greenhouse gas emissions, and help keep oceans healthy. This stabilises the climate, both globally and locally.
Biodiversity loss threatens both people and the planet, placing pressure on our health, economy and food security. Since 1980, we have lost over 35% of our seagrass meadows, equating to around 1.5% per year, or two football fields each hour. Despite its importance, seagrass is disappearing fast. Climate change, disease, and human-induced threats such as pollution and decreased water clarity, often triggered by excessive nutrients and sediments in runoff from the land, can have devastating local effects. Physical disturbance can also occur from contact with boat propellers and chain moorings. When damage is done to roots and rhizomes, the ability of the plant to produce new growth is severely impacted, meaning plants may never be able to recover.
Bringing it all together
Working in partnership with Project Seagrass, an environmental charity devoted to conserving seagrass ecosystems, we are combining our commitment to support local communities with our passion for the environment and 40+ years of experience in delivering complex, mission-critical space technology. We are helping to identify where the seagrass meadows are and quantify their volume and health, thereby helping to aid its protection and restoration.
Data from our GeoData360 Earth Observation Platform is processed using various algorithms developed in partnership with Project Seagrass, allowing us to digitally 'peel back layers of the sea' to understand where the seagrass meadows are across the UK. Project Seagrass will use this quantified data source to aid conservation and local activities to preserve and restore this valuable carbon sink resource and increase CO2 consumption by improving the health and volume of the UK's coastal seagrass.
This automated seagrass mapping tool can survey the entirety of the UK in minutes, which previously could only be completed manually by boat or drone. The algorithm includes correlation with data collected by our CGI volunteers and their families, including those taking part in our organised STEM project, helping to improve the accuracy of the dataset. This STEM activity, which we make available to anyone via our website, is also used to raise awareness of how space technology can help protect our natural environment.
Being a responsible business
We are committed to partnering with Project Seagrass on this programme to ensure that the benefits seagrass meadows provide communities are sustained now and in the future. This is just one example of where we are using our expertise to make a positive difference – delivering innovative solutions.
As a business leader, I feel a personal responsibility to ensure that the business I lead makes a positive impact on the world around us. In doing so, we use our expertise to deliver sustainable solutions for our clients – understanding technology's key role. From seabed to space, we can say we really are making a difference to our planet. We should do this, and we can do this – so why wouldn’t we?
Watch the CGI and Project Seagrass video here
 Research published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment seagrass ecosystems globally can consume carbon up to 35 times faster than rainforests