Intersection of technology and sustainability

For the past three years, DNV GL, UN Global Compact, and Sustainia have joined forces to produce the annual Global Opportunity Report. This yearly report is created based on extensive research and consultation with business leaders around the world. In all, we have analysed how 45 opportunities can emerge from 15 leading global risks. We have done this by conducting 17 opportunity panels with industry experts across five continents and gathering insights from surveys conducted with more than 17,000 business leaders from around the globe. The results reveal that challenges facing our society, planet, and business communities can actually be turned into opportunities if we adopt the right mindset.

As every risk assessed in the Global Opportunity Report is global in its reach, the potential for these market opportunities is enormous. No longer is responsible and sustainable business a small niche industry. Rather, these markets have the potential to be the key drivers of business growth in the coming decades.

From this wealth of data and knowledge, we are able to extract two important overall mega-trends across three years of the Global Opportunity Report.

Based on three years of Global Opportunity Report data, it is clear that at the intersection of technology and sustainability risks emerge new market opportunities. The vast majority of our 45 opportunities employ technological innovations, but digitalisation of certain products and services won’t be enough to remain competitive in the future market universe. True innovation lies in finding the intersection of a business sector and technology. We’ve showcased this trend in the illustration on the following page, highlighting how four key markets: health, food, water, and energy, interact with technology in order to push the boundaries of innovation.

Examples of Intersections:

1. Health > Internet of People
The internet of people is opening up new opportunities to deliver healthcare to low-income, remote communities via mobile solutions.

2. Food > Smart Farming
Utilising technological advancements like drip agriculture and access to real-time weather data is helping both large- and small-scale farmers produce more with less.

3. Water > Smart Water Tech
Innovative sensor technology and smart grids enable cities to manage their water supplies more efficiently and prevent disruptions to service delivery.

4. Energy > Business of Power
Decentralised, peer-to-peer platforms and innovative energy storage technologies are disrupting the conventional concept of utility delivery and better preparing cities for energy and climate resilience.

While it’s clear that all industries must digitalise in order to remain relevant, they’ll have to do even more to capitalize on new market spaces. The second trend we’ve witnessed is that businesses need to move beyond their core and live on the edge of their markets. As evidenced on the next page, increasingly market opportunities exist at the edge where innovation and experimentation exist. The edge markets that exist between health and food; food and water; and water and energy signify that all industries need to move beyond their core comfort zones and operate on the fringes to capitalise on future opportunities.

Examples on Market Overlap:

1. Health + Food > Antibiotic-Free Food
Growing concern over health issues is creating a drive for greater demand for antibiotic-free food. Therefore, the antibiotic-free food market is growing rapidly as these two sectors overlap to offer opportunities to protect people.

2. Food + Water > Water-Efficient Agriculture
Techniques like effective rainwater harvesting and gravity powered irrigation allow for the continuation of high-yield agriculture while still saving water.

3. Water + Energy > Fresh Water Production
Creating new freshwater sources using renewably powered wastewater treatment and desalinisation offer a crucial opportunity to meet the demand for fresh water while providing new and essential markets for clean energy.

Example 1: Intersection of
existing markets and technology

Zooming in on our illustration, it’s clear the intersection of energy and technology is not a niche opportunity. The opportunity from Global Opportunity Report 2017, Business of Power, showcases how decentralised, peer-to-peer platforms and innovative energy storage technologies are disrupting the conventional concept of utility delivery and better preparing cities and residents for energy and climate resilience. It is responding to the emerging consumer movement on energy self-sufficiency, where consumers are also producers of energy.

As this market is so new, microgrid and blockchain markets – two essential components of this opportunity – are as used as proxies for its current size and potential growth.





4,083 million USD revenue in 2015.
12,315 million USD expected revenue by 2022.

210.2 million USD market size in 2016.
2,313 million USD expected market size in 2021.
Funding for blockchain reached 1 billion USD between 2012 and 2015.

Regional Market Development
Region most likely to pursue the Business of Power opportunity according to the 2017 Global Opportunity
Report’s survey of 5,500 business leaders.


Example 2: Edges of existing
markets meet one another

Technology won’t be the only factor shaping the markets of tomorrow; so too will the ability for industries to see beyond their core and operate and innovate on the market’s edges, where their expertise will mesh with other industries. Our illustration showcases how this is already happening across a number of sectors. Particularly, the overlap between food and water, exemplified here in the case of water-efficient agriculture, an opportunity from Global Opportunity Report 2015, is shaping up to be a booming market in the coming years. Smart irrigation systems, a critical element of the water-efficient agriculture market, is used here as a proxy for the opportunity’s current market size and potential growth.


Smart Irrigation Systems
8,717 million USD revenue in 2014.
13,336 million USD expected revenue by 2021.

Regional Market Development
Region most likely to pursue the water-efficient agriculture opportunity according to the 2015 Global Opportunity Report’s survey of 6,160 business leaders.

Your GPS to New Markets

The two mega-trends are clear: Investing in digital innovations and operating on the edges of markets are the keys to success in tomorrow’s future market landscape. What might not be so obvious is how businesses should act on these trends. We present three steps business leaders can follow to learn how to capitalise on these opportunities now, and in the future. The steps come from looking across the three global surveys and 45 market opportunities in the past three years.

Step 1.

Business leaders need to recognise that previous methods for doing business are no longer viable in the 21st century and must change their corporate strategies accordingly. Zooming in on core business blinds you from seeing new markets. Instead, the business community must look to frontrunners who are able to zoom out and shift their focus from the core to the edges. New, sustainable, and long-term markets no longer emerge at the core of mainstream business; focusing too much on this core will eventually kill you. As illustrated in the Global Opportunity Report, edge markets are the future hotspots of business innovation.

Step 2.

To capitalise on these trends, business leaders need to undergo a pretty simple yet revolutionary change in mindset, from asking “Why me? Why should my business have to deal with these risks?” to instead asking “Why not me?” Posing this question sparks a shift in business thinking from an apathetic focus on risks to an action-oriented move toward designing and seizing opportunities. This will be the defining factor of the future market landscape, since, as the Global Opportunity Report shows, behind every global risk lies a business opportunity that can also benefit people and the planet.

Step 3.
Map your Opportunity Landscape

Once business leaders have acknowledged the need to move beyond their core and into edge markets to stay relevant in the future market landscape, they need to find out where, exactly, these new market universes lie. All businesses undertake risk mapping, but the key trends found over three years of the Global Opportunity Report tell us it is time to invest in opportunity mapping. The examples that come from health, food, water, and energy illustrate the size and potential of this trend globally, across all established markets. Individual businesses need to map their opportunity landscape to uncover and capitalise on these emerging edge markets that will shape the future of global business.

Learn more about the Global Opportunity Report 2017

Learn more

Download the full Global Opportunity 2017 Report here!

Download the report


General Enquiries

Press Information

  • For press information, please see our: Press page


  • Sign up here to receive the monthly newsletter from the Global Opportunity Network
© 2013 - 2019 - DNV GL, Veritasveien 1, 1363 Høvik, Norway