World Metrology Day: Measure today for a sustainable tomorrow

Paris, 20 May 1875, representatives from 17 countries are about to sign the Convention du Mètre (the Convention of the Metre).

The agreement reached has become the basis for the standardised system of measurement, known as the International System of Units (SI), which is used and recognised globally, setting a precedent for global cooperation and consistency among nations.

The importance of that day in 1875 cannot be overstated. Everything from trade and industry, navigation, food production, international finance, relies on this global system. That’s why we remember and celebrate it every year on World Metrology Day.

This year’s theme “Measure today for a sustainable tomorrow” recalls the very reason for that original treaty to encourage cooperation and consistency among nations. The challenges of creating a sustainable world, of climate change, of circularity, are fundamentally one of cooperation and consistency.

Scrap metal in bins outside a factory

Accurate and precise measurement prevents industrial waste

The role of measurement in sustainability

Every country, every industry, every organisation, even every individual needs to have sustainability goals. To achieve our goals we need to collaborate. Together we must celebrate our successes and work to overcome our failures, but to get there we need transparency and consistency of measurement.

Accurate and precise measurement underpins sustainable development in two broad ways. There is the old saying “measure twice, cut once”. Accurate and precise measurements allow us to avoid waste. Getting it right first time means having a significantly reduced environmental impact. Where once we said quality drives productivity, now we should say quality drives sustainability. With advances in smart digital realities, CAD/CAM software, extended product lifecycle management and connected quality assurance across the value chain, getting it right the first time is absolutely possible.

The second of our broad categories is in monitoring the environment and measuring our impacts on it. Transparent and consistent measurement is fundamental to understanding, tracking and improving environmental impacts. In the footsteps of those original 17 countries that signed the Convention of the Metre, we must continue the precedent for cooperation and consistency. We’re already doing it.

With advances in reality capture, remote sensing, satellite imagery and real-time data analysis, we are better equipped than ever to measure our environmental footprint. With this data we can create effective strategies to mitigate our impact, and monitor the success of sustainability initiatives in real-time. The technology is already in place. We just need to start using it to the best effect.

When the problem is global, the responsibility is shared among among us all, 8 billion people. It’s easy to shrug your shoulders and say “what can I do?”

a group of people clapping hands

A shared responsibility

Measuring the power of little steps

There is special providence in the fall of a sparrow. Shakespeare wasn’t talking about sustainability when he wrote those words four centuries ago, but then, neither was he talking about sparrows. He was talking about the power of individuals.

Individual actions, like reducing water and electricity consumption, recycling, choosing public transportation or supporting sustainable businesses, might seem small in isolation. But collectively, these efforts contribute to the larger goal. Never discount the butterfly effect. One little action might seem trivial, but that spark of positivity can shine like a candle in a dark world. A small change can bring about a large impact over time. Green initiatives lead by passionate individuals may seem small in isolation but their collective results contribute significantly to the broader objective of sustainability.

Modern metrology is very good at measuring small changes, it’s capable of quantifying the tiniest variables. Those small choices are meaningful. Each decision and every little step represents a step in the right direction and when large groups of people make sustainable choices the impact is global. The technologies are already in place, we just need to leverage them towards creating a sustainable future and science of metrology is right there at the heart of it.

But now we want to hear from you. What does metrology mean to you and your sustainability efforts? Share this blog with your networks and join the conversation online. Read our past World Metrology Day blogs here:

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