Earth observation as a business is not a novelty – however, new markets and new business avenues concerning EO data are emerging, brought about by evolutions in technology available, the transition to the data economy, and the overall shift of the space sector to software-based services and business models.

In this context, several regulatory initiatives are also opening up new markets for EO data – such is the case with ESG-related initiatives.

As an example, the proposal of an EU Regulation on deforestation-free products published late last year, which expressly acknowledges the role of EO data (such as Copernicus programme and tools) as part of the information used for compliance checks – notably, where appropriate, to determine whether a certain commodity or product is deforestation-free for the purposes of said regulation.

More recently, in February 2022, the proposal for an EU Directive on corporate sustainability due diligence was adopted. Given the broadness of the duties foreseen thereunder – and the broadness of potential entities affected (even indireclty) by such duties – it is expected that EO data will contribute to ensure compliance thereto.

In addition to these regulatory-driven opportunities, with ESG concerns being brought to the fore of how companies do business and, in particular, of how investors evaluate companies to invest, EO data has found a new market – notably, the development of EO data products and services that generally assist in ESG-related monitoring for public and private entities.

In this respect, companies are already developing services to tap into that potential – as an example, the SGAM (Smart Geotechnical Asset Management) service, promoted by ESA, aims at hazard and risk assessment integrating EO data. Its final review meeting of the feasibility study took place in March 2022.

Another example thereof, Canada's Strategy for Satellite Earth Observation, released on January 20, 2022 sets as an objective the harnessing of satellite EO to address climate change, expressly acknowledging the role of EO satellites in measuring key environmental and health indicators, contributing “to make regulatory compliance and standards certification easier, more cost-effective, and safer through rapid satellite observations”.

More recently, the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) climate report relied heavily on ESA's Climate Change Initiative satellite observations.

EO data and services for ESG are also expected to see growth in Africa, driven by a push in ethical investment and the pursuance of the UN Sustainable Development Goals in the continent – in fact, the African Investing for Impact Barometer indicates that ESG concerns are effectively being integrated in investment strategies in the continent.

Thus, ESG concerns will clearly be a driving factor in the development of new EO data systems and services, taking on board the potentials of new technology such as AI and Big Data.