Susan Uthayakumar is the former President of the Sustainability Business Division at Schneider Electric. See articles from Steve Wilhite, current President of the Sustainability Business Division, here.
When corporate sustainability first started to make waves, there were a few front runners – and Schneider Electric and Microsoft were among them. And our 30 year partnership for a sustainable future reached a new peak this year when we received Microsoft’s 2021 Sustainability Changemaker Partner of the Year recognition.
Together, we’re co-innovating and co-selling solutions that help our common customers bridge the gap between setting their sustainability goals and achieving them, with our EcoStruxture™ digital architecture powered by the most advanced evolution of Microsoft Azure.
Leading Change for the Long-term
Over the past 18 months, the world has seen firsthand the human and economic impacts of widescale disruption. As companies begin to emerge from the immediate threat of the pandemic, they are turning their attention towards the looming threat of climate change and its disruptive power. Already, we have begun to see the costs of climate change, ranging from increasing loss of life around the world from extreme temperature events to the billions of dollars spent annually on emergency management and infrastructure reconstruction.
Climate change risk awareness is on the rise, and investors and governments around the world have begun to see the importance of proactively manage these risks. Many country-level economic stimulus packages that are driving pandemic recovery are tied to the idea of “building back better,” using the influx of emergency capital as a means to create new opportunities and ensure a just transition in energy. The result is that organizations globally are facing more pressure than ever to measure, manage, and make progress on climate action.
Taking action is no longer enough; there is an increasing expectation that companies in all segments will lead on, and storytell about, sustainability. Climate abatement efforts have become a competitive differentiator in the war for talent and the reputational race, and organizations that are laggards now face the real consequence of the societal or legal revocation of market share – or worse, their license to operate.
Schneider Electric and Microsoft are demonstrating how companies can lead for the long-term and take a proactive position on these pressures. Both companies have been leaders on sustainability in their own right for more than a decade, with significant aspirations – and demonstrated progress – in the areas of climate change, responsible resource management, and more.
For instance, in 2020, Microsoft announced that the company would be carbon negative by 2030, and that it would address its historical emissions by 2050. The company has long been a leader on carbon reductions, setting its first carbon neutral commitment in 2012, executing one of the first large-scale corporate renewable energy power purchase agreements in 2013, and instituting a leading internal carbon tax that has become the gold standard for internal carbon accounting.
At Schneider Electric, we’ve followed a similar trajectory, creating and publicizing one of the first sustainability performance dashboards for a global corporation 15 years ago, and being one of the first companies to set and receive verification for a science-based carbon reduction target. We’ve also accelerated our commitments to carbon neutrality, set a net zero value chain goal, advanced innovation through our SE Ventures program, and, this year, launched our Zero Carbon Project, an ambitious target to help our top 1,000 suppliers halve their own carbon footprints by 2025. Our efforts led Corporate Knights to recognize us as the most sustainable global corporation in 2021.
Building Solutions – Together – That Empower Others to Act
For both Schneider Electric and Microsoft, the work of changing the sustainability landscape sustainability doesn’t stop at our own four walls. We understand the challenge and the opportunity that sustainability presents – and when paired with digital, the “twin pillars” of transformation it creates.
That’s why this award from Microsoft is so significant. We’re very proud of our own sustainability work at Schneider Electric, but we’re even more proud of the way that we serve our customers. What many people don’t know is that we manage more energy on behalf of our clients than any other company in the world – more than $30 billion annually. Increasingly, we’re helping those same clients remove the emissions from that energy.
For instance, we provide our clients visibility into the sources and volumes of the nearly 130 million metric tons of GHG emissions they report to us in aggregate on an annual basis. We’re also the world’s largest corporate renewable energy advisor. Since 2014, we’ve helped our clients execute more than 10 gigawatts of renewable energy power purchase agreements. That’s the carbon equivalent of avoiding 300 million metric tons of emissions – or turning off 75 coal-fueled power plants for a year.
Our ability to serve such a significant global customer base relies on digital technology and our award-winning portfolio of software, ranging from our market orchestration platform, NEO Network – which connects more than 400 global companies to carbon-reducing projects and products – to our suite of EcoStruxure software, including Resource Advisor, a best-in-class solution for the collection, maintenance, analysis, and reporting of energy and sustainability data, and Microgrid Advisor, our demand-side platform for predictive microgrid management.
Schneider Electric’s solutions are built to collect and interpret data for the energy transition – and these solutions are underpinned by Microsoft technologies. The Microsoft backbone allows our data – and, more importantly, the data of our thousands of customers – to safely speak to other data across organizational barriers. Microsoft’s advanced AI technologies also help to accelerate sustainability decision-making, applying machine learning to large energy and sustainability data sets and advancing real-time performance insights.
And, together, we’re developing even more joint solutions – such as the implementation of a new co-innovate and co-sell solution named EcoStruxure Traceability Advisor, which will help our mutual customers connect data across their value chains to build a 360-degree resilient and traceable supply chain.
We’re honored to be recognized by Microsoft as a Partner of the Year in the Sustainability Changemaker category, and we look forward to continuing our longstanding, joint engagement to empower everyone to make the most of energy and resources, bridging progress and sustainability for all.
I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn to stay connected and learn about what Schneider Electric’s sustainability consulting organization is up to. Watch the video below to hear more about how Schneider and Microsoft work together to drive sustainable change for our customers.