Sustainability is a must-have for corporate planners today as they face increasing pressure to decarbonize from consumers, regulators, and their own corporate partners. In fact, 86% of business leaders view sustainability strategies as investments in business stability. Bringing existing operations to net zero can seem overwhelming. Still, it can become easier to achieve when leaders focus on four strategies — or levers — that can drive more eco-friendly and more sustainable growth.
Achieving real corporate sustainability improvements requires businesses to address their full value chain, from suppliers up through their products’ lifespans.
How today’s businesses are responding
This is the third post in our series focused on ways corporate leaders can decarbonize their companies’ products and operations and simultaneously realize business growth. The first looked at ways Schneider Electric is working with our partners to achieve these goals, and the second outlined the business opportunities that sustainability initiatives have provided for our partners’ bottom lines. Here, we outline an approach to bringing decarbonization into all levels of a company’s business.
Corporate leaders know changes are needed, which consulting firm Deloitte found confirmed in its 2022 CxO Sustainability Report. They surveyed more than 2,000 C-suite executives from 21 countries and found that:
- 79% see the world at a climate change tipping point
- 97% of companies have already felt negative impacts from climate change
- 80% say climate change events have personally impacted them over the last year
Companies are responding to these threats, with 60% of global organizations expected to use sustainability key performance indicators (KPIs) and data as primary operational control parameters by 2026 – compared to less than 20% in 2021. And 63% of global business leaders now see sustainability as a “very important” priority in their companies’ procurement efforts. However, only 12% of Fortune 500 companies deliver on their commitments.
At Schneider Electric, we are determined to do better. We approach decarbonization as a lifecycle approach to strategize, digitize and decarbonize. Essentially, we are committed to supporting our partners on their journey to decarbonization and in their efforts to help their customers achieve their sustainability goals. We want to help our partners to:
- Strategize with mindset and vision so that their employees are committed and well-equipped with sustainability knowledge, tools, and what’s at stake for their company.
- Digitize with tools and software so they can design and deploy a decarbonization plan and provide advisory services.
- Decarbonize with technology so they can advance sustainability for their customers.
The four levers for sustainable operations
Decarbonization is a challenging goal. Schneider Electric calls the foundation it’s building for reaching this goal “Electricity 4.0.” This fuel for a new electric world will help make our buildings and systems more sustainable and resilient through increased electrification and digitalization. We need to move from fossil fuels to electricity because electricity is the most efficient energy and the best vector of decarbonization. Digitalization boosts this efficiency by making the invisible visible, eliminating waste, and driving improved performance.
We’ve also identified four “levers” businesses can use to create a pathway to create sustainable operations.
- Electrify operations by replacing fossil fuel-based processes with those that use electricity generated by renewable resources instead. This is especially critical for industrial operations, as this sector accounts for 30% of global emissions and about 37% of global energy consumption. Microgrids tying together multiple sources (such as on-site solar and batteries) can help support these efforts and support vehicle electrification.
- Reduce energy use and improve efficiency through digitalization to create smart operations. For example, digitalizing power distribution equipment can help operators visualize, optimize, and reduce their energy use.
- Replace resources with sustainable options that optimize space and material use and minimize waste. All resources have limits, so they must be used with foresight and purpose to serve your operations and customers. This means choosing technology vendors who recycle and refurbish their products, prioritizing environmental performance when selecting new products, reducing or eliminating hazardous materials in products you manufacture or specify, and replacing single-use plastic in your packaging and moving to recycled cardboard for your primary and secondary packaging to keep excess waste off job sites and out of landfills.
- Engage your value chain to advance supplier and vendor decarbonization and circular business practices. Circular business models support the reuse of materials to minimize waste and natural resource consumption. Everyone in the value chain needs to come together in this effort. Consulting firm Gartner predicts circular economies will replace linear, once-and-done approaches as soon as 2029. Engaging with like-minded technology vendors and suppliers in this mutually beneficial value chain can help you better serve your customers and your bottom line. We help ensure upskilling and improving partner competence with the Sustainability School, helping them understand sustainability and delivering the right sustainable solutions.
Schneider Electric is already partnering with our customers to help them on their decarbonization journeys. Our Sustainability Business Services consultants help our clients design an energy management strategy, deliver facility efficiency, and sustain long-term results through long-term partnerships. And In July 2022, we launched the inaugural Schneider Electric Sustainability Impact awards to recognize the positive impacts achieved by partners, end customers, and suppliers who embrace our sustainability-focused technologies, philosophies, and ambitions. This year’s Global Impact Award winners are partners that we acknowledged for their outstanding successes and innovations in one of two categories:
- Partners who lead the charge themselves and decarbonize their operations.
- Partners who advocate sustainable solutions that support net-zero goals for their customers.
And our online Sustainability School gives partners important basics to help them on their way. This online program helps them gain knowledge, take action, and win business pitching sustainability, digitization, and decarbonization to their customers through related applications and solutions from Schneider Electric.
Visit our Sustainability Impact Award portal to learn more about this effort and how you can turn your decarbonization practices into prestige.
Listen to the recently recorded podcast to learn more about this topic. You can find our podcast “Partner for Sustainability” on iTunes or Spotify.