The Sustainable Future Looks Bright

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Schneider Electric’s SVP of energy and sustainability services talks responsible reporting and the importance of transparency.

By Steve Wilhite

As a company that specializes in global energy management and automation—offering building and energy management systems, security controls, analytics, electrical utilities and renewables, industrial automation solutions, and data centers—Schneider Electric knows the importance of having a sustainable energy supply.

One of its current goals is to build an ecosystem that helps customers reduce their own energy consumption by 30 percent through active energy efficiency and sustainability solutions. The company also helps its clients navigate their entire reporting process by determining the right framework to meet their goals, implementing productivity tools, and analyzing and verifying sustainability data—and 64 percent of their clients received an A or A- in this year’s CDP scores as a result. Almost half of clients who responded to CDP in both 2015 and 2016 saw a score increase as well.

Schneider Electric recently announced that the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) has certified its energy and sustainability software platform, Resource Advisor, to meet the data collection and integration requirements of G4, GRI’s latest sustainability reporting guidelines.

The certification means that Resource Advisor is formally qualified to help organizations meet GRI G4 guidelines, supporting accurate, effective and transparent sustainability reports.

CR Magazine spoke with Steve Wilhite, senior vice president of energy and sustainability services at Schneider Electric, about the company’s sustainability reporting, future goals, and how other organizations can meet global reporting standards as well.

CR Magazine: What are some trends you’re seeing in reporting?

Steve Wilhite: There are a few sustainability reporting trends we’re seeing. One is that data is becoming more visible. There are currently 2,500 unique metrics that corporations use for sustainability reporting, and the importance of selecting consistent, relevant, and measurable performance indicators is paramount. We’re also seeing that reporting is becoming more prevalent— there are more than 50 different global reporting programs, and that number continues to grow. And a lot of this is happening as transparency is becoming the norm. Sustainability reports are becoming as important— and as widely viewed—as quarterly financial statements. That means companies have to become more and more transparent about how their reports are created and what the results are based on.

Also, regional differences between sustainability reporting are more amplified. For example, in the U.S., consumers will continue to drive the landscape, but in places like Europe, meeting government mandates is the focus. We’re also seeing that globally, legislation is becoming a force for good. With initiatives like the Paris Agreement, policymakers are enacting sustainability-focused statutes faster than ever before.

CR: How is corporate leadership responding to these trends?

SW: We’re seeing more and more leadership buy-in, especially with CFOs who are becoming sustainability advocates as related programs increasingly demonstrate cost savings and operational efficiency. Better reporting means better sustainability and fiscal benefits.

CR: What are your sustainability goals for 2017; and what goals are you projecting as 2020 approaches? How will you accomplish them?

SW: Our primary goal is to improve our Planet and Society Barometer score. Along with that is a commitment to becoming a carbon-neutral company across all sites and our ecosystem in the next 15 years.

We have committed to set science-based targets by 2018.

We’ll also continue to help our clients reduce their environmental footprints by developing and delivering innovative technology and services that make every level of an organization more efficient and sustainable. For example, we work with the world’s leading companies to develop a sustainability strategy, reduce their energy and resource consumption, help them to buy/install renewable energy, and collect and report on enterprise sustainability data to increase transparency. We have 250 factories and distribution centers around the world, so we needed to create a formula to ensure success in sustainability. Environmental performance management is the first step to ensure continuous improvement of our environmental performance.

Each facility that we have has to achieve certifications covering quality, safety, environmental management, and energy management. Whenever we acquire a new company or facility, that site needs to become certified in these areas within two years.

Considering resource efficiency in manufacturing and logistics, we focus our attention on energy, water, SF6, and waste. In addressing each area, we begin by quantifying what is being consumed and/or generated, and then take steps to optimize our operations.

Our objective is to reduce energy consumption by 10 percent in 2017 compared to 2014, and we already have achieved a 10 percent reduction in water use since the end of 2014. SF6 emissions have been reduced by a factor of 10 since 2008. We also maintain a database of best practices that enables sharing these ideas throughout the company across all our business units. The push for greener logistics focuses primarily on reducing CO2 emissions from transportation sources.

Our efforts to achieve cleaner manufacturing have allowed us to significantly reduce volatile organic chemicals and the use of hazardous materials. We have strongly focused on materials and substances listed in the REACh and RoHs standards and we have a Green Premium ecolabel that indicates environmental information to all clients.

We have also focused on circular economy models by reusing, repairing, and recycling products and materials. Our Privas, France facility is dedicated to the refurbishment and remanufacturing of our products at the end of their life. When it comes to waste, we strive to achieve a “zero-waste-to-landfill” status at a growing number of our facilities. By the end of 2017, at least 100 of our sites will no longer send waste to landfills.

SIDEBAR: Schneider Electric’s proudest CR accomplishments in the past five years include:

• Achieving 8.6 out of 10 on Schneider Electric‘s sustainability scorecard The Planet and Society Barometer, in 2016;

• Being recognized as a sustainability leader by a variety of organizations that track energy and environmental management, ranging from the Dow Jones Sustainability Index to Corporate Knights; and

• Being the only company in its industry on the CDP’s Climate A List for six consecutive years.

Posted April 18, 2017 in Sustainability