From the Front Lines: Internal Collaboration and Progress on Climate Change

By Betsy Reed

In my last post for Triple Pundit, I talked about the importance of external, B2B collaboration on efforts to address climate change. It’s big, it’s real, it’s too big to tackle alone and it presents unprecedented opportunities for innovation by and success for businesses up to the task.

I spoke to two companies doing some good work engaging their own workforce on climate change. Patrick Blankers from Ericsson will be speaking at the upcoming ‘Companies Vs Climate Change’ conference I’ll be chairing in Brussels October 4-6. Alexandra Heaven from Danone will be in attendance, serving as a catalyst for discussion among delegates as we explore practical ways to collaborate and take conference learnings back to our companies and trigger a shift in the way business is done in regard to addressing climate change.

A lot of us have probably spent a fair amount of time hearing or talking about external collaboration and work – at conferences or in our own work – but genuine internal engagement and collaboration is a crucial approach that’s often left out by a lot of companies I’ve known. Not only does good internal engagement help to mobilize resources within an organization, it’s often a major boost to scaling impact on important issues like climate change. I get why it’s often left out – it can be hard to measure the value of doing it and can prove difficult to retrofit into established work cultures, systems and ways of working. But it’s still important – essentially, it’s mobilizing and informing your own army.

So we asked Ericsson and SAP, who will be speaking at CVCC, and Danone, who will be attending, how they’ve engaged and collaborated internally on climate change. Some common themes emerged – a clear focus, leadership from the top, an investment of thought and resource to engage internally were a few.

Patrick Blankers, Ericsson’s Europe Sustainability Program Manager, who will be speaking on the second day of ‘Companies Vs Climate Change’, talked about their approach to both external and internal collaboration to address climate change.

‘Climate change is probably the biggest challenge for our planet and all living creatures on it. Ericsson strongly believes that the ICT sector has a role to play in providing practical solutions that can help to build a low-carbon society and slow down climate change. Our industry has a unique potential to enable other sectors move towards a low-carbon economy and achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Our own research shows ICT solutions could help to reduce GHG emissions by up to 15 per­cent by 2030, amounting to around 10 gigatonnes of CO2e. That’s more than the cur­rent carbon footprint of the EU and US combined. However, ICT must be developed and rolled out with the intention to address climate change, measuring carbon reduction progress and with an explicit aim to support decision-makers to make the right decisions.’

We asked Patrick about the importance of internal engagement and collaboration in Ericsson’s aims to address climate change. In short, it’s a core part of… everything. From internal targets to innovation projects, it’s embedded throughout the organization, talked about regularly and is part of individual and team targets throughout the business. Ericsson has targets to reduce its GHG emissions in areas like business travel, car fleet, product transportation and facilities. The 2020 goal is to reduce GHG emission by 30 percent, as compared to the 2015 baseline. In the previous period, Ericsson exceeded its emission reduction targets, which helps to build trust among employees and among customers.

Ericsson’s global sustainability vision to be a responsible and relevant driver of positive change for society drives a focus on climate change. Sustainability and climate change is an agenda item at every internal sales and leadership summit and, as mentioned above, targets reflect this priority.

It’s the actual work that counts more than the agenda items, though, and many across Ericsson are working in practical, measurable ways to deliver great work that innovates and reduces impact. This is reflected in their R&D, for example: They are continuing to explore innovations that make alternative energy sources economically feasible, in order to enable a significant reduction in diesel consumption. They recently succeeded at this when they deployed the world’s first “pure solar” 500 watt solar-powered radio site in 2016 in Myanmar. For the first time, solar energy was more economical than diesel. The project was recognized with the GLOMO Award 2017, and it’s being referred to as a major reference in both internal and external communications.

Not only is addressing climate change good for delivering Ericsson’s vision, it’s highly integrated in their R&D and business strategy, keeping them cutting-edge and an advocate of innovating technology for good.

So, Ericsson are an enormous company focused on climate change at all levels of its business. This is great news. The even better news is they’re not alone.

If you’re familiar with enterprise software, you’ll know SAP: they’re not only the market leader in it, they’re the world’s third largest independent software manufacturer overall. Around the world, they employ 90,000 people of 130 different nationalities. Internal engagement – and engagement particularly around sustainability and climate change – is high on their agenda, and they’re clearly doing it well.

Marcus Wagner, SAP’s Director of Sustainability and Global Environmental Management – also the first speaker to kick off ‘Companies Vs Climate Change’ Brussels – talked to me about SAP’s work to mobilize its workforce to address climate change.

‘SAP’s vision is to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. To meet this purpose, we have committed our people and our products to address the world’s biggest economic, environmental, and societal issues and achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. To contribute specifically to Goal 13, Climate Action, we aim to reduce our global greenhouse gas emissions to levels of the year 2000 by 2020 – despite strong company growth. At the beginning of 2017, for example, SAP announced it would become carbon neutral in its operations by 2025.’

Its new Environmental Policy outlines how employees can be part of SAP’s journey to achieve its vision and integrate sustainable practices into their work, through things like reducing waste and energy use and developing solutions that enable SAP customers to create positive environmental impact. Another focus area is improving the impact of corporate cars and employee commuting through carpooling, use of public transportation, and using carbon neutral fuel cards and electric vehicles (SAP for electric vehicles to make up 20% of its car fleet by 2020).

Their sustainability champion programme drives internal collaboration across all regions, countries and lines of business. It includes more than 150 employees worldwide, raising awareness and enabling change to support SAP’s sustainability aims.

What they’re doing actually seems to be working well. In SAP’s 2016 annual employee survey, they ask how important sustainability is and how each employee contributes individually. 92 percent said it’s important for SAP to pursue sustainability and 82 percent of all employees contribute to SAP’s sustainability goals.

Patrick from Ericsson and Marcus from SAP will both be speaking at ‘Companies Vs Climate Change’ Brussels in early October. The three days will be packed with opportunities to pick up insights on how businesses can address climate change, share their own and grow their network. Other speakers include Carlsberg, Lidl, Arcelor Mittal, Toyota, Helly Hansen, Walgreen Boots Alliance and others.

Delegates come from a range of roles in companies across Europe and will add their own experience, questions and energy during interactive sessions and networking opportunities. It’s going to be an interesting and engaging mix that will no doubt result in a legacy of knowledge and action that makes a difference.

Join us in Brussels in October. We’d love to have you there. For more information and to register, go to the Companies Vs Climate Change website, follow us on Twitter and join us on LinkedIn.

Betsy Reed will be chairing ‘Companies Vs Climate Change’ Brussels. Over the course of her career in sustainability, Betsy has done a ‘grand tour,’ having worked in and for government, NGOs, communications agencies, tech startups and large corporates like Nestle UK. 

Image credit: Kevin Gill, Flickr

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