Last week I had the honor of moderating a panel discussion at Schneider Electric’s Global Innovation Summit that was held here in Barcelona. On the panel we had executives from Schneider, Galp, the Portuguese oil company, and Acciona, which was originally a construction company but now has a diversified portfolio in all kinds of infrastructure. These three companies are case studies of the tipping point I wrote about in a post a couple of weeks ago and show how big business understands that the transition to a low carbon economy is underway and is a huge business opportunity.
Galp is, according to Platts, the world’s 83rd largest oil and gas company. Like industry leaders such as Shell and ExxonMobil, it is working to transform itself into an energy company. The main priority of Susana Quintana, an experienced leader in innovation and transformation is to build the companies renewable energy business. In its strategy statement Galp says its business is supported by “innovative and differentiating solutions that promote the transition into a low carbon economy”. For Ms. Quintana that will a world of decentralized, low carbon energy and she is committed to transforming Galp so that it can play a leading role in the countries where it operates.
Since 2004, Acciona’s strategy has been to focus the company on infrastructure, renewable energy, and water. Today, sustainability is central to Acciona’s message and activities. The company says it is “pioneering a different way of doing business, in that we offer sustainable solutions for the main global challenges, contributing to the creation of more resilient societies and designing a better planet”. An example of Acciona’s commitment is the presence of Christiana Figueras, who led the negotiations for the Paris Climate Agreement, on its board of directors. According to its General Director for technology and Innovation, Arantza Ezpeleta, leadership on this issue comes straight from the company’s Chairman, Josè Manuel Entrecanales Domecq.
Schneider Electric runs innovation forums in different parts of the world to showcase its technology to its customers and potential customers and every year there is a very large event with a global focus. Emmanuel Lagarrigue is the Chief Innovation Officer of the company. His view is that even though Schneider is well positioned for two of the major transformations underway in the world i.e. Energy and Digital, the company needs to go further and do what he calls innovation at the edge. One aspect of that is looking for ways to bring clean energy directly to industrial and retail consumers through independent micro grids which operate independently from the traditional electric utilities. For Schneider’s Chairman and CEO, Jean-Pascal Tricoire, “sustainability is becoming mainstream”. Schneider Electric has, for example, committed to become carbon neutral by 2025 and net zero emissions by 2030.
In their own way, each of these companies has embraced the idea that the transition to a low carbon economy is already underway and will become an even more important part of the future. Although the specific topic of the panel was more focused on the how of producing such fundamental change than the what of the transition itself what struck me most was that the question of why almost never came up.
For these three companies, at least, the way ahead is clear.