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Schneider Electric Banking on Science, Smarter Cities to Power a Sustainable Future

In the past few years, Schneider Electric — a global specialist in energy management and automation — has partnered with its customers around the world in various capacities to co-create smart solutions for a more sustainable future. It focuses its energy on prioritizing resource productivity and management, promoting energy efficiency and rethinking energy consumption. It has also adopted science-based emissions targets and helped its clients set their own.

We spoke with Erik Mohn, Director of Americas Sustainability Services at Schneider Electric, to learn more about the company’s multi-pronged strategy to spread sustainability.

In 2016, Schneider Electric committed to setting science-based emissions reduction targets through the Science Based Targets Initiative — what was the impetus behind this decision?

Schneider Electric’s sustainability efforts are closely aligned with the ambitions of COP23 — including climate justice, the transition to a new economy, a strong focus on adaptation, gender and climate change. Our CEO, Jean-Pascal Tricoire, has been quoted, “When it comes to climate change, I’m neither an optimist nor a pessimist. I’m an activist.” We are taking an active approach to our sustainability efforts and setting science-based targets (SBTs) is a major driver for those efforts. We believe that if it’s good for the climate, it’s good for the economy. The growing demand for infrastructure investments in transport, energy, water, and urban development is massive, and the need for low-carbon infrastructures is extremely important. Schneider Electric aids in the creation SBTs to help companies we partner with, as well as its own business, to create targets and capitalize on the new energy landscape opportunities.

Also in 2016, Schneider Electric launched its New Energy Opportunities (NEO) Network in North America and expanded it to Europe last year. How does the NEO Network enable corporations to address science-based targets and clean energy goals across their operations?

The NEO Network™ is a growing community made up of forward-thinking corporations and solution providers committed to buying and developing renewable energy and cleantech around the world. It gives companies the power to connect with suppliers to address their clean energy goals, as well as creating a space for collaboration and learning. The virtual community is designed to help streamline the buying process and provides guidance to commercial and industrial (C&I) companies, giving them exclusive access to market intelligence, project and pricing information, and developers and technology providers. It has helped companies begin their journey with renewables and has seen 50 million megawatt-hours of Energy Attribute Certificates transacted and over 1.5 million metric tons of verified carbon offsets in Europe and around the globe.

Earlier this summer, at SB’18 Vancouver, you discussed lessons for retailers on science-based targets — why has Schneider Electric taken up the torch on this issue?

Setting science-based targets is a clear driver for financial performance and they encourage operational efficiencies, reductions in raw material inputs and lower energy consumption. In the retail industry, many companies lease their properties, rather than own, creating slim margins and high energy costs. So, finding solutions that will deliver a high return on investment can be complicated because there is no one-size-fits-all option. For us, it is not about just creating those targets but helping retailers reach those targets. And because SBTs are so ambitious, they act as a catalyst for transformational change, helping generate innovation in low-carbon products, technologies and services — which is essential as companies look to delink economic growth and productivity from increased emissions. And with an average of two companies joining the SBTi each week, there is a tremendous opportunity.

Tell us about your ‘Go Green in the City’ challenge — how did it come about and what have been the results?

Go Green in the City is a global contest to find bold ideas and innovative solutions for smarter, more energy-efficient cities. It has become a major event for business and engineering students worldwide. In 2017, nearly 20,000 young innovators from 3,000 universities in 180 countries took part, including 58 percent women. The stakes for Go Green in the City competitors are high, with mentoring, networking, travel, cash prizes and business/job opportunities all on the horizon.