Corporate Citizenship: Good for the Planet and Business, and Essential for Society
by Gilles Vermot Desroches
I was fortunate enough to attend the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow in November — a key event as the world grapples with the urgent need to slow the pace of global warming.
There were high hopes, high expectations, a lot of skepticism, and many, many attendees.
Contrary to what one might expect from the headlines about government commitments, the flurry of debates was not just among national policy makers.
I met with academics, city representatives, business partners, NGOs, artists, and the general public. There were discussions, exhibitions and cultural activities focusing on the plight of our planet.
The outcomes of COP26 were bittersweet.
It was disappointing, for example, that countries didn’t commit enough money to help poorer countries adapt to the impacts of climate change. More could have been done in regard to mitigation strategies to hold the rise in global temperatures to well below 1.5°C above pre-industrial times.
On the flipside, it was encouraging to see so many businesses sign up to greenhouse-gas-reduction goals to keep global warming to the 1.5°C threshold. Nearly 8,000 non-state actors such as business, financial, education and healthcare-sector institutions committed to halving emissions by 2030 as part of the Race to Net Zero. Among the announcements was Schneider Electric’s Energize program, which will see 10 pharmaceutical companies reduce their climate impact through sourcing of renewable energy in their supply chain.
What all this underlined, to me, was that our collective efforts to make the world a greener, fairer place have to be not just about developing technologies, analyzing data, and creating jobs by building profitable businesses (though all of that is important!). It also has to be about inspiring people through art and education.
And companies like ours have a role to play in this, via corporate citizenship and volunteering programs.
As Senior Vice President of Corporate Citizenship at Schneider Electric, I know the importance of creating equal opportunities, whether by sharing expertise, or by contributing money and time. Social responsibility builds a bridge between businesses and the worldwide community with the goal of making a positive impact among our colleagues, and among customers, business partners and local communities.
It’s a case of win-win too: According to a study by Nielsen, a leader in audience insights, data and analytics, 67 percent of employees prefer to work for socially-responsible companies. And 55 percent of consumers will pay extra for products sold by companies that are committed to positive social impact. In other words: Doing good is good for the planet and society – and it’s essential for business.
Schneider Electric’s purpose is to empower all to make the most of our energy and resources, bridging progress and sustainability for all. We serve communities all around us by partnering with NGOs and artists, for example, and through employee volunteering initiatives.
We consider it our responsibility to not just make money for its own sake, but to have a social purpose too. And we work hard to create a culture that’s selfless and contributes to society.
Take the Schneider Electric Foundation, which we set up over 20 years ago. Its philanthropic initiatives focus on training young people to improve their job prospects.
In 2008, we began volunteering initiatives with our NGO partners, and since then, we’ve trained more than 300,000 young people, to help them get employed in the energy industry and improve their quality of life.
We’re proud to take part in the UN’s annual International Volunteer Day, which celebrates the power and potential of volunteerism. Thousands of our employees have given their time, money, and skills every year – logging more than 15,000 volunteering days since 2018. Our ambition is to reach 50,0000 by the end of 2025.
Schneider’s global GO Green competition offers students the chance to present bold business ideas to top industry leaders with the chance of receiving mentorship. It launched in 2011 with 500 applicants. This year, it attracted submissions from 25,0000 students from 128 countries.
Our relationships with young artists such as John Gerrard and Lucy Orta from Art of Change 21, a non-profit organization that connects contemporary art and major environmental issues, is part of our program to raise climate change awareness through emotion. We worked with this team of artists at COP26 (alongside the University of Glasgow and the Glasgow School of Art) to highlight the role artists play in the effort to rein in climate change.
All of this matters – greatly. And more now than ever: after all, the COVID-19 pandemic is still causing pain to societies and economies around the globe, while the climate crisis will bring more weather-linked disasters and strains in the years ahead. Companies have a responsibility to help – and they in turn, will benefit from doing good.
For more on sustainability, read some of my other blogs: