An interview on the opening day of COP26, provided by the World Climate Foundation with Cyril GARCIA, CEO of Capgemini Invent; Kara PECKNOLD, Net zero strategy & new business models Global leader and Jean-Baptiste PERRIN, Invent for Society Global leader.
WCF Interviewer: Good morning and thanks to the three of you for taking our questions on this opening day of COP26! A first question for Cyril: according to you, what's the role of the private sector in the sustainable transition?
Cyril Garcia: In these worrying times for our planet and communities, leveraging technology and human energy to accelerate sustainability's transition is vital: there is no plan B, no planet B. And the private sector has a pivotal role to play. Every day, thousands of companies, from very large to very small, are committed to find new solutions, develop new technologies, design tomorrow's business models, invent a sustainable future. They see it as a duty to create a better future - they need it to survive – Society needs their focus. And these collective actions create systemic changes, driving forward innovations and facilitating the scaling of new disruptive technologies. Business leaders will not, and should not, rely on the outcome of the negotiations: they need to act and execute. Together, let’s decarbonate our businesses while building diverse, inclusive, and hybrid work environments.
Would you say that Capgemini and Capgemini Invent are ‘sustainability-ready’?
Jean-Baptiste Perrin: At Capgemini, we have seized this opportunity to rethink what we do, why and how we do it. We did not want to be ‘sustainability-ready’ per se, we want to have impact, both on our circa 300 000 colleagues and of course on our clients. Over the last ten years, we have been helping companies and institutions to define their strategies and actions toward a sustainable future. We have published a dozen thought leadership reports in the past 18 months on these topics while delivering 1000+ projects that focus on sustainable transitions. We made commitments to achieve carbon neutrality for our operations no later than 2025 and to be net-zero by 2030, and more importantly, we’ve been working like crazy on how to make it happen: building an implementation plan for every domain in which we can decarbonize. Our global program covers business travel, employee commuting, office and data center energy, and emissions from purchased goods and services. Our internal journey is critical for our external credibility and feedback from clients.
Cyril Garcia: To be ‘sustainability-ready’, we needed to start with ourselves. Today, neither our employees nor our recruits could accept that we were not fully commit to the green transition. But relatively speaking we are small - our success will not have much impact if we do not help our clients too. We have the tremendous opportunity to have a much more significant impact beyond our own footprint, as we are an organization connected to so many prominent global players. That's why we have set and maintained the ambition to help our clients reduce their carbon emissions by 10 million tons by 2030, which is about 20 times Capgemini’s own footprint. And that can be achieved through different ways, from designing their Net Zero Strategy to providing engineering solutions for lower carbon products and services. Our dedicated initiatives such as “Invent for Society” and “The Climate Taskforce”, will boost and coordinate our actions to create long-term sustainable value for our clients, partners, and employees.
How do you track progress on sustainability and climate actions?
Jean-Baptiste Perrin: Our global initiative, Invent for Society, gathers all projects that we deliver answering critical societal challenges and dedicated sustainability pain points our clients are facing: projects on which they need social and environmental impact. We tackle the full scope of sustainability, while ensuring that citizens are at the heart of thinking. We track and monitor the impact we are generating under three key pillars: Environment, Care and Trust:
The Environment pillar focuses on helping our clients build and deliver their low carbon strategies. This goes from developing solutions to assess sustainability initiative impact to defining end-to-end Road to Net Zero strategies.
Our Care pillar is about helping our clients reinvent how health and social care are provided to citizens. Our projects include education, culture, employment, health, sports, digital inclusion; and how citizens can effectively benefit.
Our Trust pillar aims to make the most of data and artificial intelligence while reinforcing digital human rights. We are, pioneering trustworthy AI solutions that deliver a positive impact on society. Protecting citizens' data rights while enhancing public health services is at the heart of our value.
Invent for Society is our overall banner. We are specifically tracking some climate and environmental sustainability results, on Net Zero transitions, sustainable IT and sustainable operations. Our impact goes from product design to CO2 analytics through to circular economy strategies. Providing appropriate answers to reduce energy, water, or raw materials consumption will require sector expertise and impact-related mindsets. And that’s what we are committed to.
We have built strong partnerships, ecosystems and collaborations on these issues, way beyond our own industry. And have developed some tools to quantify our impact for example, our carbon impact calculator helps us reduce our clients' and our teams' footprints while delivering their projects.
What business values have you seen when driving sustainable initiatives in your organisation?
Cyril Garcia: As a business, we focus on creating a culture where sustainable actions are universal, and people are empowered to make a difference. Our approach focuses on three areas: education, engagement, and empowerment. And we see a lot of engagement from our teams, clients, and partners. Employees find their purpose in their day-to-day activities, which generates a corporate culture on impact-related topics and drives engagement, retention, and attractiveness. Addressing the climate challenge requires the full mobilization of policymakers, public actors, academia, and the private sector. It will gather key stakeholders to collaborate to get the future they want. It will create new opportunities to develop more and more sustainability initiatives. At Capgemini, Invent for Society is our tangible proof of the value we create through sustainable initiatives!
Kara Pecknold: COVID was a call to action for us at frog, part of Capgemini Invent. We spent time assessing ourselves internally before we could authentically ask our clients to change or make their own shifts. We focused on some upskilling to ensure teams had a stronger understanding of the impact of their work. This shift in mindset and methods was critical for us to be able to design future products and services in support of a regenerative future. We think in terms of a ‘next economy’ in which we are making personal and professional convictions to address our work with people and the planet in mind. Design has the power to reimagine futures and we are motivated to build one that has a low environmental impact.
What can you do to help your clients in defining their NZ journeys and designing their new business models?
Kara Pecknold: I think of it as a two-part approach.
First, a commitment to a net zero strategy requires a strong mission and vision that is supported and advocated by leadership. We can help our clients with these defining steps and support the businesses of today with the essentials of a sustainable transition that include offerings from risk and opportunity assessments to practical strategies to decarbonize a business.
But to truly become the business of tomorrow, companies are likely to find themselves building a new business or shifting a current business model. We realize this can be daunting, so we have addressed this by offering a gateway or steppingstone that can help a company adapt a current product or service to make it more sustainable. We call it Sustainable Experience. This initial step often opens a next stage that requires a deeper shift with the brand. For this, we have defined a Next Economy brand concept in which we help companies show up more authentically - from brand to business model. As you can imagine, this shift requires that employees are empowered to meet these new expectations, so we work to build teams that are ready with a Next Economy team that goes beyond an online learning experience. Many companies are also exploring new ventures, be it corporates or startups and for this, we are ready to support this development with Regenerative Ventures – to birth the next economy companies that are needed for a people and planet-centered future.
Typically, we think of supply chains, IT and operations as the main answer to this planet-centered transition. What role can design play?
Kara Pecknold: Design is all around us: it’s the house you live in, the laptop you work on, the way you get food to your table and the means to move you from point A to B. We know that design is one of the industries that has much to account for when it comes to climate impacts, but with the shift to become more circular there is great opportunity for design to be a force for change to create a more livable future for everyone. Here is an example: think about the idea of building a new solar product for the home that could enable those currently without access to renewable energy to be able to have an affordable option. For me, to meet the sustainable future targets we want, it will require both creativity and science to get us there and this is just one example of how a creative action can be applied to imagine more sustainable futures.
Technology has a vital role in this transition but still represents a lot of challenges because of its CO2 footprint. As a digital leader, how do you position yourselves on that topic?
Cyril Garcia: As we are a worldwide leader in digital transformation, we need to ensure that technology and innovation drive sustainable and social development for ourselves, our clients and our partners. Our fundamental purpose, "Unleashing human energy through technology for an inclusive future," drives our day-to-day actions and ambition.
Jean-Baptiste Perrin: Our latest report on Sustainable IT shows that technology leaves an indelible mark on the environment, especially given the digital acceleration triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. But if it is to lead us towards the future we want, we must ensure that it does not leave too deep a carbon footprint along the way. And for this reason, we have set up a specific sustainable IT offering to help our clients design and implement sustainable IT strategies. However, limiting carbon emissions of IT is not enough. We need to use technology and AI use cases to effectively decarbonate every single value chain, supply chain, and business that we can.