Businesses in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) are strongly pivoting to digitalisation and sustainability as a means to override presiding global macroeconomic challenges.
“Organisations are growing increasingly aware that by becoming smarter, they can become more efficient and thereby increase their business returns and cope with challenges better,” says Manuel Alzugaray Rodrigues, vice president, Secure Power – Gulf at Schneider Electric, during an interview with MEED at the Gitex Global exhibition in Dubai.
“Today, digital capabilities are not limited to just the visibility or monitoring perspective but are more about automating processes to maximise efficiency.
“The digital implementation is also linked to sustainability for a lot of companies,” he says. “Renewable energies, new energy sources, microgrids – all of these are conversations we’re having with our clients.”
Change begins at home
When organisations increasingly struggle to maintain profitability – and in some cases stay afloat – it can get difficult to maintain sight of decarbonisation and digital transformation.
Rodrigues notes that to help clients overcome this, it was crucial for Schneider Electric to first align their own internal strategy to global best standards.
“We were one of the first companies globally to focus attention internally on becoming more sustainable, greener, and better support the fight against climate change. We learned a lot along the way, so much so that we could bring in third-party auditors to confirm our efforts were driving the results we expected with those initial investments.”
External ratings highlight the efforts made by Schneider Electric when it comes to environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance, including the CDP Climate Change A list, Dow Jones Sustainability World Index, EcoVadis and Vigeo Eiris Index.
The firm is targeting carbon-neutral operations by 2025, with the aim of achieving 25 per cent absolute carbon reduction across its value chain by 2030; an end-to-end carbon-neutral value chain by 2050; and net-zero emissions across the entire value chain by 2050.
“We also ensure our vendors and partners are aligned with our sustainability goals, through a careful selection process,” explains Rodrigues. “This is critical to achieving our long-term carbon elimination targets.”
Organisations are growing increasingly aware that by becoming smarter, they can become more efficient and thereby increase their business returns and cope with challenges better.
– Manuel Alzugaray Rodrigues, vice president, Secure Power – Gulf at Schneider Electric
The Zero Carbon Project has seen Schneider Electric partner up with its top 1,000 suppliers – reportedly responsible for 70 per cent of the organisation’s carbon emissions – to halve their emissions by 2025.
“We recognise that we cannot achieve our goals alone. It requires the entire ecosystem to support us in those efforts. Internalising that approach first has helped us better prepare ourselves to present ourselves as truly trusted advisors to our clients, no matter which industry they come from.
“A lot of companies are talking about becoming more sustainable and efficient to survive, but are still trying to work out how. Because we have worked out how for ourselves, we’re able to bring value to those conversations and customise based on specific needs and goals.”
The question that then begs to be asked is – will companies that do not adopt sustainable or digitalisation pratices simply not survive?
“Today, a big component of success is driven by investments in digital transformation. But limiting the ‘criteria for success’ to just digital or sustainable wouldn’t be fair to innovation itself,” says Rodrigues.
“There are new technologies that we haven’t even thought about today that could be the next greatest idea. And ultimately, it’s not just about implementing digital solutions. It’s about leveraging the solution as an organisation to achieving your vision from an operational efficiency and sustainability metric.”
Rodrigues maintains a bright business outlook for the Middle East for 2023 and is keen to help “clients to better contribute to conversations around sustainability, efficiency and Cop”.
“We’re already seeing a lot of investments in digital transformation, which in turn is causing a boom in data centre requirement,” he says. “This isn’t limited to just large-scale hubs but also local edge computing, which will be critical to achieving goals around cities or buildings of the future.”
Schneider Electric’s business strategies are also guided by initiatives such as Operation 300bn – the UAE’s national industrial strategy – which Rodrigues says is indicative of a forward-thinking market to operate in.
“There is no doubt that we will see a lot of transformation happening in the coming years, but the momentum will continue even beyond that,” he says. “The UAE is a perfect example of this, a shining star, because they’re already talking about 2040 and beyond.
“That long-term planning and investment by the UAE government is helping companies such as Schneider to contribute to real-time actions today, which then drive innovation and investment by us and our clients."
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