Schneider Electric off-grid, on-profit solutions to create social change in African rural communities
Schneider Electric South Africa has set itself a target to create access to energy for 20 000 Africans by the end of this year. An ambitious goal, but the energy efficiency giant believes this is achievable due to its solid sustainable development strategy, products and solutions.
Zanelle Dalglish, head of sustainable development for southern Africa at Schneider Electric, emphasises that to deliver on the organisation's claim to be "the world leader in energy efficiency", it needs to provide solutions to all sectors of society and, for this reason, has established a programme to address global energy poverty within its business strategy.
"Through its global BipBop programme (business, innovation, and people at the base of the pyramid), Schneider Electric develops collective solutions for comprehensive rural electrification, domestic solutions for energy-related needs, and the business models that make these solutions sustainable," she explains.
"This means that we offer reliable, affordable, and clean solutions; training; and business innovation support to help close energy gaps worldwide."
The company has developed solutions adapted to the means and needs of populations in remote, primarily off-grid communities. "Many of these are solar-based, such as our In-diya and Mobiya lighting solutions, both are developed to take advantage of the African sun in order to lessen the burden of daily life in poor and off-grid communities," adds Dalglish.
According to the International Energy Agency, World Energy Outlook, 2013 Factsheet, there are 1.3 billion people worldwide who still do not have access to energy. This is roughly the equivalent of Europe and US populations combined. In addition, there are 2.6 billion people globally, about the joint populations of the US, Europe and China, without cooking facilities. The World Resources Institute, in its report "The Next 4 Billion", reveals that up to 30% of BOP household revenue goes to energy-related needs.
"The effects of our solutions can therefore have a far-reaching impact on social and economic development. In projects already undertaken, we have observed an enhancement in lifestyle, safety from dwelling fires, the ability to study at night and improve education, establishing small businesses, and so much more. Priority objectives in response to sustainable," says Zanelle.
She highlights that to have a significant impact and initiate lasting change, a performance measurement tool is a requirement. "Schneider Electric's Planet & Society barometer covers the triple bottom line: planet, profit and people. The results are shared with the public and the measurement tool aims to mobilise the corporate community around sustainable development objectives.
"Schneider Electric has permanently integrated objectives into its strategy to improve its economic, social and environmental performance and set up indicators to objectively measure progress plans made and what is still to be done. On a daily basis, the group seeks to prove that economic, environmental, societal and social interests are convergent," she adds.
Placing sustainable development at the heart of its business is showing credible and factual results. The company was ranked 10th in the 2014 Newsweek Green Ranking. For this ranking, Newsweek partnered with Corporate Knights Capital, a Canadian research and investment consulting firm, along with opinion leaders coming from non-governmental organisations, academics and people from the accounting community. Earlier this year, Schneider Electric had already been recognised as the 10th most sustainable company in the 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the world ranking by Corporate Knights.
"Importantly, we do not want to walk this path alone and encourage partnerships with other businesses, NGOs, NPOs and funders to establish an electrification model and fund our sustainable solutions, which we sell at cost, to off-grid communities; establishing a consciousness of social and environmental commitments, governance, reducing CO2 emissions, launching solutions that respect the planet, social changes, local and regional positioning, corporate citizenship, ethics, business and poverty," concludes Dalglish.