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Investors and customers demand us to be more sustainable

Companies must no longer be satisfied with demonstrating that they achieve financial benefits, they also have to report on the positive impact they generate on society

27/02/2019

larazon.com

Companies have a commitment to society, because from it comes the benefit they obtain. Therefore, they must be an active part in combating the problems that civilization faces. One of the most worrying today is the poor state of the environment and the depletion of resources. Some corporations have oriented their activity and their responsibility to a greater use of the media.

This is the case of the companies and institutions that participated in the debate organized by LA RAZ├ôN, ┬źBusiness and Sustainability┬╗. This is Siemens Gamesa, represented by its director of Sustainability, Isaac Ruiz; Suez ├ürea Centro Norte, attended by its Director of Sustainable Development, Laura de Vega and, finally, the Association of Renewable Energy Companies (Appa), personified by the president of its photovoltaic branch, Jorge Gonz├ílez Cort├ęs, who is also Commercial and Marketing Director of Gesternova Energ├şa.

For companies, sustainability is a matter of resource management, starting with humans. The employees, Ruiz said, “are fundamental”. Being happy in their job is the first step to be involved with social commitments such as the fight for the environment. In the case of Siemens Gamesa, he said, they propose flexible working days, telework, facilitate conciliation and open offices. In short, it is about building employee loyalty and making your work life “as comfortable as possible”.

On the other hand, Gonz├ílez said that in Gesternova they have tried to create a “homogenous group” of workers, looking for people with values ÔÇőÔÇőand ways of being similar. But in addition to the employees, for Gonz├ílez another actor that has gained relevance is the client: “Now it is not enough that the product of a company is good, its business should favor the environment because more and more what companies do has to produce a positive impact ┬╗.

In this sense Suez works, an industrial group that is dedicated to water management, knowing perfectly that it is a resource that is increasingly scarce. And since water is fundamental for the life of human beings, it is “guaranteed to all people at risk of not being able to pay for it”, explained De Vega, adding that “in our country this action is very relevant because there are around 10 million people with incomes below the poverty line ┬╗.

However, not all companies encourage their employees to take care of the environment, nor do they believe in the depletion of resources such as water. Some still deny climate change, Ruiz said, and rely on negationist speeches like that of US President Donald Trump. Gonz├ílez said that one of the most recurrent arguments of this multinational is that “others want to cover themselves at the expense of climate change.”

However, he stressed that this does not make sense because “nobody has been concerned about the fact that the companies in the oil sector are the most powerful in the world.” Fighting for the environment or denying its disrepair, Gonzalez said, is a dogmatic question, with a political spectrum. And if we focus on the economic, he said, “saving energy and water produces some benefits”, so those who fight against climate change find more arguments than the deniers.

Legislation

The latter have to accept that those who are committed to improving the environment are the majority. And they must adapt to a business world in which increasingly more sustainable actions are required and legislation that drives it. The financial sector increasingly calls for companies that are sustainable as a sine qua non condition for investing in them, so corporations can not only settle for presenting their benefits, but must also gather information about their actions to develop in a sustainable way

Now, the legislation will force to gather and present this content. The Law of Non-Financial Information is a change for both large and small businesses. All the participants in the debate believe that the norm will be positive, although it will depend “on the starting point of each company”, said De Vega. Suez, for example, has been preparing sustainability reports since 2003, so it will cost them less to adapt to the new legislation.

This, on the other hand, is supported by the innovations recently introduced in the public sector contracts law, which promotes sustainability, said De Vega. Without forgetting the Energy Transition, which “has no turning back”, confessed Ruiz. The Law on Non-Financial Information has a great influence on the Boards of Directors, which is the governing body that must approve the extra content and make decisions in order to make the company more sustainable.

All the rules that promote sustainability aim to translate the demands not only of investors and shareholders, but of all societies, because “89% of consumers would pay more for products and services responsible for the environment,” De Vega explained. She admits that clients have moved from awareness to action, accepting the different environmental proposals proposed by companies.

Suez, for example, has told them that if they pass their invoice on paper to digital, the difference in cost will be collected in a social fund. And this measure has been widely accepted. The same company has achieved that 4 out of 5 of its consumers have access to bonuses in their water tariff, and the goal is that by 2021 everyone can enjoy them.

Renewable energy companies can now talk that they are “in a favorable situation,” said Isaac Ruiz. Of course, he added that “thanks to the efforts of the past” has been achieved. Sacrifices such as Gesternova, which was paralyzed for three years because the cost of renewable energy was very high and, therefore, they had to pass on that surcharge to customers. And the company did not want consumers to think that renewable energies were going to be more expensive than traditional ones.

Finally, companies must set Sustainable Development Goals through which they have an impact on society. In the case of Suez, its main goals (with horizon in 2021), are to reduce CO2 emissions in 2021 or to reduce per capita water consumption by 20%. Ruiz believes that the SDGs have to be adapted to the reality of each country. In Ibero-Americans, the most important thing now is that social justice is done, while in the Scandinavians what is demanded are the science training packages, fundamental for the creation of renewable technologies.

All these measures are focused on the generations that come behind have a much more viable world and that the companies of the future are convinced that their activities should be the least harmful possible to the environment.

Advantages of renewables

The future of electricity generation is focused on renewable energies, which has three clear advantages, according to Jorge González. The first one, and the most obvious, is that they are clean, they do not emit toxic components into the atmosphere. Second, they are indigenous, that is, they help balance the balance of payments of our economy. Last but not least, they bring great benefits in the socio-economic field, since they produce five times more employment than traditional electric generators. In addition, we must not forget that renewable energies are usually installed in rural areas, giving development opportunities to these often forgotten areas.

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