Siemens appetite for solutions ignites sustainability

Siemens appetite for solutions ignites sustainability

A long history of excellence in industry, energy, mobility, healthcare and infrastructure has propelled the German company into a new era.

“Rising to the challenges of modern infrastructures is in the Siemens DNA – it defines our approach to industry, infrastructure, transport and healthcare.”

Jenny Bofinger-Schuster is a problem solver and loves the enduring task of finding solutions. Indeed, she’s made a career out of it.

Having spent many years as a successful management consultant at Siemens she was seen as the perfect individual to help lead the sustainability era. Subsequently, she has held several leading roles  at Siemens, culminating in her present position as SVP Sustainability & Operational Excellence. It is fair to say, of all the conundrums Jenny has faced, this is truly the challenge of a lifetime, but one she is relishing on a daily basis.

“I had a consulting project during university and really loved taking a challenge and solving it within a team,” explains Jenny. “Since then, I have been in the consulting business outside and inside of Siemens, working on the toughest strategic challenges– all over the world and in many different businesses.”

Since moving into sustainability, Jenny has recognised that its new agenda-topping status will be instrumental in the next decade and, for her, a career-defining chapter: “Having sustainability at the height of our strategy is absolutely essential if we want to compete in today's business world. I view it as one huge strategic pillar at the heart of what we do as a company, now and in the future. To be involved in this game-changing area, at such a trailblazing organisation, makes me very proud.”

Past sustainability solutions hold key to the future

Unlike the majority of companies currently wrestling with their responsibilities to the planet, sustainability for Siemens is nothing new. Since being founded by the German engineers Werner von Siemens and Johann Georg Halske in 1847, Siemens has been rising to the greatest challenges on earth – reinforcing its mission and ethos with each decade that passes. 

Jenny raises an example of innovation which could sit very comfortably in 2021: “During the early days of Siemens, Werner worked on the ‘pointer telegraph’ which could connect continents. All of a sudden, you were able to send messages from one continent to the other, eliminating the need for laborious journeys. You could deliver a message from Calcutta to London within 28 minutes, instead of 30 days. Ever since, we've been working on these time-efficient and energy-saving projects, making use of the latest innovations and pioneering new technologies.”

Siemens has a very long track record of sustainability and was the one the first industrial companies to pledge its commitment to becoming CO2-neutral by 2030 – before the Paris Agreement had even been finalised. This foreseeing of the future has been vital not only for the Siemens business and the customer needs, but also for engendering a sustainability lifestyle among employees at the company. 

“I don’t need to push much for a cultural change,” enthuses Jenny, “The awareness for sustainability was already embedded within Siemens. That holds true for all our employees and that’s the vital foundation I have the pleasure to work with.”

Listening to customers and responding

Make no mistake, the dynamics around sustainability are exceptionally demanding and the situation requires a brand of agility, ingenuity and speed for which Siemens is renowned. 

The company’s stakeholders and customers are setting the sustainability bar higher with each month that passes, and it is this kind of pressure that really allows Siemens to flourish. For Jenny, the pursuit of answers and the expectation that comes with the need for green credentials in the business ecosystem, has established several key areas of particular focus.

“Climate change is a reality and we have to work faster than ever to reach our goals,” says Jenny. “Decarbonisation is a clear priority at Siemens and for our customers. Since 2015, we have reduced our own emissions by more than 54%. We have achieved this by applying our own technologies, setting a benchmark and demonstrating to the wider world exactly what is possible.” 

Last fiscal year alone, Siemens’ customers saved around 150 million tons of CO2 emissions by using the company’s range of technologies including energy efficiency solutions in buildings or with its highly-efficient transport solutions. Vast energy efficiency strides have also been made in manufacturing. The company is aiming to increase these gains further by continuing to reshape business models, exploring new technical solutions and applying digitalisation to manufacturing processes.

Siemens is also one of the companies to have signed-up the ‘Science Based Target initiative of 1.5°C’ (while many others were satisfied with well below 2°C). “This is the gold standard of what you can do as a company,” notes Jenny. “I’m so proud of my team for reaching such an important milestone, as there are very heavy calculations behind this commitment.”

In addition, the company has included ESG components in its long-term incentive scheme for all Siemens board members and the global senior management – a crucial step in ensuring long-term principles of sustainability.

All these progressive steps are typical of a company whose mission statement is to keep evolving, using every achievement as a stepping stone to the next one.

Embracing digital for a better world 

The digital era is transforming companies around the world and, as with the ages of architecture, computers and telecommunication, Siemens is at the forefront of the changing landscape. Even before COVID-19 the company was improving the work-life balance of its people by leveraging digital to support mobile working, remote meetings and business communications.

Meanwhile, the intricate detail and minutiae of modern data has delivered new perspectives and a vast sustainability panorama.

“Digitalisation changes everything,” insists Jenny. “If you look into worldwide data, according to Forbes, 90% has been created within the last two years alone. Do you mean big data or small data? Shall we define this? This shows how the digital is really transforming our lives. And, at Siemens, we believe that combining the real and the digital worlds will ultimately hold the key to overcoming many sustainability challenges.”

“To give an example, one of our latest innovations is the Digital Twin, a virtual model of, a process, a product or a service, which connects the real and the virtual worlds. By using a digital twin you can save resources through virtual testing on your systems, including an ability to carry out checks on whether you can use more recycled material in your production. Consequently, remote testing will play an increasingly vital role in decarbonisation.” 

The long history of Siemens, of course, has provided the springboard to enter an exciting future with increasing confidence, knowledge and influence. It is this structure, based on past successes, that continues to drive the company forward in 2021 and beyond.

This strong link to the past, even in the age of digital, is an essential part of the Siemens apparatus. “Our history helps to set our internal ambition level,” says Jenny. “If you know what this company is about and what your colleagues have already achieved in the past, it sets the standard and, for us, that's pretty high. It drives us to innovate and keep delivering the best technologies to our customers throughout the world.”

DEGREE framework navigates the road ahead

Just recently, Siemens has launched its new worldwide sustainability framework – ‘DEGREE’ – which goes straight to the heart of the company’s philosophy. “We are really positive about this unique framework, as it embraces a very holistic view of our wider sustainability goals,” observes Jenny.

The name DEGREE is not taken lightly and it references several motivating factors, as Jenny explains: “We called the framework DEGREE, because when we speak about sustainability, it's absolutely crucial that we take a 360-degree perspective and really consider the impact that all our stakeholders can have. It also homes in on that vital 1.5°C degree target, which should always be at the forefront of everything we do. So, at the end of the day, every degree counts.” 

The individual letters of DEGREE stand for each of the six focus areas that define Siemens’ sustainability agenda on a global scale: ‘D’ for decarbonisation, ‘E’ for ethics – fostering a culture of trust and secure handling of data. ‘G’ for governance – ensuring the correct governance is in place. ‘R’ for resource efficiency – striving for more circular business models to save resources and ‘E’ for equity – fostering a culture of diversity and inclusivity. Last but not least, the  second ‘E’ stands for employability, which is Siemens’ way of truly acknowledging the fast and changing world in which we live, while also ensuring that its people stay resilient and relevant.

In terms of the overarching culture at Siemens, Jenny regards those final letters as pivotal. “We call it a culture of belonging,” she says. “Everyone at Siemens can come to work exactly the way he or she is – just how people want to be.”

The company is determined that DEGREE creates an environment which is both ambitious and measurable. Clear and measurable targets have been set for all of these focus areas and the company will be determined to hit new heights over the next five years and beyond.

“DEGREE refers to the level of ambition we need to succeed in the area of sustainability and that we must always be aiming for a higher ‘degree’ of action,” Jenny adds.

From a personal perspective, Jenny knows the scale of the task ahead but sees the pressure as a great privilege. She recalls: “The other day, I had dinner with a colleague and he said, ‘You know what? I really believe you have the most exciting job at Siemens.’ I thought about it and I guess he might just be right! Driving sustainability solutions at such a huge company is extremely rewarding and that is what gets me out of bed every morning.”