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Trend Talk: Siemens USA CEO on the importance of sustainable business

By Daryl Brewster and Barbara Humpton, CEO, CECP and CEO, Siemens USA

Daryl: In the past five years that you have been President and CEO of Siemens USA, how has your company significantly ramped up its sustainability efforts? Share with us what that has looked like.

Barbara: Back in 2015, shortly before I stepped into the U.S. CEO role, Siemens made a big commitment. We pledged to be carbon neutral by 2030, and we were the first global industrial company to do so. By 2020, we were more than halfway past this goal, and a couple of months ago, we made even more ambitious targets toward reaching net zero, with a 90 percent physical reduction in our carbon dioxide emissions by 2030.

These commitments underscore our responsibility to address climate change, the biggest global challenge facing society. It’s the right thing to do. But it’s also a good business choice. With today’s technologies, we have powerful tools to help us accelerate a more sustainable future. In fact, Siemens products and solutions sold in 2022 will avoid around 150 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions during their lifetime. By developing these technologies, adopting them ourselves, and helping our customers, our suppliers, and our partners in their journeys, we’re not only advancing our own future growth and competitiveness but also theirs. It’s a win-win.

Daryl: How has having an ESG strategy helped to advance this effort?

Barbara: At Siemens, we’re focused on addressing the world’s megatrends, from climate change to urbanization to digitalization. Sustainability is core to this and a key piece of what’s reflected in our business strategy . But in addition to protecting the environment, we’re also focused on how we can make the world more livable and inclusive.

So, if you look at the new company-wide ESG framework that we recently established, you’ll see a truly 360-degree approach. It’s called DEGREE, and what we did was we set targets in decarbonization, ethics, governance, resource efficiency, equity, and employability, with each representing a letter in the DEGREE acronym. This framework puts in one place our clear and measurable ambitions for sustainability alongside our clear and measurable ambitions for improving the well-being of our people, customers, suppliers, partners and society as a whole. In this way, we can encompass every pillar of ESG, recognizing that our work to build a better future applies to both the planet and the people who occupy it.

Daryl: Would you tell us more about what the DEGREE framework looks like in action?

Barbara: Sure. Setting clear priorities and ambitions is the first step. Then it’s about driving results within our own operations and together with our customers and suppliers. And we want to be transparent and accountable about our progress. Some of that happens through published ratings and rankings, such as the Corporate Equality Index and the Disability Equality Index. Some of it happens through public commitments, including our global one to increase the percentage of top management positions held by women globally to 30 percent by 2025.

But let me focus on an important aspect of how we live out these goals in our workplaces. At Siemens, we really see belonging as a transformational part of our culture. When people feel they belong, they bring their full selves to work. Belonging is critical to how we advance inclusion, diversity and equity at every level, from talent recruitment to our work with suppliers.

Belonging goes hand in hand with empowerment. People often ask what the biggest lesson of the pandemic was, and for me, it’s this idea that organizations should optimize for change. To do that, we have to be comfortable with change, and that involves empowering people and leading with trust across our teams. This is how we’ll achieve what’s in the DEGREE framework and ensure that our people and business remain resilient and relevant for whatever the future holds.

Daryl: A wide range of initiatives, from creating a national network of EV charging stations to workforce reskilling and development, are focal points of Siemens. Would you share more details about how DEGREE informs your business initiatives and how Siemens is leading, either internally or within your communities?

Barbara: Siemens supports the industry and infrastructure forming the backbone of our national economy. You’ll hear us say we’re transforming the everyday, for everyone. And as we reimagine what industry and infrastructure can do, we’re not only striving for greater sustainability and efficiency but ways to create more resilient and equitable communities.

I’ll share an example – our work with ComEd in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago. Bronzeville has a long and impressive history as a center for African American arts, culture, and business. When this project is completed, it’ll also be home to the first utility-operated microgrid cluster in the United States. Investments in infrastructure like this one are important to delivering clean, reliable power, but they can also put communities at the forefront of the energy transformation, demonstrating what’s possible as we use innovation to do more than just maintain our inherited infrastructure.

Daryl: Why is this particularly important to you?

Barbara: At Siemens, we’re uniquely positioned to drive the change we want to see. We have a large footprint and touch every aspect of the global economy. That means we can be a powerful force for good as we develop technologies to combine the real and digital worlds, whether it’s creating a cleaner environment, or healthier communities, or preparing a 21st-century workforce.

That idea of creating technology with purpose aligns with the personal “why” that has driven my entire career, which is to use technology to expand what’s humanly possible. It’s why you’ll see me championing STEM education, DEI, and workforce development wherever I can, so we can bring more people into this journey of creating a more sustainable, resilient and equitable future.