3 questions with Dr Ralph Utermöhlen
Dr. Ralf Utermöhlen has been advising industrial and commercial companies on environmental and sustainability issues for 30 years. He has specialised in environmental audits, corporate energy efficiency and corporate sustainability. We asked him three questions about the priorities that companies need to set in order to make a successful transition to a sustainable world.
1- WHAT KEY ROLE DO COMPANIES PLAY IN A MODERN, RESOURCE EFFICIENT AND COMPETITIVE ECONOMY?
Despite the negative association of big companies and the environment, corporate sustainability will change the markets much more drastically than many executives believe today, and it is essential to undergo environmental change. These companies do not only carry a share of the responsibility for a successful sustainable development of our society, they play a crucial role.
As an example, imagine that you and your family have to be more sustainable and you have two choices of how you can do this. Firstly, you could buy and live on a small piece of land, in a wooden hut, eating self-grown food and dressing in rags. Alternatively, you live warm and comfortably, but you rely on companies to provide you with highly sustainable products such as climate-neutral food. Which option would you take? In every conference I have done, everybody has had the same answer and has understood that we need companies.
We must make the entire architecture of our society sustainable; how we eat, how we heat, how we dress, how we earn, and companies are key to helping us achieve this. Companies align their entire corporate strategy to a sustainable market environment and develop sustainable products and services, launching them with high availability and credibility.
2- WHAT WOULD A SUSTAINABLE WORLD LOOK LIKE AND HOW WOULD VARIOUS SECTORS CHANGE?
In a sustainable world, the energy sector, industry, the building sector and transport must make the greatest contributions to emission reductions in the coming decade. This is not possible through only
pure efficiency measures; technology changes are required as we cannot continue to combust gas, oil, etc., in our production. Fast forward to a sustainable world and many sectors will have drastically changed. For example, the energy sector. It will need to completely regenerate, a process we should have started in the 1970s / early 1980s. There will be changes in the landscape such as the addition of wind turbines and cables; houses will have energy storage; heating will be with heat pumps; and there will be a focus on
thermal insulation and scalable H2 solutions. We also need energy services that balance the generation consumption-gap. Although we have recyclable energy, it is not sufficient for the rate we consume.
The mobility sector will also experience significant changes. For example, individual mobility will be completely electric, greater use of hydrogen fuel cells, carbon neutral air traffic, and innovations in
charging services and storage technology. Consumers and manufacturers must adjust to tighter regulations for product design and after-sales service. We need products which are longer lasting, have reusable packaging, follow eco-design guidelines and are expandable through updates. The new ‘cool’ will be to consume less and use products longer. From this we will see the introduction of reuse, repair and take-back services. The problem today is not just that we need to repair something, but that we can’t
find someone to repair it for us.
3- WHAT IS THE EUROPEAN GREEN DEAL AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR
BOUYGUES ENERGIES & SERVICES?
The European Green Deal is Europe’s new growth strategy that enables the transition to a modern, resource efficient and competitive economy. It will be the driving force for successful companies. Its aims are to have no more greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, uncouple economic growth from resource use, and promote the conservation of nature, food production and energy.
The Deal and its aims present numerous opportunities for Bouygues E&S. A zero pollution Europe with access to affordable, clean energy needs scalable storage for buildings and industry; powerto-
heat solutions; sustainable, charging infrastructure for climate neutral transport; and clean energy such as gas turbines, electrode boilers, electrolysers and pipeline construction. These services already exist
in Bouygues’ portfolio, highlighting how their business model is a contribution to sustainability and how it will have access to the financial market, presenting numerous opportunities.