It’s important on Earth Day every year to give thanks to the planet we call home. With the potential climate crisis likely bearing down, it’s also never been more important to reflect on our impact, collective and individual, on the delicate balance. What can we, as a society, do to be better stewards of the planet and protect it for our children and grandchildren and keep the economy going? Government response to the looming crisis has been patchwork at best, not aided by the constantly shifting political winds. Encouragingly, some of the world’s biggest tech companies have taken things into their own hands, setting ambitious goals to reduce carbon emissions, cut down on waste and more, within their operations. I’ve always thought voluntary actions were better than forced mandates so it’s a win-win.
San Jose-based manufacturer, Flex, announced this past week its sustainability plan. Unlike most of the tech companies with strong sustainability plans, Flex actually manufactures products and does it on a massive scale in over 30 countries. Check out my overview of Flex here. Flex’s strategy, in a nutshell, centers around science-based, goal-driven environmental action. Let’s take a closer look.
Not in it alone
Like other companies I’ve covered, Flex has based its strategy, in part, on the reduction targets set by the Paris Agreement. This makes sense—it’s a standardized set of targets developed by the world’s leading climatologists. This week’s most significant announcement was that the company has signed onto the Science Based Targets initiative or SBTi. This global coalition of businesses strives to achieve the Paris Agreement’s mission of halting climate change in its tracks at no higher than 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial temperatures. Flex is in good company—other recent signatories include a little startup called Apple, Visa Inc., Etsy, and Twitter (see the complete list here). That’s a lot of weight to throw around, which gives me confidence that this initiative will have a significant impact, at least on US emissions.
This brings us to Flex’s goals, which span Flex’s Global Operations, Facilities and Workplace Services, Procurement and Supply Chain and multiple business units. First, the company announced it would target a 50% reduction in scopes 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions (based on 2019’s numbers) by the year 2030 and achieve zero waste within 50% of its manufacturing and logistics sites by 2025. By 2025, the company also intends to reduce the operational water consumption of its facilities by 5%, prioritizing its job sites in water-scarce regions for reductions first.
These are all worthy, ambitious targets on par with what I’ve seen from the other top-tier sustainability plans in the tech industry. Internal operational goals are undoubtedly crucial to address. Still, if a company wants to scrub its footprint thoroughly, it must also set standards for the partners and customers with which it engages. Flex, for its part, says it will require that 50% of its preferred suppliers have a strategy and targets in place to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2025. By the year 2030, Flex says it will rely entirely on preferred suppliers with reduction goals and strategies in place.
By requiring more from the companies it does business with, Flex accomplishes two things. It ensures that its partners share its vision for a more sustainable future and aren’t canceling out the excellent work Flex is doing within its organization. Second, it encourages those suppliers and customers to jump on the sustainability bandwagon or risk losing critical business. If all companies in the SBTi are holding themselves and their partners accountable in this way, it’s hard to see how gravity won’t continue to pull in the direction of SBTi’s mission. The movement only gains more momentum and sway with every new business that joins the cause.
Flex’s sustainability efforts already have points on the scoreboard. To date, the company says its efforts and investments in the area have resulted in a 16% decrease in carbon emission and a 51% increase in usage of renewable energy sources. Additionally, the company says it has generated 77GWh of electricity on-site via these renewable resources. The last tidbit Flex shared was that the company had achieved 200,000-plus tons of Scope 3 carbon emissions offset.
Flex says we can expect a progress update on its 2030 sustainability commitments in its next annual sustainability report, which covers the previous calendar year (presumably sometime early 2022). While Flex doesn’t share specifics regarding its sustainability investments, it went as far as to say it has several multimillion-dollar investments in renewable energy sources and improvements to power efficiency and generation. With the accomplishments listed above, Flex’s sustainability strategy has a proven record of getting results. I expect to see more of the same once that next Flex sustainability report arrives and look forward to seeing the company’s progress on its 2025 and 2030 goals. Flex actually manufactures products for tech companies so you can imagine the network effect of these actions.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.