Orange Business: stepped approach to sustainability strategy

Jérôme Goulard, Chief Sustainability Officer at Orange Business, shares his thoughts and three-stepped approach to successfully integrating sustainability

There is no doubting the sprint to more sustainable business.

Companies across multiple sectors are prioritising sustainability in their operations with 80% of CEOs identifying sustainability as the third driver of product and services’ investments in 2023, according to Gartner.

As well as being beneficial for the environment, embedding sustainability into daily business operations can also improve brand reputation, reduce costs, and attract socially conscious customers (and employees).

Orange Business is seeing this movement come to life in the way its customers are addressing their sustainability requirements in RFPs, according to Jerome Goulard, Chief Sustainability Officer at Orange Business.

“Instead of sustainability being an annexed questionnaire, it is now becoming a key strategic pillar – and more organisations rate ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) criteria as highly as technical performance or price in their RFP scoring,” Goulard tells Sustainability magazine.

“What’s more, many have even appointed designated sustainability managers to monitor related KPIs during contract execution,”

But while this increased focus is great news for the planet (and ultimately for companies), embedding sustainability into a business is not always easy to achieve.

Taking a “stepped approach” to integration can ease the process, explains Goulard, as it allows organisations to design sustainability strategies that help them focus on investment and driving performance – as well as engaging internal and external stakeholders.

Here, Goulard shares the steps companies can take to ensure successful integration of sustainability into business.

Step 1: Determine your long-term vision and sustainability goals

The link between ESG initiatives and their positive impact on business and ROI has been demonstrated but it is important to recognise that these outcomes are only achieved in the mid- or long-term. This can make it harder for enterprises pursuing sustainability strategies to prove the business case, especially when their competitors not doing the same might appear to have an advantage.

However, any perceived advantage of not prioritising sustainability is hollow, and those who fail to do so can risk losing company value, brand reputation, attractiveness, and efficiency in the long-term. The fact that financing tools now take ESG into account, limiting access to funds for companies without strong ESG ambitions, is a clear indicator that avoiding ESG is not a sound strategy for business success in the current market.

Setting goals is a key first step to ensuring any sustainability strategy delivers on its desired outcomes. Enterprises must ensure their goals reflect core business processes, which can include re-evaluating supply chain sources, energy usage or recycling processes.

For example, at Orange Business, one of the key goals we aim to reach by 2025 is to reduce our emissions in-line with the Scopes of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, which is the basis for mandatory Greenhouse Gases reporting in the UK.

These Scopes categorise the different kinds of carbon emissions a company creates in its own operations and in its wider value chain. Scope 1 and Scope 2 mostly relate to factors within our control, while Scope 3 refers to the emissions generated upstream by our suppliers and downstream by our customers, which makes it the most challenging.

Scope 3 success involves having supplier agreements in place that require data transparency across existing operations and embedding metrics across upstream and downstream processes to measure diverse sustainability impacts.

Step 2: Embrace circular economy principles

If traditional linear ‘take-make-waste’ production models continue, worldwide demand for resources would almost triple by 2050, using up the planet’s resources by over 400%. A circular economy proactively seeks to design out waste and pollution from production and keep products and materials in use for as long as possible. It aims to regenerate natural systems, avoiding the use of non-renewable resources and supporting the use of renewable energy as opposed to fossil fuels.

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), the economic benefit of material savings of transforming to a circular economy industrial system is US$1 trillion. For most large enterprises, circular economics is enabled by digitisation because sustainability demands transparency and a holistic understanding of the consequences of their business.

This means measurement and the capture of accurate data for analysis. Technologies such as IoT, blockchain, AI and machine learning are vital to help with tracking and tracing product and material flows. Marketplaces, platforms, apps and websites are also important for connecting producers and buyers to allow sharing and waste reduction.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to implementing circular economy principles, as different businesses have different needs, goals, and contexts. Businesses can also face barriers to implantation in the form of technical and operational challenges, cultural and behavioural resistance, and institutional and systemic constraints.

What we have learned at Orange Business is that embracing the circular economy requires a change in mindset across the whole business, led from the top, to drive meaningful results such as refurbishing 50,000 out of 130,000 new items of network equipment, leading to a 15-million-euro CAPEX saving.

Step 3: Consider co-innovation partners

Sustainability is an area that is constantly evolving, with stronger and extended regulations expected – for example, the European CSRD (Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive) will start with 2024 Data. So, it’s not surprising that enterprises can struggle to achieve sustainability targets on their own, especially as the underlying technologies and market are growing.

Enterprises stand a better chance of successfully achieving their sustainability targets if they can rely on a network of specialized partners with robust and varied toolsets.

A co-innovation strategy that is based on collaborative partnerships can improve the effectiveness of sustainability efforts and drive more positive results. Co-innovation enables better identification of scalable new technologies and improves discovering and development of the right innovative solutions for a business’s desired outcome.

What to look for

Working with a partner that is already on track to achieving its own sustainability targets through a stepped approach, can also help enterprises maximise their chances for success.

Look for a partner that has Scope 1 and 2 locked-down and is confident about the more challenging Scope 3. The best choice will be a partner that is more than a systems integrator – one with the capability to deliver an end-to-end solution including connectivity, cloud, and security by design enriched by expertise in data & AI.

Along with a shift in mindset, driving a successful sustainability transformation should not be seen as a compliance exercise or a cost of doing business.

Adopting an ESG approach also accelerates companies’ ability to assess their economic performance and their responsibility on extra-financial sustainability criteria – environmental, social, governance – as environmental criteria are one of the top priorities.

By building a reputation for ESG responsibility, enterprises will create value and a competitive advantage as sustainability continues to matter fundamentally to us all.


For more insights into Sustainability - check out the latest edition of Sustainability Magazine and be sure to follow us on LinkedIn & Twitter

Other magazines that may be of interest - EV Magazine | Energy Digital


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