CSO Magazine had a Q&A session with Severine Trouillet, Global Affairs Director, EuroNorth, where she discussed eco-initiatives Dassault Systèmes is introducing.
So far, 2020 has seen a lot of companies making pledges to become carbon neutral. How has this new shift affected Dassault Systèmes?
Sustainability is often seen as a cost by businesses. Many leaders believe that you must sacrifice profitability to achieve a sustainable value network, but that is simply not the case. And it seems that 2020 may be the year we see a major shift from brands pinning purpose against profit to seeing them as two sides of the same coin.
While we embrace the fact more companies are adopting business sustainability, this is not a new thing for us at Dassault Systèmes - it is at the core of our business DNA and our values, which can be summarised as ensuring there is harmony between business, people and products. From our inception back in the 1980s, our mission has always been to help businesses, designers, manufacturers to find more sustainable ways to be innovative, without compromising on the final product’s quality, safety or aesthetic.
As more organisations embrace business sustainability as a strategic priority, they need trusted partners to help them navigate the numerous changes this entails, from the way teams collaborate to abiding by policies/requirements for the ways in which products should be designed, manufactured and launched. This is something we have done with our customers for years, and we are working with organisations of all sizes to help them make this transition.
Sustainability isn’t only about improving business practices; we all have a role to play in this transformation, and often, we need guidance to see where the challenges are and how we can tackle them at a personal level. This is the motivation for our new programme ‘The Only Progress is Human’, a global initiative to increase awareness of today’s societal and environmental challenges, and to inspire people to use the virtual world to imagine sustainable innovations for a better future. During a two-year period, we will engage with the public through 10 “Acts” that focus on some of the most pressing issues humanity faces in health, cities, energy, water and other areas. Our launch act, a concert using a 3D printed violin called ‘Virtual Harmony’ was live-streamed on our corporate website, showcasing to the viewers around the world how we can bring emotion in the virtual world and the role technology can play in bringing performances to life.
What does Dassault Systèmes view as the new landscape for software companies in this regard?
At Dassault Systèmes, we believe that virtual universes can improve and enhance the real world, with 3D technology providing the tools to create sustainable innovations. For us, the role of software companies is to support clients in looking at the impact their products have on the environment and lifestyle of their audience, and improve the design, manufacturing and recycling of these products across their lifecycle for an optimal customer experience.
Software companies can also ensure their clients have a climate-positive value chain of suppliers & partners and logistic operations to achieve science-based sustainability targets. Overall, the onus is now on software companies not just to improve their sustainability agendas internally, but to fuel the global transition to net zero emissions and to help move towards carbon-neutral economies.
Technology is obviously the primary enabler for this transformation. What is something you consider an important development currently underway?
We have seen 3D modelling and virtualisation move from niche solutions to becoming the norm for product design in industries as diverse as aerospace & defense, transport & mobility, life sciences, and even packaging design. These technologies are going to become even more important for companies who are looking for ways to reduce their contribution to landfill, to improve their productivity or to test out new concepts.
With the cloud, modelling and virtualisation have become available to teams based anywhere in the world so they can work on projects around the clock. This opens the door to more innovation and collaboration, which then results in better, more sustainable products in the long term. For business leaders, it also provides more visibility on all aspects of the projects they’re leading.
Despite its importance, technology is also only half the battle: people need to get involved with net-zero emissions targets too. Has there been a cultural challenge to make this happen?
2019 has seen a real shift in the public’s views on net-zero emissions, single-use plastic and the impact of travel on the environment. The fact the British government has announced its decision to become a carbon-neutral economy by 2050 is also putting more pressure on the whole country to be more conscious of the decisions we make, the products we buy, how we manufacture them and what happens once their lifecycle comes to an end.
Let’s consider the Consumer-Packaged Goods (CPG) sector for example where manufacturers design packaging products today, they must consider how to source materials, how to dispose of the products once they have reached the end of their lifecycle while keeping to a minimum the impact these products have on the environment and how consumers respond to a product that isn’t environmentally conscious. We find similar challenges in the transport industry, where lowering the carbon emissions at front of mind for all manufacturers. The same can be said of life sciences, where hazardous substances need to be disposed of in special bins and where drug development needs to harness digital technology to become more time and cost-efficient or even in construction, where poor planning decisions may end up having a negative impact on nearby rivers or underground water sources. Consumers are more conscious of these challenges, but the shift also needs to happen with C-suite executives.
To help us see the discrepancies between the vision and reality of business sustainability, we recently polled decision-makers from 11 professional sectors. Businesses have sustainability programmes that are at all levels of maturity, but we are seeing a common goal amongst them all: improve efficiency, reduce costs and build a more sustainable future for their people, their company and the planet.
But we’re only at the start of the journey: in our survey, we found that over half (52%) of business leaders believe reducing their company’s reliance on diminishing resources is pivotal to long-term success and profitability. However, the majority don’t know where to start with sustainability innovations, with 6 in 10 leaders admitting they struggle to conceive transformational ideas. This shows that while there’s clear intent to embrace sustainability, businesses still need more help in identifying how to change their ways of working and the solutions to implement to help them become truly green, with long-lasting and robust business models.
What commitments is Dassault Systèmes making to achieve carbon-neutrality?
We have started the ‘2020 Sustainability F!T initiative’, a programme that will fuel our efforts towards a more positive impact on our environment, our local communities as well as our partners and customers. Our intent is to develop specific objectives related to our engagement with communities, schools and universities near our offices, but also our travel practices, the energy efficiency of our buildings and other parts of our business operations to increase our sustainability credentials by the end of 2020.
Microsoft recently stated that it was making inroads towards carbon negativity. Can Dassault Systèmes consider a similar move?
We hope not only to reduce our carbon impact, but also to champion this cause with all our customers. For example, our 3DEXPERIENCE platform has been designed to provide them with all the capabilities they need to achieve their net-zero objectives for their products by developing products, ideas and projects virtually through 3Dmodelling or simulation. We want to encourage more collaborative ways of working across different time zones, companies, especially with today’s global situation.
How does Dassault Systèmes distinguish itself from other companies in its sustainability efforts?
We have long been a champion of business sustainability, both for ourselves and to our clients. In 2018, we were ranked No 1 among the World’s Most Sustainable Corporations by Corporate Knights. Recently, we were ranked No 2 in the ‘Future 50 Sustainability All Stars’ by Fortune magazine. We want to help all customers that work across the verticals we operate in to develop sustainable innovation. We listen to our customers’ needs and use insights from those that have already begun their sustainability journey to help design industry best practices.
Which other aspects of sustainability is the company focused on?
True sustainability extends far beyond environmental concerns. We believe there are four elements of sustainability that businesses need to prioritise to guarantee long-term success and longevity: products, people, innovation and business models. That can mean recognising and promoting talent internally, ensuring products are developed in a sustainable manner, putting the processes in place to foster and encourage innovative ideas, and making sure core business models rely on assets that will be valuable for many years to come.
However, the fundamental tension is that businesses tend to prioritise short term goals and achievements over long-term success and longevity. They understand the importance of the long-term but find it hard to keep it mind alongside day-to-day pressures. In order to achieve true sustainability, we need to make it easier to understand the long-term impact of the short-term decisions we make.
We take this mission upon ourselves to help our clients better understand their own challenges, learn best practices from their own and other industries, and the processes they need to implement to become a more sustainable company at all levels.