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Life is on: energy for everyone everywhere and at every moment

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Demographic growth, industrial development and the digital revolution are all challenges that Schneider Eletric is trying to convert into opportunities. Emilienne Lepoutre, Coordinator of Sustainable Development, answers our questions about the company's mission, "Enriching life".

What is Schneider Electric’s mission and what is meant by “Life is On”?

Schneider Electric is a company specialised in the digital transformation of energy management and automation equipment for homes, buildings, data centres, infrastructure and industries.

Our mission is simple and applies to all our activities: bringing energy to everyone, everywhere and at every moment.

Our mission is simple and applies to all our activities: bringing energy to everyone, everywhere and at every moment.

This is what we mean by “Life is On”. Our technology is everywhere in our lives - in all places and times, at home, at work, at hospital, in hotels… where we aspire to enjoy reliable, green, connected and safe energy.

Your mission carries a strong societal dimension. What major underlying trends are you focusing on?

Our solutions address three major societal trends: urbanisation, industrialisation and digitalisation. We have set up corporate initiatives over 3 to 5 year period with a view to transforming our organisation and our offer, thereby seizing the opportunities emerging from these trends: from the growth of automation and connectivity needs to the massive claims for energy efficiency, which require an optimised use of resources.

Urbanisation: by 2040, cities will be home to a further 1.9 billion people. Expectations are high for solutions able to bring the services and cost savings that résidents can reasonably expect (integrated services in security, mobility, weather forecasts, energy, water and waste management etc.), but also to produce visible and quantifiable improvements that will boost the appeal of the cities, or to limit initial investments to help them balance their budgets.

Industrialisation: the manufacturing business is growing in line with the development of the new economy. The global energy needs from non-OECD economies are expected to grow from 59% in 2014 to almost 65% by 2030. Industry therefore needs innovative solutions and additional services to follow the development of the new economy and meet its growing energy requirements, but also to improve efficiency and modernise installations in mature countries.

Digitalisation: over the past 20 years, Internet has enabled 3.5 billion people to interact. And over the next 10 years, this figure should increase by over 70%. Clients are expecting products with open interfaces and functionalities that meet the high standards of their mobile terminals, as well as active energy efficiency implemented via new business models across smart products, systems and services.

What main levers are available to Schneider Electric to carry out its mission?

Our ability to innovate – R&D expenditure accounts for 5% of our sales income every year – is a key feature that will enable us carry out our mission, by bringing solutions for a world that is:

More electric: by 2040, demand for electricity will grow twice as fast as demand for energy; three times more energy efficiency will be needed to meet the climate challenge.

Schneider Electric offers its clients a number of solutions designed to address this particular challenge: the EcoStruxureTM solution which provides, for example, real-time access to a building’s energy efficiency data, forms the backbone of The Edge office building built for Deloitte in Amsterdam – a Net Zero-Energy Building which produces 102% of its own energy use.

More digital: thanks to new technologies, we are able to consider energy from a totally different perspective – with a much stronger focus on efficiency and sustainability. Carrying out our mission involves the deployment of connected solutions; this has actually constituted one of the objectives of our strategic plans over the past several years. During 2016, the number of connected devices has risen by 15%. As digitalisation also comes with a new series of risks, including the area of industrial cyber-crime, Schneider Electric also has a role to play in raising client awareness and offering adapted solutions.

This is the objective behind our partnership with WALLIX, the French specialist in cyber-security, with whom we have developed a solution designed to manage and secure maintenance and remote-maintenance access to industrial architectures.

More decarbonised and decentralised: renewable energy sources will account for 60% of all new capacity for electricity production by 2040, and 70% in rural areas. Schneider’s “Access to Energy” range offers solar-energy lamps and portable electrification systems fed from photovoltaic panels, which enable consumers to produce their own energy and shift towards a greener energy mix.

True to its mission, Schneider Electric is basing its development on the major macroeconomic trends which are shaking up its markets. But what is the meaning of the mission statement at an individual level?

In the new economy, this means coming up with solutions that will provide clean and reliable energy for 1.2 billion people with no access to electricity. This is what our Access to Energy initiative strives to achieve. Our efforts focus on new offers and economic models for the electrification of villages, as well as for domestic requirements, two investment funds to provide local support to innovative entrepreneurs with energy, and training, to address the shortage of local capabilities.

Nevertheless, the issue of access to energy is not limited to developing markets. In mature economies, we address the hundreds of millions of people affected by fuel poverty through initiatives such as the “Social Innovation to Tackle Fuel Poverty”, a call for projects led by Ashoka and Schneider Electric Foundation designed to assist social entrepreneurs offering innovative solutions tackling fuel poverty across Europe.

In the new economy, this means coming up with solutions that provide clean and reliable energy for 1.2 billion people with no access to electricity.

Who carries the mission at Schneider Electric? How is it disseminated within the company, thereby allowing employees to take ownership of the mission?

Our mission is carried by all employees. We believe that our employees need to be aware of these issues and act as ambassadors for Schneider Electric’s engagement. In this respect, the Sustainability Fellows initiative was launched 5 years ago.

By using the internal social network, this community has several objectives: to raise all employees’ awareness of sustainable development issues, to present the major sustainable development challenges within the company and further afield, and finally, to help them understand the connection between Schneider Electric’s strategy and climate or socially-related issues.

Our objective is also to enable this community to share points of view and solve some of the problems, to improve corporate policy and action, and to understand the different ways in which they can get involved, either on a daily or on an occasional basis. The sustainable development department keeps the community up to date with quarterly live Webradio broadcasts and by conducting surveys that are then posted on the group’s social network platform. The community has grown considerably from a couple of hundred members early 2013 to more than 5,000 Sustainability Fellows in 2017.

Our corporate initiatives also build a strong culture, driven by our mission

To ensure that all concerned take on board their role in the Group’s strategy and its execution, we have developed an internal survey sent out twice a year to all our staff, whether they are connected or not (in the factories, a specific solution is organised), called “One Voice”.

The participation rate, which is rising, reached 80% in 2017. We measure the level of engagement and assess factors that drive motivation – training, well-being etc. – but importantly, we run feedback sessions per country and per team with a view to fostering dialogue and explaining the Group’s strategy even at the most local level, in a structured and regular way.

Our corporate initiatives, which include common objectives adapted to each country and entity, also build a strong culture driven by our mission. The Planet & Society barometer, set up 13 years ago, lists the Group’s sustainable development targets and the progress achieved, in a crosscutting tool that involves all departments of the company.

To what extent are the stakeholders aligned with the success of the Group’s mission? In particular, how can Schneider Electric’s shareholders contribute to its successful outcome?

Developing meaningful partnerships with peers, suppliers, clients, start-ups, universities and other players, with a view to pooling our skills and building solutions together, is an integral part of Schneider Electric’s corporate culture. Within the field of innovation and R&D, in addition to leading our own initiatives, we have set up an open innovation policy with external stakeholders, including clients and suppliers. We have adopted a global collaboration strategy for co-design, co-development (new products) and co-engineering (existing products).

Our shareholders, on their end, contribute to our mission by questioning the commitments we make in the area of sustainable development, and by examining the results we have achieved - particularly on the environmental pillar – and their alignment with our mission.

Measuring our engagement and our impact has become a key factor in their investment decisions. These signals are important and increasingly visible: in this sense, Schneider Electric features among the global companies with the largest percentage of responsible investors among their shareholders.

Emilienne Lepoutre joined Schneider Electric in early 2011 as Sustainable Development Coordinator. She is in charge of the tool used for measuring and steering the group’s extra-financial performance, the Planet & Society barometer, extra-financial ratings, and relations with SRI investors.

A graduate of ESCP business school, Emilienne began her career in management consultancy. After a trip of several months to Asia, she worked for a green business magazine and became actively involved in several social and environmental organisations in Argentina.


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