5 questions for … Anna Alex
Vodafone has put the issue of sustainability at the top of its agenda. This not only leads to a closer link between new technologies, entrepreneurship and the green economy, but also calls for greater cooperation between civil society, science and industry. As part of its strategy, Vodafone has therefore launched a platform to promote this dialogue: the Vodafone Sustainability Council. Anna Alex, entrepreneur and pioneer of the green economy in Germany, is part of it. We talked to her about her work on the Sustainability Council, the role of new technologies, and civil society commitment to the battle against the climate crisis.
Hello Anna! Would you like to quickly tell us what the Vodafone Sustainability Council is and what its tasks are?
The Vodafone Sustainability Council brings a fresh, new perspective to its own sustainability topics in order to keep putting existing activities through their paces and to keep pushing them.
I think it's great that Vodafone is aware of the group's function as a role model and rises to this task rather than shying away from it. Being a pioneer is never easy because you're usually the first to tackle and implement new topics, and this always brings with it the possibility of errors. But we have to lead the way in the battle against the climate crisis, and I am delighted to be able to support the Sustainability Council in this task.
We're hearing the words "green economy", "green tech" and "green IT" more and more. What role do digital technologies play in the battle against climate change – including and especially in an economic context?
We're currently undergoing what is probably the biggest transformation the economy has ever gone through, bigger or at least comparable to the digital transformation that will fundamentally change everything we know in the coming years.
For company leaders, this means thinking about how they are going to lead their companies through the transformation, maintain their relevance, and even emerge stronger from it. This applies to every possible area in the company, such as talents, the brand, customers and the supply chain.
Technology can provide the necessary push to make climate protection measurable, and therefore manageable, in a company. Because the management should not have to deal with data collection or analysis, but should start in a way that really allows them to have an impact: with a climate or sustainability strategy.
Now it is often leading global companies that are demanding faster and more effective green measures from politicians. In doing this, they sometimes approach positions that would more usually be found among committed climate activists than in classic business leadership circles. With this in mind, how do you think the relationship between companies and civil society will change over the coming years?
Eighty-three percent of consumers believe it is important for companies to develop products that can be reused and recycled and do not end up in landfills. Conversely, this means that consumers will increasingly avoid products that do not meet these criteria. The awareness of sustainability is becoming stronger and stronger, and if customers stop buying certain products, these products will gradually disappear from the market. This, in turn, harms the companies that make these products. Consumers already play an important role in the battle against the climate crisis because their purchasing decisions can influence how sustainable companies are and how quickly the green economy grows.
How can initiatives such as the Vodafone Sustainability Council help to tackle the climate crisis?
Global companies like Vodafone often set themselves very high standards in terms of transparency and sustainability. This includes them calculating their own carbon footprint with absolute accuracy, using reliable key figures and presenting their actions transparently. In doing so, they set the benchmark that smaller companies use as a guide.
Big players have tremendous market power. If Vodafone is a role model and classifies climate protection as a priority in business, it automatically takes its customers with it on this journey. As the partner of a climate-neutral company, customers will no longer be able to afford not to talk about climate protection and not to take action.
How do you picture the sustainable society of the future?
I'd like to repeat something that Google CEO, Sundar Pichel, once said: "Companies that fail to go carbon-free will lose the talent war." If one of the main factors for a company is its talents, then by the same token that means that every single employee has a tremendous level of power. We should use this power and, for instance, ask the CEO just what the company is doing for the climate at the next interview or all-hands meeting. Here, too, Vodafone has taken the right step, because when potential employees ask about the company's climate activities, Vodafone can provide plenty of answers.
Thank you for your time, Anna.
Sustainability Advisory Board of Vodafone Germany