Birdsong may have temporarily replaced the sound of planes during the pandemic, but the world’s climate change challenges haven’t changed their tune. Priorities for businesses though are shifting, as many try to stay afloat. And despite the mighty C02 savings our world’s empty roads and offices have allowed recently, many businesses – and consumers – seem to be shelving their green goals.
Others may believe their small contribution to helping save the planet is a mere drop in the ocean – and therefore barely worth the effort. And yet, with governments otherwise engaged, business leaders should take action. Small, straightforward steps are collectively powerful in reducing the world’s environmental footprint. From recycling bins and solar panels to bike storage, electric vehicle (EV) chargers, and even car-sharing schemes, now is the time for ownership in setting examples to your employees – and your customers.
Wallbox’s CEO on leading by example
To understand how senior execs can lead the green march, we’ve spoken to three pioneering CEOs who are all experts in decarbonizing transport. From smart charging trailblazer, Wallbox (that’s us), to ridesharing company, Cabify, and digital freight platform, Ontruck, we hear what motivates these bosses to make the future more sustainable – starting from within their own businesses.
Based in Barcelona, Wallbox has a mission: to change the way the world uses energy with its smart charging systems for electric cars. When Founder Enric Asunción was previously at Tesla, he predicted the key to the electric vehicle revolution was having access to charging systems in many different locations. His business concept was born at a wedding while chatting to his best friend (and since Co-Founder) Eduard.
“Spanish weddings are long. You start with lunch and it can last until 2am in the morning. We started talking about what was coming: the electric revolution and needing the best product in the world for charging. What was an idea then – during the course of the night, with some gin and tonics – became the concept of a product. A few hours later, we decided we would leave our jobs to start a company. And we kept the promise,” recalls Asunción.
The force behind Enric Asunción’s fierce determination to drive change is his unwavering belief that sustainability must be convenient – whether it’s for customers using his products, or his employees at work. Without it, he insists, green strategies will never take off: “If we pretend that people are going to choose a product that is worse because it’s eco-friendly, I don’t think it will be successful. If you pretend that people will spend less energy, then that’s not true. The world will need more energy as we grow as a civilization.”
Our CEO urges other bosses to understand that it’s impossible to become truly sustainable overnight. He advises starting with some ‘quick wins’ that will spark empathy and stop inertia from setting in.
“Our impact is obvious: we are helping to decarbonize transport. The first initiative was to make all our packaging recyclable. Then we looked at our products to make sure they were more sustainable. And our new building has been constructed on the cradle to cradle concept; all the materials are recyclable and can be used in the circular economy. We try to go step by step.”
Cabify’s CEO on everyday actions
Another business that’s going step by step – or kilometer by kilometer – is Cabify. With the goal of transforming cities, its transport app helps people move in a more responsible way, often by sharing vehicles. “70 to 80% of the space in our cities in Spain is exclusively dedicated to vehicles, leaving just 20 to 30% allocated to people. That does not make a lot of sense,” according to Juan De Antonio, Cabify’s chief.
In our post-COVID-19 world, we’ve all had a brief taste of a cleaner world. De Antonio believes that everyday actions will help preserve our planet for centuries to come – starting with providing opportunities to make it easy for people to change their habits.
“Sustainability needs to be embedded at the top of the agenda, not only with politicians but also with our everyday actions. When you first have your office and have a very small space and think about your waste bins, that’s when you need to start thinking about it.”
Juan De Antonio admits that having a child has had a profound effect on how he views the world. He’s now seeing it through his daughter’s eyes and it’s spurred him on. Starting with his business, he’s a firm believer in responsibility starting ‘at home’.“We were the first company in the world in 2018 in our industry to compensate for our carbon emissions. At the same time, we are keeping an eye on that long-term plan: having vehicles that don’t have any emissions. When we emit, we compensate. We’ve set a goal to achieve zero emissions by 2025.”
Ontruck’s CEO on tangible goals
With a similar aim of lowering carbon emissions, Ontruck’s road freight platform offers efficient solutions for transporting goods, using Artificial Intelligence, data, and advanced technology. Its CEO, Iñigo Juantegui, says the difference has been staggering: “Trucks account for 6% of the European Union’s total C02 emissions…We have already demonstrated our ability to reduce kilometers driven empty from the industry average of 44% to 19%. This has resulted in a CO2 reduction of almost 1 million kilograms over the last 30 months.”
Juantegui is keen to remind all leaders that reducing the environmental impact of a business also lowers costs, reduces risk, and helps employees take pride in being part of wider societal change. In his mind, however, sustainability can often be stopped in its tracks if its progress is nebulous. “A common stumbling block for companies in pursuit of sustainability can be the lack of uniform measurement systems combined with a lack of knowledge on how to evaluate your ecological footprints,” says Ontruck’s Co-Founder.
Back at his own HQ in Madrid, Iñigo Juantegui is not resting on his laurels, despite Ontruck’s success story so far. “To be having such a positive impact in our industry is rewarding,” he states. “However, we have many more steps to take in order to create the most socially responsible and sustainable solution for moving goods by road in Europe.”
A greener future
The lessons on sustainability from those in the know are clear: empathy needs to be at the heart of every green goal, convenience is vital, and change must be driven by leaders. Without these three ingredients, eco-friendly will never be anything more than a buzzword that people pay mere lip service to. With the unprecedented change unleashed by the pandemic, there is now an opportunity for businesses to think and act with greater altruism; starting small – but collectively aiming for great change.