Future-Proofing Innovation

Future-Proofing Innovation is a series of roundtable conversations hosted by Capgemini sustainability and business experts inviting clients, partners, academics, and influencers to discuss the general topic of sustainability in innovation.

Each discussion focuses on a specific industry. The global anchor for this series is James Robey, Capgemini’s Global Head of Sustainability. 

Most major multinational organisations are acutely aware of their responsibilities to the environment, and Capgemini is no different. We started to put our own plans in place over 15 years ago – we were one of the first to set science-based targets in 2016 – and since 2020 we have been committed to becoming a net zero business.
However, as a professional services company, we recognise that our carbon footprint is relatively modest compared to many of our clients. Consequently, alongside our own decarbonisation commitments, we have set a target to help our clients reduce their footprints, and we are systematically embedding sustainability across our portfolio of client services.

That’s why this year we are holding roundtable events across different countries and different sectors with clients, partners, and other leading thinkers. We’ve been discussing sustainability, and what organisations can do to address the challenges while future-proofing innovation.
Dr. James Robey
Global Head of Sustainability, Capgemini

The Roundtables

Each discussion in the Future-Proofing Innovation series focuses on a specific industry.


The second roundtable took place at Capgemini’s Applied Innovation Exchange in Munich with a focus on the automotive sector. This article is based on that exchange, which you can find in full here:

This session was hosted by Daniel Garschagen – AIE Lead, with responsibility for Sustainability in Automotive, Capgemini Deutschland. Guests included Dr Juergen Sturm – Chief Information Officer at ZF Group; Justin Gemeri – CEO at ekipa; Mathias Kaldenhoff – Partner Sustainability & Innovation Management, Office of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) – SAP Germany; Dr James Robey – Global Head of Sustainability, Capgemini; Ralf Blessmann – EVP, Automotive Market Unit Lead and Sustainability Sponsor, Capgemini Deutschland; and Markus Winkler – EVP, Global Automotive Team, Capgemini.

In his opening remarks, Markus Winkler pointed out that the issue of sustainability in the automotive industry was taking place against a backdrop of generalised rapid change in the sector, which was seeing many companies move from being manufacturers towards becoming automotive technology businesses. As vehicles are becoming more software-defined, he said, so the need for and nature of innovation in the industry is evolving.

Ralf Blessman took up this thought: he observed that innovation is used to improve both efficiency and technology, and that it is therefore innately sustainable in its purpose. What’s more, said Dr Juergen Sturm, it simply had to be: sustainability, he said “must be completely interwoven into the DNA of any company, because consumer behaviours and perspectives are changing.”

“In the long run, every business will be sustainable.”

Dr. Juergen Sturm
Chief Information Officer, ZF Group

As a case in point, Mathias Kaldenhoff summarised SAP’s own sustainability commitment. “We have social responsibility for the whole world,” he said, which is why SAP has a zero waste, zero plastic strategy, including certification of data centers and the SAP One Billion Lives program.

Key topics

Many themes were addressed during this discussion on sustainability and innovation in the automotive sector. Below are 5 videos highlighting the most salient topics raised:

Addressing changing consumer perspectives is vital. Ralf Blessman discussed the need for automotive enterprises to bring together as many elements of their organisation as possible – technology, processes, and more – to support their drivers and help them get into a more efficient, sustainable mode. When people feel supported, and feel that they themselves are now making a great environmental contribution, a virtuous circle can be created. Improvements can be made incrementally, even where drivers aren’t yet behind the wheel of electric vehicles.

What’s more, rewards systems can be used: drivers can accumulate company credits against future purchases, which not only reinforces sustainable behaviour but generates brand loyalty.

Sustainability isn’t just a customer-facing commitment either, Mathias Kaldenhoff said, nor even the result of a broader commitment to societal responsibility. It’s also a key factor in the ability to attract and retain employees.

“We are helping our customers to understand and react to the future where the only shareholder of all our industry is planet earth.”

Mathias Kaldenhoff
Partner Sustainability & Innovation Management, Office of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) – SAP Germany

Justin Gemeri agreed. He said that in founding ekipa, the goal had been to tackle sustainability issues – and that to do that, it’s vital to engage younger people. “This generation brings so much potential,” he said. “They bring so many new ideas, so many new perspectives to the table that can help to overcome those upcoming challenges.” Yes, said Juergen Sturm. “If you want to have passionate people, you should have exciting targets where they can see the value and the purpose. This really creates a lot of energy.”

Justin Gemeri pursued the point. He said that people live in different circumstances in different parts of the world, and that this has a bearing on their sustainable development priorities. However, he continued, “what unites young people in the digital generation is that they take sustainability seriously, and they don’t accept greenwashing. They expect action – and when they graduate and look for work, that’s where their focus is.”

Daniel Garschagen invited other event participants to provide an assessment of the current sustainability picture in the automotive industry.

Markus Winkler said that moves towards sustainability in the sector have accelerated since the emergence of the electric vehicle market. The impetus has grown to a level at which it’s now a key factor from one end of an enterprise to the other – from production and operations, out to the supply chain, and beyond.

Automotive businesses, Markus Winkler continued, need to ask themselves where enterprise-wide sustainability begins and ends. It isn’t always straightforward. For instance, he said, you can put a part which has a lower sustainability footprint into a vehicle, but you later find it will consume a lot of energy to recycle this part. You might also find that the recycling quota for the part is lower. It’s in areas like this that organisations need to arbitrate – and that’s where technology has such an important role to play, because how else can businesses keep track of all the variables?

ZF Group is a global technology company supplying systems to the automotive industry, and Juergen Sturm developed Markus Winkler’s argument. He said it was the goal of automotive systems developers such as ZF to use technology to drive electrification, decarbonisation, efficiency, safety, and more – and that to make all this happen, the interconnectedness of things was vital.

Like many businesses, Juergen Sturm said, ZF had set itself ambitious sustainability targets – and targets like these need to be a collective endeavor. “No company can achieve this alone,” he said. “We have to involve the large companies, the manufacturing companies, software companies, academia, startups, systems integrators – everyone. I think that’s exciting because science and technology is the answer. And we must really leverage it.”

As a leader in its market, SAP can provide a broad perspective on the state of sustainability in the automotive industry. The challenges that Mathias Kaldenhoff observed included the need for diligence in a digital supply chain, especially given its present-day complexity. It’s difficult to monitor and manage sustainability issues in globally intricate supply chains, and to do so at the pace that modern business now requires.

The challenges may be great, but so are the opportunities. Mathias Kaldenhoff gave an example.

He said automotive engineering businesses have always had to balance costs against performance, and that nowadays the third factor in the mix is sustainability. SAP, he said, is working with a customer to create an environment in which processes, materials, components, tools and more are balanced out against one another to achieve optimum carbon metrics on a case by case basis. For example, the partnership was exploring approaches to product design that made maintenance and repair easier and more sustainable.

Juergen Sturm applauded this principle. He said that sustainable goals didn’t just help automotive businesses to meet regulatory requirements and their own social responsibilities – they also delivered premium products that customers would be able to judge. For instance, a value chain that is digitally integrated and auditable from end to end would enable manufacturers to demonstrate how much of a new car in a showroom has been recycled, and what its carbon footprint is. “I firmly believe,” he said, “there is no conflict between sustainability and economy. On the contrary, one is fueling the other.” “Yes,” said Justin Gemiri. “The sustainability of a company will be a key to its economic success. Younger customers who will become the core target group in the next few years will not buy products from companies that do not act sustainably.”

Sustainability doesn’t just make business sense from a customer perspective. Juergen Sturm told the rest of the group about a project some years ago in which he renovated a data centre. He doubled its performance – but at the same time, the state-of-the-art efficiency measures he introduced resulted in a quarter-million-euro cost saving.

Our event facilitator, Daniel Garschagen, observed that to achieve sustainability goals, collaboration was necessary – not just along the value chain, but across society at large. Justin Gemeri agreed. He spoke of the insights and enthusiasm that start-ups can bring to problem-solving, but added that everyone had a role to play. “In the end,” he said, “it’s about co-creation. Start-ups bring huge potential, bring great new ideas, new perspectives, new technologies – but you also need the experience of established organisations, you need the leverage that big companies bring regarding access to customers, and also regarding R&D budgets, for example. Together, organisations large and small need to create an ecosystem, a framework, where they can co-create on one level – and that’s where innovation is happening right now.”

Our event participants agreed that while IT infrastructure is itself responsible for carbon emissions, the net proportion is small, and is countered by the significant opportunities it brings to achieve sustainability. Examples include better supply chains, more efficient production, and the reduction of the need to travel. Importantly, and as we have already seen, technology also enables organisations to measure their sustainability status – and if you don’t measure, you can’t improve.

Juergen Sturm spoke enthusiastically about a CIO community in which he and senior executives from Capgemini and other organisations are active. “We are bringing together small companies and large companies,” he said. “We want to exchange best practices and focus on implementation, because only implementation counts.” Ralf Blessman observed that Agile approaches to development marked a cultural change in collaboration that was initiated by CIOs, and that the new challenge for CIOs was now “to step up and create a massive impact on corporate sustainability.”

Mathias Kaldenhoff pointed out that only 5% to 7% of data produced today is useful. The rest of it, generated by sensors, other IoT devices and so on, is a distraction, and that we need technology to help us focus on what will be helpful in the pursuit of sustainable goals.

“Achieving sustainability goals is a team sport.”

Daniel Garschagen
AIE, Sustainability, and Innovation lead, Capgemini Deutschland

Daniel Garschagen asked everyone to wrap things up by summarising their own organisation’s sustainability efforts.

For ZF Group, Juergen Sturm said his company is striving for next-generation mobility that is clean, safe, comfortable, and affordable – and that it is using all its technology to make this happen as soon as possible. “I think we need everyone in our company and everyone in our partnerships to focus on this topic together,” he said.

For SAP, Mathias Kaldenhoff said, “We are doing everything to help our customers not to consume more than they plant. We’re also aiming to understand and to react to the future, where the only shareholder of every industry and enterprise is Planet Earth.”

For ekipa, Justin Gemeri said that technology and innovation are the key drivers for creating a more sustainable world, and that smaller companies like his own need to work alongside larger, well-established corporations and political institutions to overcome challenges and devise solutions.

For Capgemini, Markus Winkler said that in addition to meeting its own sustainability targets, the organisation was committed to save 10 million tons of carbon for its clients by 2030. Ralf Blessman added that it was a commitment that was shared across Capgemini’s three main business areas of consulting, IT and services, and engineering – and he pointed out how relevant the company’s tagline is to the topic under discussion:

“Get the future you want.”

This roundtable was recorded in Munich on September 22nd, 2022.

The panel

Dr Juergen Sturm
Chief Information Officer at ZF Group

Justin Gemeri
CEO at ekipa

Mathias Kaldenhoff
Partner Sustainability & Innovation Management, Office of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) – SAP Germany
Dr James Robey
Global Head of Sustainability, Capgemini

Ralf Blessmann
EVP, Automotive Market Unit Lead and Sustainability Sponsor, Capgemini Deutschland

Markus Winkler
EVP, Global Automotive Team, Capgemini

The first roundtable took place at Capgemini’s Applied Innovation Exchange in San Francisco with a focus on the high tech sector. The global anchor for the series is James Robey, Capgemini’s Global Head of Sustainability. The contents below are based on that exchange, which you can find in full in the video below.

Key topics

Many themes were addressed during this discussion on sustainability and innovation in the high tech sector. Below are 5 videos highlighting the most salient topics raised:

The roundtable

Listed below are the five most salient topics that came out of the conversation between our High Tech experts in San Francisco. They happen to cover many of the overarching themes that are deeply rooted within the sustainability discussion at large. A discussion that we at Capgemini are having at the moment, along with many leading organisations across the world.

For the environment in particular, which is our focus here, the difficulty has been that in business, the data hasn’t been dependable, and for two main reasons. One, some organisations have been reluctant to share details of their carbon footprint – although the advent of Web3 may enable value chain data to be aggregated and accessed without the need for individual parties to quantify and share their own numbers.

Two, there are so many variables. For instance, minerals are mined, moved, and embedded in increasingly large sub-assemblies, and then moved again, until manufacturing is complete – so at what point or points in the manufacturing and logistics cycles do we measure carbon footprint?

In short, we haven’t yet seen a standard approach to carbon footprint reporting, or indeed to any sort of environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting. However, pressure is growing to convene the high-tech industry around such a standard, and much of it is coming from the financial markets to do deep audits and risk assessments in the carbon footprint.

“Data, big data, and these new emerging technologies such as AI and quantum computing are really exciting for me. They will help us to understand complete lifecycles.”
Mary de Wysock
VP Corporate Affairs – CSR Sustainability, Cisco

Building renewables into the energy supply and using AI to balance loads is enabling companies, citizens, and consumers to write out the impacts of climate change – and in the process, we’re beginning to create a smart energy grid that’s even more distributed, clean, and resilient. It’s resilient in the sense of sustainability, and also because its distributed redundancy enables it to withstand cyberattacks.

Solutions to sustainability depend to a large extent on the data that organisations gather – but as Sreejit Roy, Senior Partner – Hybrid Cloud Transformation, IBM, pointed out, (a) there is so much of it, (b) the insights to be gained from it vary greatly by sector, and (c) organisations need to optimise it and to have a strategy for its use.

They also need to use technology to reduce the carbon footprint of the network on which the data resides, and that, in turn, means the data needs to be sufficiently granular. Why? Because if the reports indicate general data centre energy usage but don’t break it down by virtual server, they’re not actionable, and they’re not ESG-compliant.

It’s a challenge that must be accepted – but it’s an attractive proposition too. As Michael Bates, Global Sales GM – Energy Sustainability, Intel, said, “We’re all moving to a low-carbon world, but there’s an opportunity to make a big revenue play here as well. Forbes says it’s the largest commercial opportunity in a lifetime.”

Michael believed that in the short term, the focus would be more on climate adaptation than climate mitigation, and that this pragmatic shift would probably be more beneficial. In the longer term, he looked forward to what he termed a software-defined smart grid, where the highest and best-use energy supply is chosen based on market needs, regardless of where it resides on the grid, which doesn’t exist today. Based on some of the uses of the data being collected today, he saw this as the direction of travel.

John C. Havens, Sustainability Practice Lead at the IEEE Standards Association, spoke starkly about the scale and imminence of the climate change challenge. “There are no reports that I see,” he said, “that say we’re going to stay under a net temperature rise of 1.5 degrees.” That may sound like a gloomy prognostication, but John said he saw it as a “wonderful opportunity,” because it provides an imperative to innovate in a way that goes beyond net zero to “net positive” – to give back more than we take, and to establish what he called “long-term planetary flourishing,” which goes beyond traditional metrics such as GDP.

Sandy Pentland and Mary de Wysocki, VP Corporate Affairs – CSR Sustainability, Cisco, each agreed that GDP as it was originally conceived didn’t factor in issues such as environmental metrics or human wellbeing or community, and that this needed to change. Sandy said we needed to imagine “a world that counts. A world where people don’t do things that have negative impacts without having them counted and available to look at.”

Michael Bates said that recalibrating in this way didn’t preclude the possibility of growth. It needn’t be measured like GDP, but in the transfer of wealth from a carbon-based energy system to a new clean, resilient energy system. Sandy Pentland concurred, and said that a new paradigm could raise standards of living, enabling people to lead healthy, productive lives, but without needing to waste natural resources.

“What can we do,” Mary de Wysocki, VP Corporate Affairs – CSR Sustainability, Cisco, asked, “to signal, to nurture, to start creating the market demand for a sustainable, green, inclusive opportunity, really moving to the values-based economy we’re discussing here?”

In reply, Sol Salinas, Capgemini’s Global Executive Vice President North America Sustainability Lead and facilitator for this event, said that Capgemini was building consensus to make the principle of net positive a reality. The aim was to create a measurable and reparative business model across all use cases, and across all industries. Digital transformation will be critical in successfully achieving this consensus and establishing the business model.

“Unless and until we are thinking about sustainability in everything we do – until that mindset changes – any amount of technology is not going to be effective.”
Sreejit Roy
Senior Partner – Hybrid Cloud Transformation, IBM

One element of this model, said James Robey, could be the notion of a value-added carbon tax that is part of every data transaction. Another element, he added, could be a better way of conceptualising carbon. Just as people understand that big swings in the Dow Jones or FTSE indices are good or bad, so a carbon measure of this kind could make the topic more real and immediate, so it becomes a kind of touchpoint in everybody’s lives.

The panel agreed that Web3 had a key role to play in sustainability efforts. Sandy Pentland said Web3 allowed organisations to keep their data locally and control it better, and that this made it easier to quantify the carbon figures implicit in the movement of materials, sub-assemblies, and products. He pointed out that this local quantification would make it easier to calculate the value-added carbon tax suggested by James Robey. “What’s interesting to me,” he added, “is that already 60% of all container shipping in the world runs on what might be called a Web3 system put together by IBM and Maersk. It makes it easier for organisations to make themselves publicly accountable.”

Sreejit Roy confirmed that IBM was putting a lot of work into Web3. He said there were three critical success factors. The first two were the establishment of the complex infrastructure that Web3 needs, and the implementation of cross-industry consensus protocols. The third was the need for the culture to change – but the good news, he said, is that the next generation is more knowledgeable about sustainability than their predecessors, and they will take care of this cultural shift.

Mary de Wysocki took up this point. She said that current and emerging generations of technology engineers need to help organisations bring differentiated thinking to their innovation – for instance, by applying data centre and smart building knowledge to ground-breaking nature-based developments.

“Innovation needs to come with societal KPIs. We need to measure and be accountable for long-term environmental flourishing and human wellbeing. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s essential.”
John C. Havens
Sustainability Practice Lead, IEEE Standards Association

Taking Stock

What was most interesting about this discussion was that, while there was a clear consensus on the scale and immediacy of climate change, there were different viewpoints about the approach to take and about how to get there. Our panel members each brought their own knowledge, experience, and opinions to the table, and that made the conversation not only thought-provoking, but productive.

Other roundtable events are sure to bring additional fresh thinking to the topic. It’s going to be not just a fascinating journey – but the most important one the world is facing.

This roundtable was recorded in San Francisco on July 26th, 2022.

The panel

Sol Salinas
Global Executive Vice President & North America Sustainability Lead, Capgemini
Dr James Robey
Global Head of Sustainability, Capgemini
Michael Bates
Global Sales GM – Energy & Sustainability, Intel
Mary de Wysocki
VP Corporate Affairs – CSR & Sustainability, Cisco
Sreejit Roy
Senior Partner – Hybrid Cloud Transformation, IBM
Sandy Pentland
Professor, MIT / Stanford
John C. Havens
Sustainability Practice Lead, IEEE Standards Association