Energy efficiency: Innovating in environmental solutions

3 min read 17 Jul 23

Impact investors seek out companies providing innovative solutions for the world’s most pressing social and environmental challenges. This case study considers how one impactful company, Schneider Electric, aims to help reduce global emissions by creating innovative energy-efficiency solutions for buildings and industry.

Schneider Electric is a French company specialising in energy management and automation solutions, from standard plug sockets to fully automated industrial systems. The company aims to ‘empower all to make the most of our energy and resources’, and has been named in the Corporate Knights top 100 most sustainable companies in the world for 12 years in a row. 

“Schneider Electric demonstrates its commitment to innovation through considerable R&D spending, and a continual pipeline of new products for both commercial and residential applications.”

Better energy efficiency

Schneider Electric’s biggest business divisions are Buildings and Industry. According to the IEA (International Energy Agency), 38% of global CO2 emissions come from the built environment, and a further 32% from industry, so Schneider’s products offer significant potential to reduce global emissions by improving efficiency.

The company’s flagship EcoStruxure platform enables the control, monitoring and management of buildings. It is used in homes, commercial buildings, data centres, infrastructure and industrial facilities. Integrating with Schneider’s vast array of sensors, controllers and other electrical components, the software connects with subsystems such as electrics, lighting, security, fire, power and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), bringing real-time data streams together in a single platform. With this knowledge, energy use can be monitored, optimised and ultimately reduced.

“Schneider Electric’s EcoStuxure system helps its customers to make material emission reductions by reducing the amount of energy they use,” says Ben Constable-Maxwell, Head of Sustainable and Impact Investing at M&G Investments. “The company reported 83.6 million tonnes of avoided emissions in 2021, making a cumulative total of 347 million tonnes of avoided emissions since 2018.”

A focus on innovation

Since its beginnings in the first Industrial Revolution, Schneider has been innovating for more than 180 years. Today, the company invests heavily into research and development (R&D), to create innovative new products and continue driving positive impacts. In 2021, Schneider’s R&D spend equated to 5.1% of sales, which is in line with the company’s long-term average.

“The world’s biggest challenges, from halting climate change to promoting greater social inclusion, will require innovative solutions. Schneider has demonstrated its commitment to innovation through its considerable R&D spending, and a continual pipeline of new products for both commercial and residential applications,” says Constable-Maxwell.

For example, the company recently announced a new set of digital tools, which integrate with industry-leading building design software, allowing electrical engineers to plan, design and analyse efficient electrical distribution systems. Schneider has also released an eMobility system, to cater to the increasing prevalence of electric vehicles (EVs), and the need for convenient charging. The system can be installed at home or in locations such as offices and shopping centres. It comprises EV chargers and a load management system, which dynamically distributes the available power, avoiding peak hours and integrating renewable energy where available.

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