Towards Net Positive Impact: A Glimpse into the Sustainable Future

By Asheen

Corporate Knights Global 100At the World Economic Forum at Davos recently, ratings agency Corporate Knights announced their Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations list from a more than 4,000-company starting universe, and we are excited to be ranked #5. We’re proud of this ranking, but as I’ll explain in this post, we measure our own sustainability progress a bit differently — not as being the most environmentally efficient, as the Global 100 emphasizes, but in being the most sustainably innovative.

This is no sour grapes — we are pretty environmentally efficient. Our high ranking on the Global 100 is based largely on our environmental productivity scores, such as Carbon Productivity, which is a measure of how much revenue we generate per unit of carbon, and the similarly derived Energy Productivity.

Airplane engine exhaust

We enjoy a bit of a sector bump, as software companies generally make a lot of money from limited environmental capital — I often joke that our supply chain consists of electricity and coffee! — but in our case, our Carbon Productivity (revenue per unit carbon) is 75% higher than the next-best software company, and our Energy Productivity is 20% higher. This means that we’re squeezing more value from the environmental resources we consume — which in our case is mainly gasoline, jet fuel and electricity for our travelers and our developers.

But we don’t think this is the end of our story. With more than 175,000 companies designing, engineering, simulating, manufacturing, storing and searching their products on our 3DEXPERIENCE platform, we have the potential to influence a far greater swath of the world’s environmental footprint than that from our own operations. As we build sustainable innovation tools into our Apps and Experiences, these will make the planes you fly in, the vehicles you drive, the clothes you buy and the devices you communicate with more sustainable. Through sustainable innovation, we can “move the needle” on a scale far greater than our own footprint, creating a positive impact that Greg Norris of Harvard University calls a “handprint“.

Handprint

So if our positive handprint outweighs our negative footprint — we’re convinced it does, but we’re doing some work now to back this up — then Dassault Systèmes will be a net positive organization. That is, the world will be better off with our company serving it.

As our CEO Bernard Charlès said in a recent interview, “A product exists within nature, its components come from nature, and it will likely, eventually, decompose back into the natural world.  How much a part of the natural world is it?  How much does creating it, using it, and disposing of it distort or damage the natural world around it?  How much energy does it require across this entire life cycle?  We try to develop solutions to help our customers explore these questions so that they can make the most informed, sustainable decisions possible.”

This is the extent of our sustainable innovation vision: to rank highly not just on sustainable indices, but on the scale of society, the economy, and the biosphere, by helping our customers achieve a positive environmental impact on the planet and grow their own businesses sustainably.

Asheen PhanseyAsheen PHANSEY is Head of Sustainable Innovation Lab for Dassault Systèmes

 

Executive Perspective: Dassault Systèmes’ Philosophy for Sustainability

By Aurelien

Thomson Reuters Bernard Charlès Sustainability interviewDassault Systèmes was recently named number 5 in the Corporate Knights top 100 most sustainable companies.  At the center of this achievement is Bernard Charlès, CEO and President since September, 1995, and at the core of Mr. Charlès’ business is a philosophy on what it means to be sustainable.  In his words:  “Imagining sustainable innovations capable of harmonizing product, nature and life is the only way to progress for us, for our customers, and for society at large.”  We sat down with Mr. Charlès to unpack this concept-rich statement, and to try to understand how this vision helps Dassault Systèmes succeed as a business.

Thomson Reuters’ Sustainability: I’d like to start at the beginning, with the concept of “imagining”.  Is that a core part of the Dassault Systèmes’ culture?  Why does it matter for sustainability?

Mr. Charlès: We start with “imagining” because sustainability is about freedom of thought.  It’s about feeling comfortable to move beyond current assumptions around how much energy or raw material or water it takes to make something.  I want my co-workers to feel empowered, even mandated, to look beyond what they have traditionally considered possible, and let go of their imaginations.  I want them to feel they are a part of an important project to make things better, and a first step in that project is discovering their own freedom to think and explore.  From that realization comes innovation, which is the next step, “imagining sustainable innovations”.

TR’s Sustainability: Following from that , what does it mean for innovation “to harmonize with product, nature and life”?

Mr. Charlès: Part of what makes this statement perhaps a bit difficult is that it comes from a concept inspired by my experience of Japanese art.  At its core, its about finding a harmony across the elements of experience which matter most.  It’s about the preservation of things.  For Dassault Systèmes, that means product, nature, and life.  It’s about starting with a product, either existing or imagined, and  then thinking about it from these other points of view.  A product exists within nature, its components come from nature, and it will likely, eventually, decompose back into the natural world.  How much a part of the natural world is it?  How much does creating it, using it, and disposing of it distort or damage the natural world around it?  How much energy does it require across this entire life cycle?  We try to develop solutions to help our customers explore these questions so that they can make the most informed, sustainable decisions possible.

TR’s Sustainability: Is Nature different than Life?

Mr. Charles: In one sense nature is a part of life.  But how I mean this in the vision for Dassault Systèmes is that harmonizing with nature is mimicking it, in the sense that what we and our customers create as product borrows from the design wisdom of nature.  Nature knows how to design itself so that it doesn’t degrade its own life cycles.  We can learn so much from closely examining the structure and process of natural things.  Indeed, we can learn so much just by spending time in natural settings and seeing, listening, hearing and paying attention to what is around us.  And so if Nature is the design and process from which we can learn, “Life” in this context is about putting all that in motion.  We learn from natural design and process, and then we live it!  We build it into our workflow.  We build it into our way of being and doing business.  In this sense then, we harmonize with nature and life.

TR’s Sustainability: Could you please give an example of how this happens at Dassault Systèmes?

Mr. Charlès: Certainly.  We have recently decided to invest 350 million dollars in helping mining companies better understand the impact of their operations.  These are tools which will assist with significantly reducing the environmental impact involved with the extraction of natural resources.  This is a necessary industry, and its an environmentally destructive process to extract needed minerals.  By developing this tool set, we can create a solution where one is most needed, and where it can make the most impact on reducing the amount of land, water and infrastructure required to mine natural resources.   This kind of tool will help some in this industry, who choose to, to see a better way of doing things.   And seeing and experiencing is the beginning of understanding and choosing a more sustainable way of doing business. We want to help the world tackle sustainability challenges through Experience – which we call 3DEXPERIENCE. 3D universes generated by visualization tools are the most powerful vehicle for creating the future.

TR’s Sustainability: You then go on to connect this concept of harmony to “progress for us, for our customers, and for society at large.”  Why is it critical to success for business today? and for society at large?

Mr. Charlès: We as a society, and that includes our customers of course, are placing steadily increasing demands on a living planet with finite capacity to sustain itself and us along with it.  We take great risk in the medium and long term if we lose site of this reality.  And this is not always the easiest way to do business.  I’ve passed on many opportunities which would have grown my business more quickly in the short term, but would have created too much risk, been to far out of harmony, in the long term.  At the same time, I like to imagine, to experiment with projects and ideas which may seem unlikely to pay off in the short term, but if successful, will be transformative for us and our customers and hopefully society in the longer term.  So to answer the question, the concept of harmony becomes increasingly important as we put more and more pressure on the fragile systems we all depend on for living.   I believe that if we provide this kind of leadership, we can create a much more sustainable and successful business, costumer and society.  And if we fail, I want to know we had the courage to imagine solutions which could have helped, and that we did what we could to make these solutions a reality.

TR’s Sustainability: I’m now imagining a world in which Dassault Systèmes helps connect a diverse group of innovators, be they in the financial, NGO, academic and industrial communities looking for sustainable solutions?  Is this part of your vision?

Mr. Charlès: I think we can really help provide connective tissue and technological insight for these communities.  With 3D experiences or “universes”, we can help visualize solutions, from which new insight can emerge.  Also,  we may be able to help consumers understand the real cost, from a sustainability perspective,  of what they are buying.  And by consumers, I mean our customers, the consuming public, the investment community, and many other key decision-makers who help determine the viability and quality of our society as a whole.

TR’s Sustainability: Finally, what kind of effect does your leadership and this philosophy have on employees at Dassault Systèmes?

Mr. Charlès: Well, I hope, and I think I see every day, that our employees feel like they are a part of a project which is larger than themselves and even Dassault Systèmes.  I want to be an example of the kind of sustainable risk and entrepreneurship which can make us all successful, and I feel like the employees at Dassault Systèmes can find energy and freedom and creativity in this way of doing business.  Dassault Systemes is not really just a place to work, it’s a place to be impactful.  A place to create meaningful change in the world.  That can be a pretty powerful recruitment and retention tool!

Note: Thomson Reuters Sustainability’s Managing Editor conducted this interview, and can be contacted at timothy.nixon@thomsonreuters.com.

Courtesy of Thomson Reuters.

 

World-Changing Dreamer: Geoffrey Cooper

By Aurelien

IFWE

Last but not least in our series about IF WE Challenge dreamers, here comes our great winner Geoffrey Cooper. His IF WE Dream was “IF WE designed a rolling tree planting robot, we can send them out to replant forests and restore a deserted land. Let’s make it happen!!“. Geoffrey is anindustrial designer coming from Canada and lived in Los Angeles at the time of the challenge.

So without further ado, watch the video below to see Geoffrey’s brilliant idea illustrated:

YouTube Preview Image

Q: Could you let us know where the idea of a rolling tree planting robot came from?

The tree planting robot idea was inspired by my step-brother, who worked as a tree planter in Canada for many years. From him, I learned how difficult it is for people to plant and maintain trees in remote areas, and how important it is to keep our forests alive. That topic lingered in my mind for a long time, and I also looked into the topic of desertification. I discovered that many deserts and plains around the world were once thriving forests, but turned into barren land because of the impact left by man, animals, and climate change.

While I was an Industrial Design student in college, I came up with the idea of designing a rolling tree planting robot that would tackle this problem. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to fit the project into my curriculum, but I have thought extensively about it, and would like to pursue it.

Q: More specifically, how would you see the rolling planting robot actually work?

I envision a group of autonomous tree-planting robots sent out into a deforested area, that would work together to achieve the tasks necessary for planting and ensuring the growth of trees. These tasks would include navigating natural terrain with the use of sensors, coordinating with other tree planting robots working nearby, loading saplings from a larger vessel, boring holes into the ground for the saplings, and cutting away the weeds around planted trees to ensure their growth. The robots would also be able to scan the elements in a landscape to determine the most habitable areas for the trees. After several weeks, the robots would return to the same location to maintain and check the status of the young trees.

The robots would be small (maybe the size of a wheelbarrow), would traverse terrain on wheels, and would be powered partially by solar panels on top of the robots. The robots would work alongside a human operator who would oversee a fleet of tree planting robots. The operator would plan out the operation, and could be on-site in case anything goes wrong.

Q: How would you like to see this idea developped?

I am very interested in making this idea a reality, and would be interested in working with Dassault Systèmes on it if possible. I currently work as an Interaction Designer, and have a background in Industrial Design, so I am confident with my abilities to design systems and physical devices that could work cohesively. The area of the robot project that I am not so familiar with is the robotics, programming, and manufacturing of such a robot. As with any project, I believe that strong teamwork creates big changes, and I believe that such a team could be assembled for the tree planting robot project.

Stay tuned to see how we helped Geoffrey get started with his project :-)



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Beyond PLM (Product Lifecycle Management), Dassault Systèmes, the 3D Experience Company, provides business and people with virtual universes to imagine sustainable innovations. 3DSWYM, 3D VIA, CATIA, DELMIA, ENOVIA, EXALEAD, NETVIBES, SIMULIA and SOLIDWORKS are registered trademarks of Dassault Systèmes or its subsidiaries in the US and/or other countries.