Can cloud help on the road towards combating climate change?

"Reduce your carbon footprint" written on a green key on a computer keyboard.

Cloud is often seen as a panacea in the sustainability conundrum organisations face when they want to be able to connect and collaborate with customers, partners, and employees without increasing their carbon footprint.

But cloud has never really been seen as a key weapon in the fight to tackle climate change. Particularly when it the hands of energy providers. Until now, that is.

Over the last few years, ENGIE has evolved from a traditional utility firm into one that offers low-carbon energy and services and now it plans to use Salesforce and associated technologies to help its customers reach their zero-carbon energy consumption goals.

“As a very large energy provider, we were part of the problem. Four years ago, when our new CEO joined, we decided we wanted to be part of the solution. We’ve disposed of €15 million of coal and we have injected €15 billion into the sun and the wind,” Yves Le Gelard, ENGIE’s executive vice president and chief digital officer (CDO), said during Salesforce’s Dreamforce conference in San Francisco this week.

“It’s a radical change. We used to sell energy and [it was a case of] the more the better. [But] right now, 150,000 staff are all engaging with customers to sell less. Less is more. That’s a complete shift. In order to be successful in doing that you need to understand the exact carbon footprint of customers. You need data, you need software and a whole world of digital technologies.”

ENGIE has engaged a number of key tech players to assist with its mission and help it implement a new, global, unified, and customer-centric CRM platform.

Accenture is tasked with helping with business model definition, operational processes, and IT architecture. It will also implement the technology around the world.

While Vlocity will be responsible for delivering industry-specific and omnichannel cloud and mobile solutions based on Salesforce, as it works with ENGIE on helping customers across the board with their transformation efforts.

“Climate change is leading us into a world very different from the one we have known, one in which no one can say, ‘it’s not my problem,’” added Isabelle Kocher, ENGIE’s CEO.

“We decided to be part of the solution by moving to zero carbon and helping others do the same. Teaming with Accenture, Salesforce and Vlocity has been an important part of this journey, allowing us to get a global view of our customers and move fast to build a more sustainable future. Decarbonised energy and digital technology are the lifeblood of ENGIE going forward.”

ENGIE has residential and business customers in more than 70 countries and will now utilise Salesforce to ensure its employees have 360-degree view of customers, which will be key towards helping them reduce energy usage and consumption.

“Data matters at two ends of the spectrum,” Le Gelard said.

“The number one challenge is to digitise the world. We need to install sensors to ensure we are monitoring in real time. You really need to know what’s going on. We also need to help customers understand how to behave. This is a cultural shift. You need to explain the consequences of behaviours to millions of customers and users.”

Le Gelard also said ENGIE had become more attractive as an employer as an added side benefit of its evolution. He called it “an extremely purposeful change.”

Indeed, the company has seen an 80% increase in the number of CVs it receive compared with its historic role as a traditional energy provider, according to Kocher.

“Isabelle made a very brave decision, saying, ‘I don’t want to be part of the ancient world that we have. I want to invest in new technologies and renewables, and in solutions that support all our clients, all citizens in their zero-carbon transition journeys,”’Gwénaëlle Avice-Huet, ENGIE’s executive vice president, head of the Global Renewable Business Line, and CEO of North America, said in a Salesforce Q&A.

“Our transition started from the ground. Everybody was asking for change. And I think that’s a tremendous place to be because we have a perfect combination of solutions for a zero-carbon transition.”

Maggie Holland

Maggie has been a journalist since 1999, starting her career as an editorial assistant on then-weekly magazine Computing, before working her way up to senior reporter level. In 2006, just weeks before ITPro was launched, Maggie joined Dennis Publishing as a reporter. Having worked her way up to editor of ITPro, she was appointed group editor of CloudPro and ITPro in April 2012. She became the editorial director and took responsibility for ChannelPro, in 2016.

Her areas of particular interest, aside from cloud, include management and C-level issues, the business value of technology, green and environmental issues and careers to name but a few.