As part of a series looking at Partners in the Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) network, we spoke with SEforALL Delivery Partner Iberdrola, the Spanish electricity utility and global energy leader, about our partnership and the key role that clean and efficient energy plays in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals – specifically SDG7.
In an interview with Agustin Delgado Martin, Chief Sustainability Officer and Innovation, Sustainability and Quality Director at Iberdrola, we discuss the company’s work on SDG7 and its broader implications for the SDGs.
What is Iberdrola´s mission?
Iberdrola´s mission is to focus on providing quality service with clean energy sources, spearheading the digital transformation process and combating climate change through its business activities, while providing a social dividend and the generation of employment and wealth. We consider our employees a key strategic asset. Along these lines, we foster their development, training, and measures of reconciliation, favoring a good working environment and equal opportunity.
How does Iberdrola support Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7)?
The Iberdrola Group fully embraces the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals as part of our business strategy and our Sustainability Policy. We are fully convinced that companies need to be sustainable.
Related to SDG7, part of our commitment is reflected through our “Electricity for All” program, with the aim to provide electricity to 4 million people who currently do not have access to electricity by 2020. This objective was achieved in the first half of 2018, exceeding our most ambitious expectations. By the year 2030, we hope to reach 16 million beneficiaries, an objective that the group announced in June 2018.
The “Electricity for All” program is a response to demands made by the international community to achieve universal access to modern energy sources that are environmentally sustainable, economically viable and socially inclusive. These goals are linked to many other SDGs, including SDG 8, 10, 13 and 17. The program aims to ensure access to electricity in developing countries.
“Electricity for All” has three core lines of action:
*Financing projects through capital investments
*Business activities carried out in the countries where Iberdrola operates
*Development of projects with a high social component, through NGOs and corporate volunteering.
As part of this program, Iberdrola has joined Alianza Shire, the first public-private alliance to bring electricity to refugee camps, to analyze the needs of refugee camps and propose technical and organizational solutions to meet their energy needs.
What do you see as the priority areas of SDG7 to help meet the 2030 targets?
The lack of access to safe, sustainable and affordable energy causes serious problems. The World Health Organization said that four million premature deaths are attributable to contaminated air caused by burning biomass for cooking and heating. The environment and our planet are also affected. The United Nations estimates that energy accounts for 60% of all global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the main cause of climate change.
We believe that if we are to ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services, the key factors to meet the 2030 targets is to substantially increase the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix and double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency, without losing sight of other areas of SDG7. These objectives are core to the company and are part of our business strategy and Sustainability Policy.
“Electricity for All” has made us the world´s first utility company to launch a specific program focused on SDG7.
What role does business need to play in helping meet the SDGs?
Businesses can serve as a partner to meet the SDGs together with governments and other sectors. We have to work together and encourage multi-actor partnerships.
We consider it necessary to include businesses as actors in the achievement of SDGs for three reasons:
First, companies can play an essential role given the need for large-scale changes. The business sector, which is capable of scaling up solutions at the global level, can develop joint solutions with different actors to achieve changes at the scale required.
Second, the 2030 Agenda raises the need to rethink and introduce structural changes in production and consumption models by looking at new ways of living to meet the needs of our planet and global society. The commitment of companies to introduce more sustainable models in their value chains will be an essential factor to achieve the SDGs related to production and consumption.
Thirdly, innovation is essential in responding to the complex challenges posed by the 2030 Agenda. As of today, we do not know how to solve many of these challenges. In many areas, innovation is no longer something relegated to laboratories or knowledge centers, but can be achieved when the peripheral knowledge of different organizations is exploited. The expert knowledge of the business sector is a clear value in this regard.
What does your partnership with SEforALL focus on?
Iberdrola is focused on delivering concrete action and results on the ground. We are committed to contribute towards quantifiable results in terms of energy access, renewable energy and energy efficiency, as well as sharing monitoring and evaluation principles.
2018 is a busy year for sustainable energy, and Iberdrola has been busy sharing its leadership at different events. What were the highlights for you and what else are you looking forward to in 2018?
2018 has been a really busy year for Iberdrola in relation to the SDGs. Through the SDG Advisory Committee created at Iberdrola, which involves all areas of the company, events are continuously managed based on activities internalization, objectives, reporting and external diffusion.
A key highlight this year was organizing, together with the University of Salamanca and the Polytechnic University of Madrid, the first Ibero-American conference on the Sustainable Development Goals, which took place in Salamanca in June and involved over 400 international representatives. The event was aimed at stimulating debate and reaching a collective agreement to drive the changes needed to meet the SDGs in the Ibero-American region.
Furthermore, the Chair for the SDG at the Centre for Innovation in Technologies for Human Development at the Technical University of Madrid (itdUPM), is a strategic tool used to address the challenges of the international sustainability agenda. This chair is configured as a shared learning space and a means to support implementation of the SDGs at Iberdrola.
The activities related to the SDGs have just begun and there is still a long way to go. Iberdrola´s SDG Advisory Committee, the “Electricity for All” initiative linked to the SEforALL Accelerator, Alianza Shire and Eurelectric, are just a few of the ways Iberdrola is collaborating to help achieve the SDGs.