We are getting ever closer to a climatic tipping point, where global warming can no longer be reversed. This threat is prompting more and more companies to decarbonize their operations to mitigate their environmental impact. Bosch Climate Solutions (BCS) shows them how to do it. A chat with its CEO Donya Amer follows.
Donya, tell us about how Bosch with its 400+ locations worldwide achieved carbon neutrality in its manufacturing operations last year.
The roots of climate action and resource conservation run deep at Bosch. Our company set out to gradually reduce carbon emissions long ago, taking action as far back as 2007. We have a long backstory, deep technical knowledge, and numerous experts. Our path to net-zero, climate-neutral manufacturing was paved with a mechanism that has four levers. First, we focused on energy efficiency — that is, we cut consumption. Second, we expanded on-site renewable energy generation. The third lever was our practice of buying in green electricity.
Finally, we offset all other unavoidable carbon emissions with compensatory measures such as reforestation projects. We have packaged all our climate activities in a comprehensive program that also extends to transformation enablers. One enabler is our green controlling, which serves to map everything we do for sustainability to our financial KPIs. We also use energy monitoring platforms to gain a transparent view of our consumption and to boost efficiency. And we rely on powerful communication concepts. This is how we send a clear message, internally and externally, and take responsibility.
Bosch has amassed a wealth of experience in many projects carried out by more than 1,000 experts. Can you give us an example?
We strive to bring as many associates as possible on board for our journey. Everyone is welcome to propose a project to boost our energy efficiency. That explains the broad scope of our expertise. A great example of this is a project at our location in Suzhou, China, where a small team set out to reduce soldering systems’ power consumption.
The idea was to automatically bring the systems’ high temperatures of more than 220 degrees Celsius all the way down to zero outside of manufacturing hours. Digital solutions that monitor power consumption are now helping to conserve more than 1.1 gigawatt hours a year. This is roughly the amount of energy consumed by 275 four-person households in Germany in a year.
“We want to take responsibility and apply our know-how to fast-track customers’ journey to carbon neutrality.”
Why did Bosch decide to set up a subsidiary, Bosch Climate Solutions, in the wake of its in-house drive toward carbon neutrality?
Bosch sent a clear message to the manufacturing sector when it announced in spring of 2019 its goal of soon being a carbon-neutral company. That raised eyebrows at many companies. We found that the market was keen to learn more, the big question being, “How on earth is Bosch managing to do this?” That inspired the idea behind Bosch Climate Solutions. We saw great potential for a new business model in this demand for knowledge, coaching, guidance, and solutions. And we found this to be yet another effective way of doing our part to combat climate change.
What does Bosch Climate Solutions aim to achieve?
We want to bring to market Bosch’s knowledge of carbon neutrality in a results-minded and customer-focused way. In this work, I share responsibility with Torsten Kallweit, our CTO. He’s an absolute expert on sustainability — at Bosch, he heads up the corporate office for health, safety, environmental and fire protection, as well as sustainability. I’m really glad to have him on board. We benefit enormously from his expertise, as do our customers. Some of our customers’ decarbonization journey is just getting underway. Others have already put a few measures in place and now want to step up their efforts to reduce carbon emissions, which includes using the right KPIs and controlling tools to guide these efforts.
We work with these companies to this end, poring over their organization step by step to find out what their carbon footprint looks like and how much potential there is to apply the levers I described earlier. The outcome of all this is a jointly developed sustainability strategy. Embedding carbon reduction deeply in the corporate strategy is the most important agenda point for us; this is the glue that holds together all our recommendations. The entire team has to be briefed and motivated with on-target messages. This how we get everyone on board for the journey to climate neutrality.
“The experience Bosch gained in its plants benefits us when we advise our customers on carbon neutrality.”
What exactly does carbon consulting entail at BCS?
That always depends on the customer. It all starts with the current carbon footprint and climate action strategy. Our experts then analyze the company’s climate infrastructure. They scrutinize energy-intensive processes, manufacturing practices, and fundamental issues such as lighting, ventilation, and heating. We also look at key figures that help determine how much energy each plant or building consumes. Then we calculate the company’s carbon footprint. This is the point of departure for every measure, as it tells us what the drivers are. For example, at our Suzhou plant it was our soldering system.
And this is where you apply the four levers?
Exactly. The second step has us working on ways to reduce carbon. In the weeks that follow, we look into what and where the biggest consumers are and what can be done about it. The experience Bosch gained in its plants benefits us here as well. The next step is to investigate the possibility of generating green electricity on site. Other Bosch projects often serve as our blueprint when wind, hydroelectric, or solar power is a viable option. This could be our photovoltaic initiative at the location in Nashik, India, or the hydropower plant in Blaichach, Germany, which covers around half of this Bosch location’s energy demands.
Then we look at the electricity contracts, assessing them for quality and green power. Of course, certificates to offset carbon emissions also play a role. Finally, we address Scope 3 emissions produced by the company’s supply chains. All this is always accompanied by other measures such as green controlling. This initial stage of a customer project usually takes around four weeks. Then we present various scenarios that map out the company’s path to carbon-neutral manufacturing as early as the same year or in two, five, or x number of years and that prioritize the measures to be taken. We also put a figure on the necessary investments and expected returns. In other words, where is the break-even point for this project to be economically viable?
What are BCS’s plans?
We want to continue expanding our portfolio. We started by providing strategic consulting on the corporate carbon footprint — that is, on emissions generated by a company’s operations. Now we’re extending the range of our consulting services to the product’s carbon footprint — that is, the indirect greenhouse gas or GHG emissions attributable to manufactured products, logistics chains, and suppliers. We’re also finding that there’s a lot of interest in our expertise outside of Europe. Branching out globally is certainly a step we will be taking in the near future. Climate action will remain a global issue for decades to come. Yes, climate action costs money, but doing nothing will be far costlier. Prices for energy and carbon credits are rising. Investing in a sustainability strategy is definitely going to pay off, so #LetsTakeThisChallengeTogether
CEO Bosch Climate Solutions
“Climate action is where my personal and professional interests intersect.”
Donya Amer’s career began as a banking apprentice in Cologne, Germany. She then moved on to study at the University of Cologne and the University of California, Berkley. After earning a degree in business administration with a focus on finance and human resources, she joined IBM in Frankfurt. In her 17 years with the company, she held customer-facing and consulting-related positions centered on various areas of digital transformation. She joined Bosch in 2017. As part of the Bosch IT management team, she was responsible for the internal business interface for around three years before taking over as CEO of the startup Bosch Climate Solutions GmbH in 2020. A passionate recreational diver, she often comes across plastic debris in the water. That’s another reason why the environment and plastic consumption are also personal concerns for Donya Amer.