It goes without saying that 2020 was tough for society as a whole and many of its challenges will continue into at least the first few months of 2021. However, I am extremely proud of the resilience and ingenuity our community of incredible people has shown over the last year and we are in good shape to continue our mission of delivering the promises of the digital revolution and energy transition.
VINCI Energies is one of the largest engineering companies in the world, but we don’t act like it. Our business model empowers our 1,800 highly specialised, human-sized business units with the flexibility, agility and entrepreneurial spirit required to quickly adapt to market needs.
When we first entered a national lockdown in March last year, our ICT Business, Axians, supported customers to make the shift to productive remote working within a matter of days. Similarly, with a few modifications to procedure, our Omexom teams were able to ensure minimal disruption for our energy infrastructure customers.
Our people didn’t just adapt to continue their usual services, however. They innovated to create new offers for customers, such as the Cougar Automation anti-COVID alarm system, which uses IoT-connected security passes to remotely monitor the number and location of people in a building to maintain safe social distancing and trigger cleaning alerts.
Acceleration of digital transformation and energy transition
The pandemic has increased the need for smart technologies even more. Intelligent automated warehousing, for example, has been vital in helping retailers respond to the huge increase in e-commerce by enabling them to distribute products faster with fewer staff. Likewise, smart grids allow energy operators to easily manage supply amid any fluctuations in demand caused by the stop-start nature of business and society subject to lockdowns or restrictions.
Periods of lower demand overall have also enabled renewable energy, particularly wind and solar power, to contribute more to our total energy generation mix. Investment in the renewable sector in the UK and Ireland is still strong and I’m pleased to see a lot of government support for this in 2021.
Having faced so many disruptions – political, social and industrial, this is the right moment to grasp the opportunity of a new way forward – and we are unique in our ability to help. Our ‘Power of Three’ strategic plan means we have the three areas of expertise required – electricity transmission and distribution, automation and ICT – to make energy systems and industrial processes smart.
Concrete actions for the environment and society
The entire VINCI Group aims through all its activities to be ‘a force for good’ and by facilitating the use of renewable energy and increasing customers’ energy efficiency, we help protect our planet. We are excited to further strengthen our contribution this year as we implement the first stages of our own environmental strategy. By the end of 2021, we plan to have reduced our carbon footprint by almost 10% by changing our energy contracts to require renewable sources only and a further 5% by switching our car fleet to EVs. Eventually, we plan to have reduced carbon emissions 25% by 2025, 40% by 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2050.
We are also excited to continue the good work of the VINCI UK Foundation. Each of our human-sized Business Units puts aside a certain amount to invest in charities or projects that strengthen the local community. This might be by ensuring fair access to training, employment, housing, healthcare or recreational activities for society’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged. Meanwhile, our people donate some of their time and it is rewarding for them to give back to their local community, not just ourselves and our shareholders. Since the foundation was created in 2016, we have helped more than 130 charities with over a million pounds in grants. Enthusiasm for the initiative is really buzzing.
So, we have a lot to look forward to in 2021. We have a very strong and capable team, the need for the digital and energy revolutions is more pressing than ever and we are uniquely skilled in our ability to facilitate both these shifts simultaneously. At the same time, we will be taking some concrete actions towards becoming carbon neutral, as well as continuing to develop our people and local communities so that we will truly be an all-round force for good.