Meet the Honorees: Robert Metzke, Global Head of Sustainability Philips

by | Jun 3, 2022

The Environment+Energy Leader honoree program is an annual list that recognizes the environment and energy “doers” who break trail in creating new solutions, programs, platforms, best practices, and products to help their companies – or other companies – achieve greater success in a commercial and industrial environment and energy management. Meet the 100… is an ongoing series that will feature one E+E Honoree from 2022 each week. See the complete list of 2022 Honorees here.

Meet Robert Metzke, global head of sustainability for Philips, who says that while those three areas are his focus of expertise at Philips, they are also his passions. “I’m passionate about the potential for innovation to address global sustainable development challenges and creating long-term value and impact for the environment and society through collaboration,” he says.

In his role as the head of sustainability, Robert leads the development and execution of the company’s ambitious environmental and social targets that are part of Philips’ comprehensive ESG framework with commitments for 2025. This includes strategy and policy development and the execution of Philips’ environmental and social impact programs including climate action, circular economy, and access to care, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Tell us about your biggest energy management and/or environmental challenge and how you are addressing it.

Robert Metzke: As one of the first health technology companies, Philips became fully carbon (CO2) neutral in its operations in 2020, with 100% electricity coming from renewable sources. We address energy management, namely reducing our environmental footprint and CO? emissions, through three focus areas: day-to-day operations, supply chain, and innovations.

Day-to-day operations
We focus our carbon-reduction efforts on our sites, business travel, and logistics, and compensate all unavoidable emissions. We are reducing our use of air freight and have, for example, signed a five-year strategic Carbon Pact with Maersk that integrates both of our companies’ longstanding commitments to reduce CO? emissions, focusing on reducing emissions through fuel efficiency.

Philips has a long track record in energy efficiency improvements in our factories, offices, and R&D centers and continuously works on identifying savings opportunities in a structured way. At a number of sites, we have implemented on-site renewable electricity solutions, such as the solar panel facility which was installed at our US head office in Andover in 2014.

By 2025, we will source 75% of our total energy consumption (including fuel) from renewable sources.

Our products account for the majority of our environmental impact. We work to deliver products and solutions that further improve energy efficiency, especially during the customer use phase.

We increasingly design for refurbishment, serviceability, upgradability, and backward compatibility. Over time we will phase out non-recyclable packaging and the use of hazardous substances.

Very concretely, this means manufacturing more energy-efficient products, developing new circular business models, and reducing weight and number of materials used, of course without compromising clinical and user requirements.

We also look for where we can dematerialize solutions. The virtualization of healthcare – for instance, via telehealth – offers tremendous opportunities to lower the use of materials while improving the access to high-quality healthcare.

Supply chain
We recently announced a requirement that at least 50% of our suppliers commit to Science-Based Targets (SBTs) for CO? emission reduction by 2025. Once implemented, Philips can enable and achieve an impact seven times greater than by reducing CO? emissions from its operations alone.

What was a successful project or implementation you worked on at your company that you can share? Do you have any tips that would help colleagues at other companies who are contemplating similar projects? 

RM: I was extremely proud that we realized our 2016 – 2020 sustainability targets which included generating 70% of sales from green products and services with 15% from circular economy solutions, becoming CO2-neutral in its operations, recycling 90% of operational waste, and sending zero waste to landfill.

For me, the biggest learning, and challenge, has been to rally everyone – our customers, stakeholders, employees, and partners – behind the idea that actively contributing to sustainable development is not only good for business. It is the only way to do business.

Acting responsibly toward the planet and society requires the support and action of everyone at Philips, from top-down to bottom-up. Specifically, at Philips, I’m inspired by our CEO, Frans van Houten, when he says: “Acting responsibly towards the planet and society is part of our DNA. I am convinced that this is the best way for us to create superior, long-term value for Philips’ multiple stakeholders.” Having leadership focused on sustainability ensures it gets embedded and integrated into our business. Of course, the entire Philips Sustainability Management team should also be recognized as major contributors to our program’s progress and success, next to our wider global employee network.

What trends do you expect to see in the market in the next few years? What challenges will the industry face and what technologies or organizational changes will overcome them?

RM: Healthcare professionals and health systems will need to deliver care that is more accessible, scalable and equitable, while helping to preserve the health of the planet. Digital and sustainable innovation can help us get there – some examples below:

Decarbonizing healthcare through renewable energy and efficiency
The healthcare sector is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for over 4% of global CO? emissions. How can we decarbonize healthcare, in line with a 1.5 °C global warming scenario?

One step is switching to circular business models delivered “as a service,” but the greatest scope for improvement lies in the transition to renewable energy, as well as in improving the lifetime energy efficiency of the devices and systems used in healthcare. Electricity consumption, while in use, accounts for the vast majority of these products’ total environmental impact. On a global level, it is primarily the combined effect of renewable energy and energy efficiency that will drive decarbonization.

Turning innovations and commitments into measurable outcomes
Ultimately, the success of each of these trends and sustainability commitments will depend on whether or not they translate into measurable outcomes.

As pressure mounts for healthcare companies to step up their actions to safeguard the health of people and the planet, there is an increased demand for proven results. This is why healthcare organizations are putting more resources into measuring not just clinical outcomes, but outcomes relating to social impact and environmental sustainability, too – such as proof of carbon neutrality, or use of renewable energy sources. In the end, those solutions that deliver measurable outcomes for people and the planet will be the ones that win out.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

RM: Circular models can play a crucial role in scaling up climate mitigation technologies and making the environment resilient to climate change. They offer a win-win for our companies and the societies we serve and depend on. Yet only 8.6% of global production is currently based on circular economy principles, and the circular economy is still absent from many corporate ESG roadmaps. (Source: Circularity Gap Report)

I understand that implementing circular models at scale can be a steep learning curve, which is why the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE) has been a valuable partnership for Philips and could be for other organizations and companies looking to incorporate circular economy. Together with thought leaders and early adopters around the world, PACE has already developed actionable and practical action agendas in key areas such as plastics, textiles, electronics, food, and capital equipment, plus support networks that your company can tap into to get started. And like us, they are committed to doubling circularity within the next ten years, to mitigate climate change and biodiversity loss.

To achieve the needed impact, we need global business support to double circularity within the next ten years. This would mean setting strategic circular business ambitions and adopting relevant metrics to measure progress.

Twitter: @philips

Editor’s note: nominations are now open for this year’s E+E Honorees. Nominate a colleague — or yourself — for the 2022 E+E Honorees today.

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