The German company Siemens claims to improve the world since 174 years. Hanna Hennig became the group CIO after Helmuth Ludwig left in 2019. Hanna will talk about sustainability on Sunday, July 11 on the campus of the Technical University Munich in Heilbronn.
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In preparation for CIOmove 2021 we had the chance to ask Hanna some questions about sustainability in general:
CIOmove: Do companies have a role in keeping our planet habitable?
Hennig: I think, we can all agree that business companies are central to a sustainable future for our society. In simplest terms, companies can contribute to ensure that our children, grandchildren, and future generations inherit a tomorrow preferably better than today. For 174 years Siemens had been driven by one idea: to improve the lives of people all over the world through our technologies. We see it as our job to solve problems and overcome challenges through our innovations and actions, and thereby contribute to a livable and sustainable future.
Do you believe that your position has a role to play in this?
Hennig: Traditionally, the main responsibility of a chief information officer (CIO) was to ensure the technical infrastructure within an organization. But as information technology is reshaping industries globally, CIOs are placed in much more strategic positions within the business which go beyond the pure technological enablement and serving regulatory needs. In the context of sustainability, this means, that CIOs are uniquely positioned to advance environmental goals. Digital technologies can help to make manufacturing more efficient and less resource intensive. They can also enable the widespread integration of renewable energy, make cities more livable, render transport more efficient and vastly improve healthcare delivery.
Can your position protect the planet from ecological (and social) decline?
Hennig: Protecting the planet is surely not possible for a single person or position. However, CIOs can leverage their influence to defy the rules and shape the discourse on how to solve societal matters. More importantly, I believe, CIOs must reduce silos inside their own organization for departments and units to join forces. Our physical resources are finite, yet data-driven technological innovation is just the opposite. As we face conundrums like pandemics, energy transition and infrastructure limitations in the real world, there sits the digital world offering solutions.
Which projects do you manage that have a positive effect on the social and environmental impact of your company?
Hennig: A topic that is dear to my heart, is education. We are actively involved in multiple initiatives such as #SiemensBewegtSchule, partner with the Hamburg based Hacker-School or support teachers with collaboration tool trainings. Furthermore as part of the VOICE e.V. CIO Update Series, we made a call for action for refurbished IT equipment to support children with distance learning at home. Also, our longstanding partnership with Europe’s largest non-profit IT company “Arbeit für Menschen mit Behinderung gemeinnützige GmbH” (AfB) is something I am very proud of. AfB has helped us to prolong the lifecycle of around 80 percent of our IT equipment which lowered carbon emissions up to 30 percent and to create jobs for people with disabilities.
Another project we are currently collaborating closely with our Supply Chain Management & Procurement team on is to implement circular economy principles for IT equipment. In a first step we are creating transparency about components offered from our suppliers to finally achieve a fully zero emission supply chain. We are additionally working on carbon emission reporting layers which will help to reliably show the science based calculated product carbon footprint for Scope 1, 2 and 3. On a more general level, we started to optimize our own service portfolio such as own operated data centres in accordance with the overall Siemens strategy to achieve net zero own operations by 2030.
Do you see a changing CIO function in that light?
Hennig: Without any doubt. As already mentioned before, CIOs are increasingly transforming into advocates for societal concerns. Looking at our own organization, it is also what my employees, partners, customers, and other stakeholders expect us to do.
How can IT save the planet?
Hennig: Let’s take an example from the field of building technology. We can use IT to significantly improve the safety, energy efficiency and cost-effectiveness of buildings and infrastructures. End-to-end networking from the sensor and detector level to hazard and building management enables digital data flows. These help to increase building performance and improve protection and security concepts. Digitalization enables efficient, preventive remote maintenance and proactive monitoring of equipment and systems. This enables us to save carbon emissions, secure energy supplies and reduce operating costs. But smart buildings also support the fight against COVID-19. Building IT can help to implement measures to protect employees, customers, and partners.
However, in the end, an environmental policy not only needs a CIO or technological advancements, but also people to support it. For change to come along we need both: bottom up as well as top-down approaches. As our CEO Roland Busch recently stated at the World Economic Forum: ‘Technology alone is not enough. We need brave decisions and bold, collective actions, too.’
Questions were asked by Katja Hartert (photo), Partner at Odgers Berndtson
Hanna Hennig, Chief Information Officer Siemens AG, enables the digitalization of the global technology powerhouse. Hanna is a passionate technologist and has gathered more than 25 years of experience in IT. She supported and guided varied companies in their business and digital transformations, among them Osram, Telefonica O2, E.ON, Robert Bosch and Cap Gemini. She studied economics and Japanese studies at the University of Hannover.