By Kyra Whitten, Vice President Corporate Marketing, Communications, and Sustainability
This Earth Day is special to me, coming on the heels of our announcement that Flex commits to numerous environmental goals -- including cutting our operational emissions in half by the end of this decade. I am especially proud that Flex joined the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), driving our long-term goal to reduce greenhouse emissions in accordance with the Paris Agreement.
While our team has made considerable effort over the years to get us to this point, the real work is just beginning.
As this year’s Earth Day restoration theme makes clear, the urgency of timely action on climate change cannot be overstated. The longer we delay action, the greater the magnitude of economic, health and social tolls each successive generation will face. With the need to be timely, we must also be bold and ambitious. While we take steps to restore our planet, our work at Flex will also focus on reenergizing and nourishing an ecosystem to embrace every dimension of sustainability while empowering our stakeholders to act with us.
Sustainability starts with purpose and values
Our ecosystem starts with us, the team at Flex, and our mission, which guides our every decision and action. Living our company’s purpose and values with discipline will drive the outcomes we aspire to. When Flex leaders gathered in 2019 to redefine Flex’s purpose and vision, we took our critical first step. What came out of this exercise was the Flex Forward roadmap for becoming the most trusted global technology, supply chain, and manufacturing partner to improve the world. The linchpin of our value system is doing the right thing and disciplined execution is how we carry out our work.
Since then, we have sought to hold ourselves accountable to do the right thing. Our purpose reinterprets our value chain in terms of contributing positively to the world and yields a clear position with little room for compromised decision-making. So, when it comes to sustainability, we are naturally aligned with the goal of creating a healthy, equitable, and diverse ecosystem that helps us thrive today and in the future.
As we take the next step, we must accelerate our pace. This year, we set our most ambitious environmental targets yet: besides our 2030 emission targets, we also aim to achieve zero waste in half of our manufacturing and logistics sites by 2025. We also injected discipline to our approach, joining SBTi, a consortium of businesses working to reach the Paris Agreement’s goal to cap global temperature rise to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels. With this framework, we have a plan to adopt science-based climate action.
Nurturing and empowering each other to act with urgency
We are stepping up to nurture our broader ecosystem to inspire and help each other adopt environmentally sustainable processes.
Over the last decade, we’ve learned immensely from our eco-conscious customers about processes that improve environmental outcomes. In 2012, we founded Sinctronics, our circular economy and manufacturing operations in Sorocaba, Brazil, after a key partner, HP, encouraged us to recycle the electronic waste generated from the production of printers, motherboards and other IT products. Since then, we’ve developed processes and technologies to recycle not only electronic waste but also industrial waste such as plastics, cardboard and wooden pallets. In parallel, we pioneered circular manufacturing processes, making new parts from recycled materials. Through reuse, as much as 80 percent greenhouse gas emissions can be prevented1. In 2018, our entire Sorocaba footprint became a zero-waste site.
Flex Aguascalientes in Mexico is also a certified zero-waste facility thanks to a partnership with one of our long-time customers. In Asia, our Zhuhai, China campus has implemented multiple initiatives to drive down emissions including operating regenerative thermal oxidizer (RTO) to reduce volatile organic compounds (VOC) generated by activities like metalworking and coating operations. Flex Zhuhai has also replaced conventional lighting sources with LED lighting in our workshops, generating more than 84,000 KWh in energy savings each year. We look to replicate and implement the best practices and processes that we have established throughout our global footprint.
Having learned sustainable methods from our partners, we are now ready to lead others. Given our vast network covering 30 countries and 16,000 suppliers, we have a duty to bring along others in our journey to take environmental action. To this end, our new goals call for 50 percent of our preferred suppliers to set greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets by 2025, and 100 percent by 2030. We also aim to partner with 70 percent of our customers, measured by emissions, who contribute to our total scope 3 emissions to help them set science-based targets by 2025.
Beyond environmental stewardship
Just as we need to protect our planet’s delicate system of biodiversity, it is also important to ensure our entire ecosystem is vital and sustainable. As we mark Earth Day, we need to also connect the health of our planet to social health. We need a thriving planet to protect our livelihood and our health and we know all too well about the racial and income disparities when it comes to environmental pollutants exposure. Indeed, I see sustainability not as a collection of siloed goals. The ideal state of our ecosystem should itself mirror a sustainable ecosystem across environmental, social, health, economic and governance dimensions. In commemorating Earth Day by committing to environmental sustainability actioning, we also look forward to sharing our targets for creating a sustainable future through our inclusion and diversity initiatives later in the year.
As we champion all the facets of sustainability, our values will inspire actions that will perpetuate through our extended ecosystem. Our Flex family of 160,000 are powerful advocates for sustainable practices. I am heartened when I hear anecdotes from our Sorocaba colleagues about how team members there have brought along their families to embrace environmental practices in their homes and communities.
I am also inspired by our Althofen, Austria colleagues who truly live their eco-conscious values at Flex, showing us a better way. Several years ago, employees there funded a 1MW photovoltaic system installed on our facility’s rooftop to supply energy to the electricity grid. Employees who paid into the system earn funds from the power-generating asset and can exit the investment any time. Additionally, our Althofen facility only buys from 100 percent renewable energy sources.
This kind of grassroots sustainable actioning is what happens when we actualize our values and lead by example for others in our ecosystem to model.
Mitigating environmental devastations including climate change is a defining challenge of this decade. For Flex, we recognize our place in the value chain gives us an opportunity to lead and catalyze progress at scale.
As we need to drive action through a broader and accelerated approach, we look to unlock the potential for advocacy and actioning across our ecosystem of partners and stakeholders. We mark Earth Day with our commitment to restore our planet with our environmental targets. As we have previewed through the years, a warming climate portends disastrous consequences; we owe future generations a sustainable path forward and we’re ready to do our part.
1A study on the environmental aspects of WEEE plastic recycling in a Brazilian company