Frida Lindqvist is a Swedish exchange student from Copenhagen Business School, and she is studying in EDHEC’s MSc in Global & Sustainable Business. At the start of term, she and her classmates discussed the global energy transition with Emmanuel Trivin, CEO of French energy provider Butagaz, the programme’s corporate sponsor. Here, Frida details her main takeaways from the Q&A session.
Written on 21 Oct 2019.
I think there are a lot of people in my generation who want to use business as a force for good. They see profit more as a means to drive change, than as the ultimate goal of business. These priorities are very much shaped by the fact that the climate crisis is becoming more and more severe, with grave consequences that are already here and future ones creeping closer. The energy industry’s use of fossil fuels is unsustainable, and development and collaboration in this area is going to be crucial in the transition to a green economy. For this reason, I was happy to take part in a conversation with the CEO of Butagaz, Emmanuel Trivin, about the industrial status quo and what needs to be done. Career-wise, my ultimate goal is to become a driver of change and to put sustainability at the forefront of business objectives. Since players in the energy industry will play an important role for a sustainable society, I found this session with Butagaz to be insightful.
For me, the main takeaways from this talk were the learnings about the challenges that companies in the energy industry face in the transition to becoming green and offering more renewable products. I appreciated the fact that Mr. Trivin took the time to let us pick his brain and that he was very open in his answers.
For example, the fact that Butagaz signed a partnership with our MSc is a great illustration of this desire to transition towards a greener energy offering. Even though Butagaz still sells mostly fossil fuel-based energy to its customers, it shows ambition to transition to green energy and become sustainable. Its partnership with some of the students in our programme will hopefully provide ideas to spur innovation and change. For instance, there will be a Master’s project on how to help consumers reduce their energy consumption, offering us the possibility of having an impact by improving something that has yet to be crafted!
I was positively surprised by Mr. Trivin’s transparency. I think it is vital nowadays to be transparent, as Mr. Trivin said. If a company’s external image is not reflected internally in the values of its personnel and in its day-to-day operations, it will eventually be found out. There are many cases of green-washing today, with companies viewing sustainability as a trend and riding that wave in their marketing. There are sites like glassdoor.com, where employees can post anonymously about the culture and values of their company. It increases transparency and is one way of holding companies accountable for how they choose to portray themselves. Mr. Trivin didn't try to make the company seem more sustainable than it is and I appreciated that.
Mr. Trivin argued that customers are not (yet) willing to pay the price of renewables and that legislation and policy favourable to green energy sourcing will be the main game-changer in making the transition to renewables possible. I agree that legislation plays a very important role in the transition, in that it can directly and drastically change the playing field. I grew up in Scandinavia, where policies favourable to renewable energy sources have prompted a large number of companies to take the steps needed to embrace renewable energy, giving consumers more green alternatives. I would be motivated to work at such a company, where the business is about spreading the use of renewable energy and speeding up the transition to sustainable energy use.
The talk from Butagaz didn’t change my perception of the energy industry, but it did underline the fact that there are many consumers that do not yet value green energy to a sufficiently large degree, or who cannot afford the current price of renewables. In addition, it highlighted the impact that consumer and corporate attitudes can have on how long it will take us to achieve a green energy market worldwide. It was valuable to hear what Butagaz saw as the greatest challenges facing the energy industry and to hear what ideas it will be working on going forward.