Interview: Gilles Vermot Desroches, Sustainability Director of Schneider Electric explains why his company is offsetting the carbon footprint of the Paris Marathon with a Livelihoods Funds’ project

“The Livelihoods-Hifadhi project gives meaning to our commitment for a carbon neutral Paris Marathon”

Schneider Electric, one of the 10 investors of the Livelihoods Carbon Fund, is offsetting the CO2 emissions of the Paris Marathon with the carbon credits generated by the Livelihoods-Hifadhi efficient cookstoves project in Kenya. Gilles Vermot Desroches, Sustainability Director of Schneider Electric, one of the world leaders in energy management and automation, sheds some light on his company’s commitments.


Livelihoods Venture: The equivalent of 26 200 tons of CO2 is generated by the Paris Marathon. Why has Schneider Electric decided to use offsetting to achieve a carbon neutral marathon?

Gilles Vermot Desroches: The issues around climate change do not resonate with people’s everyday lives when they are explained theoretically. We sometimes need to call on different events, like sports or art, to make an impact.

Schneider Electric is really happy to have more than 57,000 people from all around the world participate in the Paris Marathon, which is an incredible human adventure. However, although people are there to run or walk, this event generates a lot of greenhouse gas, namely from runners travelling from abroad. People must be encouraged to assemble like this, but we also need to find efficient solutions to mitigate our impact on the planet. This is the essence of our commitment to offset the emissions of the Paris Marathon. Thanks to the Livelihoods-Hifadhi project, we will already offset 70% of the emissions this year, and we will reach a carbon neutral marathon in 2019.

LV: Why has Schneider-Electric chosen the Livelihoods-Hifadhi project to offset the environmental footprint of the Paris Marathon?

GVD: We wanted to link the carbon neutrality of the marathon with a beautiful story. We did not only want to talk about carbon credits, but tell a real human adventure which would echo the marathon’s values of motivation and sharing. We also wanted each runner to be able to give meaning to this carbon neutrality commitment. The projects supported by the Livelihoods Carbon Fund demonstrate, in a highly symbolic way, how it is possible to invest in development, nature conservation, and carbon sequestration at the same time. Schneider Electric was among the first investors in the Livelihoods Fund because working to improve the lives of the most vulnerable people on our planet is part of our DNA. Also, the Livelihoods-Hifadhi project aims to give people access to better energy, which is part of Schneider Electric’s core mission.

LV: The Livelihoods-Hifadhi project relies on a very simple technology to improve the lives of 60,000 families, accounting for more than 300,000 villagers. How does Schneider Electric recognize itself in this initiative?

GVD : Access to energy is a primary aim for our company. But before thinking of smart grids or innovative equipment, we must be able to answer people’s basic needs, like cooking, and moreover we must help them preserve their environment. It is useless to offer electricity to someone who cannot even feed himself. We must work on global solutions. When you visit a house with an efficient cookstove in Kenya, it does not take you long to realize that it is far better than the smoke-filled house with a traditional 3-stone cookstove. You can also measure how this cookstove is changing women’s lives when you see how happy they are to tell you that they only have to fetch wood twice a week, rather than every day, and that cooking does not irritate their eyes. This project has been implemented on a large scale using a simple and cheap technology. It therefore has a direct impact on the planet too. It is the first step to improving the lives of these people later with electricity and lighting.

LV: What are the other projects Schneider Electric is implementing in developing countries to foster energy efficiency and help fight poverty?

GVD: The world has developed energy infrastructures for 75% of our planet, but is still lacking efficient solutions for the remaining 25%. Energy accelerates development, and we need to find answers so every single human being can have access to it. This is why we want to support the most vulnerable people: the 1.2 billion people who do not have access to electricity and the 63 million Europeans living in energy insecurity. We are training people to become professionals in the electricity sector in developing countries. We are supporting innovative companies designing solutions to improve energy efficiency and to combat energy insecurity. We are also focused on bringing access to energy to everybody. We are striving to design the most simple and affordable solutions so that everybody can have access to lighting and electricity, with renewables energies of course!

Interview by Nishal Ramdoo/  Livelihoods Venture.
Photo credits: Nicolas Gauduchon/ Livelihoods Funds; Schneider Electric.

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