A Sustainable Look Beyond COP: How Technology is Cutting Carbon Emissions

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As a global leading technology company, Samsung has been committed to sustainability for over 30 years. As a way to showcase our commitment to the environment, and our great work with both government and non-profit partners we hosted DC outlet, The Hill on a series of panels showcasing the commitment the U.S. government and non-profits are making toward reducing energy emissions post the COP-28 summit in Dubai. Below is a summary of the conversation between Samsung’s Head of Sustainability, Mark Newton and The Hill’s Joe Ruffolo:

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JOE RUFFOLO, GENERAL MANAGER, THE HILL: Morning. Mark, thank you so much for being here today.

MARK NEWTON, HEAD OF CORPORATE SUSTAINABILITY, SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS AMERICA: Good morning, Joe. Thanks for the opportunity. Sure.


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RUFFOLO: Why don’t we just jump right in. Tell us a little bit about what Samsung’s doing for its strategy around sustainability and what some of your goals are.

NEWTON: Sure. So sustainability is a business imperative. You know, if you think about it, our business is a three-legged stool, right? We’re focused on the financial health of our business. We’re focused on our customers and our employees, and we also have to be focused on things like social and environmental responsibility that are, let’s say, externalities that maybe are, aren’t very well characterized. If we don’t focus on all of those three very carefully, we’re not going to be able to sit on the stool, right? So, sustainability is a big part. The other part for us is we’re an innovation engine, and sustainability for us is really a lens for innovation. It helps us to develop breakthrough products we try to focus on sustainability without any compromise in terms of performance. Our north star approach towards this is a commitment to net zero carbon by 2050 for our entire business worldwide. That sounds pretty far out there, but for a company like ours, as diverse as ours with semiconductors and consumer electronics, it’s really, I think, a very challenging target. And we’ve pulled that date in 2023 for our consumer electronics business, which are a lot of the products that you all know. So production of our networking, our consumer electronics, our display business, our mobile products, and the home appliances, including the most efficient home appliances, which are now hopefully going to be available to consumers even more broadly through the Inflation Reduction Act incentives, are all part of this commitment.

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RUFFOLO: Great. Can you share more about Samsung’s sustainability efforts and how other companies can take note and hold themselves accountable as well?

NEWTON: I think that what’s really important and how it works for us is not to lose sight of the G in ESG. The G, which stands for governance, is critical. Being able to set very clear goals, having accountability towards those goals, and robust sensing mechanisms for how those things are going and corrective actions. That’s true in our own operations as well as in our supply chain. Another really important aspect is partnerships and collaboration. Events like this, when we use our voice together with other policy advocates, are the tip of the spear. Building trust for is crucial to being successful, and to credibly engage our customers. That brings into the last piece, which is really a customer focus: delivering our products without compromise.

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RUFFOLO: How does the energy efficiency of tech products really contribute to climate mitigation?

NEWTON: It’s as much the stuff that you see as the stuff you don’t see. Think about all the semiconductors and memory products that we build, that go into all of the products you use. We don’t really even think about what’s inside of them, the memory products that are powering the cloud that are enabling, AI, 5G, the network equipment that is connecting our country’s underserved communities. These are all things that are in the background, yet they contribute to a much larger positive impact. The industries that are served by these products, such as the cloud, storage, industrial and agriculture sectors benefit from our efficiencies in terms of climate impact. We’re helping to drive efficiencies through our consumer products as well, all with the goal of trying to make efficiency as ubiquitous and invisible as possible for the consumer. We design efficiency across all price points. It shouldn’t just be on the ones with the highest margins and the flagship products. That’s our philosophy, and that’s what helps us to drive our product roadmap.

RUFFOLO: You mentioned a couple, but what role does technology play in helping other industries with their sustainability goals?

NEWTON: I think when companies are getting involved in this, there is an initial rush to talk about all the great things that they are doing. I think that that’s good, but then building trust, which I think is the most important aspect, requires honest discussion about what isn’t working. Besides the governance aspect, which I mentioned earlier, if you don’t bring everyone else along and do it in a credible, transparent way then you’re not going to have the public confidence that you need with the investment community, your consumers and your business partners to actually create change. Greenwashing is the root of all evil here: Under promising and over-delivering, that’s what we’re trying to do. At the same time, green-hushing is the opposite problem. We all need to use our voice and work together here. I think finding balance in sharing what works and what isn’t working is what’s important for a credible discussion with consumers and stakeholders.

RUFFOLO: The Inflation Reduction Act was a big step forward for the climate, but what else do you think that policy makers here today and others listening should be focusing on next?

NEWTON: The Inflation Reduction Act is going help us deliver real impact to this country in a way that hasn’t been done before. $8.8 billion to help drive efficiency that have has never been done before in the consumer sector. We’re lining up our most efficient products, like induction cooktops, heat pump dryers, and heat pump AC. Then also being able to leverage some of the AI and connectivity efficiency opportunities that we have with our SmartThings Energy ecosystem. The opportunity going forward is all about using technology responsibly in order for us as a society to move forward in a more efficient way. And all those other things we do to transition to renewables, promote circularity, and avoiding waste, those are all key initiatives and they all roll up into the larger carbon strategy we have.

RUFFOLO: How can companies eliminate potential barriers for consumers to live? Sustainability, affordability is obviously one of those, but what else could be done?

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NEWTON: Well, I think we need to make it easy, right? I talked about it as a gift with purchase. If we go back to the IRA this can’t be complicated. We know it’s going to be implemented by the states, but if it’s done differently in each state, then it’s going to be confusing for consumers to be able to adopt. So that’s one of the reasons why we’re a big proponent for driving harmony into the implementation. The other thing is the trade off, right? So with innovation, oftentimes comes trade off. We need to break the paradigm that was set years ago that when you have sustainability elements into your product, you’re somehow losing something. So we look at this kind of as a Venn diagram, it’s the intersection point in between where we’re exciting customers with new innovations while at the same time doing it responsibly.

RUFFOLO: What’s one big takeaway that you’d like to leave the audience with today about Samsung’s sustainability efforts?

NEWTON: Energy efficiency is kind of the redheaded stepchild of climate change, right? I am so glad that we are all here and we’re talking about this topic. It’s really been an underserved aspect of our solution set. So everything that we can do to dial up the message around efficiency, and I mean efficiency writ large. Efficiency is energy efficiency. It’s also resource efficiency. I think that’s really what drives our programs. That’s the focal point for our operations and really the message that needs to get out there. I’m really glad that COP28 had a focus on efficiency. This time, the more that we can start talking about that, the better. Whether you agree with climate change or not, you can’t disagree with avoiding waste. It’s one of those things that’s an easy conversation to have with everyone, and it’s the right thing to do. I hope I’m wrong about climate change. I really do. But if we do everything we need to do to be efficient, then we’re going to be in a better place no matter what.

RUFFOLO: Mark, thank you so much for your insights and for all the work that Samsung’s doing!

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