Avnet is a FORTUNE 500 company and one of the world’s largest global distributors
of electronic components, computer products and embedded technology serving
customers in more than 115 countries. From components to cloud and design to
disposal, Avnet brings products, services and solutions to customers that build, sell and use technology, globally. Corporate Social Responsibility and sustainability have been a part of Avnet’s mission for a long time (NYSE:AVT).
„Data collection and evaluation for carbon accounting is comprehensive for large corporations like Avnet. DFGE helped us with its methodology to get a transparent and reliable carbon footprint. Based on these calculations we can now provide a realistic goal of emission savings as well as further drive execution of concrete activities.“
In 2009, Avnet already realized the need to make the world a better place. Georg Steinberger, now council chairman of the CSR council, foresaw the need to have a green vision. Indeed, Avnet is a very large company, acting worldwide, which has then many opportunities to leverage the life of employees, to reduce its carbon footprint and to manage CSR impacts and risks to benefit from various opportunities
In this context, Georg Steinberger and Avnet teams got in touch with DFGE. The challenge of implementing such a green vision in such a large company is to gather data and to have visibility on all regions and business units. How do you choose the information that is most relevant and most representative for the company? This challenge can become even more tremendous when acquiring and merging with other companies, which has been the case for Avnet over the past few years. As an example, the number of employees grew from 13,500 in 2009 to 17,248 in 2015.
Over the years, there was also more and more pressure from the stakeholders to take part in various CSR reporting initiatives, and to disclose more environmental and social information. Avnet’s large clients have also been implementing their own Sustainable Procurement programs, meaning that they want further transparency on their suppliers’ sustainability programs.
Their requests can take many forms: take part in CDP, in EcoVadis, in EICC-on … Then the challenge for Avnet is to answer all these requests, which are different, but share some requirements in common. In this sense, there is a need to match existing practices with the new request, and to do so, Avnet has needed an overview on sustainability activities’ and a need to centralize and harmonize them.
The beginning: focus on an environmental approach with constant progress
The first milestone to build above described Green Vision was to know the CO2 emissions emitted by the company, in order to better manage them and reduce them. DFGE carried out Avnet’s first Corporate Carbon Footprint calculation in 2009, based on already available data. Throughout the years, DFGE could hone the process by focusing on main sources of CO2 emissions to find better data for them, which significantly improved the accuracy of the calculations. This is known as DFGE’ TopDown approach: a way to quickly obtain results by focusing on key information. This approach is very adapted to large companies in this sense, as activity factors can be scaled up with accurate and easily collectable data.
With its Sustainability Intelligence model, DFGE also tries to leverage existing documents to address other requests. The challenge faced by Avnet to answer various requests can be addressed by the use of one document/one practice for several requests. For example, carrying out the Corporate Carbon Footprint made it easier to answer the CDP questionnaire. Avnet has been participating to the CDP since 2013 in order to increase transparency over stakeholders. The score has evolved to 92 in 2015.
DFGE adopted a progressive approach to make sure that quick results were achieved while at the same time ensuring constant progression over the years. In this sense and due to the growing stakeholder interest, sustainability increasingly gained momentum in the company.
A shift from CO2 emissions to overall CSR management
CSR was also increasing at worldwide level. In this context, Avnet was required by customers to improve its performance on EcoVadis, a platform for sustainability in the supply chain. This platform covers topics that were already addressed by Avnet: Carbon Footprint, CDP Participation, energy management, health and safety requirements, employee management, ethical code of conduct etc. Again, the challenge for Avnet was to find out the right data showing the company’s practices, while trying to cover the full scope of application.
DFGE helped Avnet in identifying the right documents to provide, and also completed the questionnaire itself. Since DFGE has known Avnet for several years, it was easy to match EcoVadis requirements with Avnet’s current practices. DFGE’s insight into the company’s strategy and management was key to ensure quick results – as a consequence, the EcoVadis score increased by 20%.
In return, EcoVadis provides a scorecard, which is an analysis of the company’s sustainability management system, in other words a way to identify gaps and good practices. The main outcome was a confirmed CSR performance, but a lacking homogeneous approach at group level.
A consolidated CSR strategy
Therefore, Avnet has decided to take one step further into the harmonization of CSR practices: the Green Council was changed to CSR council, whose powers and structure evolved, with Georg Steinberger as the chairman council. DFGE has been accompanying Avnet in the consolidation of its CSR strategy, composed of six main focuses (“pillars”) and managed by Avnet’s CSR council. A survey was launched to prioritize the different CSR topics. Currently, DFGE is in the process of suggesting pillar contents: commitments/policies, quantitative objectives, actions plan, corporate processes, indicators, reporting standards. The CSR council’s members are reviewing these contents to make decisions. DFGE will suggest different solutions to engage stakeholders to have their opinion on Avnet’s CSR strategy consolidation.
Another ongoing project to consolidate a common CSR approach is the CSR report, where existing practices are assembled. Avnet decided to opt for GRI G4 Guidelines to structure their second CSR report, in order to increase their disclosure towards stakeholders. With in-depth knowledge of current practices, DFGE carried out a gap analysis to see which GRI requirements could be matched immediately. For instance, the indicators on scope 1,2,3 emissions can easily be tackled with the CDP Climate Change Questionnaire. DFGE provided a checklist of how Avnet can improve its current report to contain Standard Disclosures from the GRI Sustainability Reporting Guidelines.
Impact: a fruitful collaboration over the years
“We are glad to benefit from DFGE’s sustainability expertise to accompany us in the harmonization of our strategy. Our long-term relation now leads to quicker results, to covering more stakeholder requests and to consolidate an overview of our sustainability activities” states Georg Steinberger, chairman of Avnet’s CSR council.
“We value our relation with Avnet as it always brings new challenges that we are happy to tackle. For years, we have been helping Avnet expanding their Green Vision and we have at heart to implement our Sustainability Intelligence approach here. Indeed, we want to streamline Avnet’s sustainability reporting so that they can focus on their strategy and management”. Summarizes Dr.-Ing. Thomas Fleissner, founder of DFGE.