Driving Lenovo’s Decarbonization: Climate Journey Interview

01/07/2024 | Reading time: 10 minutes

While climate was on the very top of the global agenda during the international climate conference COP28, we had the opportunity to sit down with Ada Chávez, Net-Zero and EMS Lead, and Merene Tamakloe, Global Channel ESG Partner Success Manager, from Lenovo. Working at the intersection of sustainability, supply chains and transformation, Ada and Merene are key players in Lenovo’s climate journey. In our interview they shared the ups and downs along their way, and especially the best practices that they like to pass on – and fuel their own motivation.

What was your climate journey so far and where do you stand today?

Ada: “I live in Mexico and have been with Lenovo for 11 years now, looking back on a career in supply chains for over 20 years. But my personal journey got really interesting 5 years ago, when I got very involved in sustainability and in climate specifically.

Back then I wanted to learn how to participate more, because I have a 9-year-old son and he asks me what I do. Now I can explain to him that I work to make an impact. He appreciates that and asks me regularly for more details. This motivation, that’s what I am to bring to my daily work, and to Lenovo as well. This strongly supports my passion for our journey.

How did you shift the focus towards decarbonization?  

1. Starting with Scope 1 & 2 Emissions

Lenovo has been carefully measuring its emissions for more than 16 years. Then, back in 2010, we started our ‘beginner stage’, establishing our first reduction goals around Scope 1 & 2 emissions. When we achieved and exceeded those, we wanted to move from the ‘beginner state’ to ‘leaders’, and understood that we had to do more for that. As the science around climate changed evolved, we recognized that our first targets from 2010 were not enough and needed to be expanded so in around 2017 we started working on our next generation of climate targets.

2. Setting Science-Based Climate Targets

In 2020 we were proud to have our next generation of goals aligned to the latest climate science by having them validated by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). These goals approved in 2020 formed the basis of our current near-term, 2030 goals.

SBT science based targets Lenovo.

Near-term goals are required as a first step for any company working to set long-term net-zero goals.  SBTi is a partnership between CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project), the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institution and the Worldwide Fund for Nature.

SBTi is the first body to standardize what net-zero means as it relates to the effort to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. While many understand the conceptual definition of net-zero, SBTi has done the math to create a Net-Zero Standard.  Working to reduce emissions without aligning to SBTi is like trying to run a marathon on your own, we need to collaborate to succeed. So we chose to achieve our goals with SBTi, for several reasons: Standardization, adaptation and accountability.

3. Increasing Transparency and Commitment

SBTi is constantly increasing its standards and requires companies to move fast from committing targets to actions. These committed targets bring transparency on which companies actually take actions and which ones do not. Companies not taking actions, can also be flagged as outdated, not validated or can be even removed from SBTi dashboard- and therefore show a red flag on them. I very much value the work of SBTi as guidance and support, and to learn from their global insights and benchmarks.

4. Impacting global Supply Chains

 The annual 2022 SBTi Monitoring Report demonstrates, that commitments from Asia increased significantly. In 2022, 317 companies headquartered in Asia set a science-based target. This represented a 127% increase in the number of Asian companies setting a science-based target compared with 2021.

SBT Monitoring Report 2022, growth of targets in Asia.

China’s growth curve was the steepest with a 194% increase in the number of companies with validated targets. As the source of many of the world’s supply chains, growth in China can have a powerful effect on the Scope 3 emissions of companies all over the world. Global set targets are spreading, it’s no longer a ‘western thing’, Asia is joining and picking up quickly.”

What did that transformation journey from ‘Beginner’ to ‘Leader’ look like?

Ada: “In the beginning, we started with calculating Scope 1 & 2 and focused on reducing those operational emissions. We wanted to cut 40% and managed to do so by 2019. We even went down by 92%. But to tell the truth – 99% of our emissions are in Scope 3. So that was just a starting point.

Biggest Challenge is Scope 3

Our biggest milestone to jump from ‘beginner’ to ‘leadership’ position was therefore to calculate our full Scope 3 – and to set SBTi targets to reduce all our emissions. To be honest, Scope 3 is the biggest challenge.

Scope 3 Targets guiding towards Net-Zero

Today, we’ve been measuring our Scope 3 emissions for many years, and our latest Scope 3 targets were validated by SBTi as part of our net-zero targets. Here are our latest targets:

Those are complex targets, how do you tackle this challenge?

You are right! When implementing our targets into action, we face a lot of challenges. That has many reasons, one of them is that we work globally and collaborate with our suppliers, customers, stakeholders and Lenovo employees. That multiplies all the complexity. But it also allows us to work with international standards and management systems.

Environmental Management System as Foundation

Plan Act Do Check cycle.

The starting point for was our ISO 14001 environmental management system (EMS), which gives us a strong framework on how to set annual targets to help us drive progress towards our 2030 and 2050 SBTi goals.

Climate Targets in the Supply Chain

We have a long history of disclosing our emissions and currently report progress against our 2030 targets, validated by SBTi and based in the latest climate science. We are also working with our key business areas including product development and supply chain organizations to establish interim goals to help continue to focus on near-term progress on our journey to net-zero by 2050.

Focusing on Reduction over time

These annual and more near-term check-ins will help us stay on the right track, but it is unlikely that progress toward a challenge this big will be perfectly linear. We will work to maintain a downward trend, understanding that some years may see incremental increases in some types of emissions.”

Sounds very metrics-driven, how do you engage your employees?

Ada: “That is a very important point, our employees are really the ones that are bringing the change into action and are making it happen.

To increase engagement right from the beginning, we started to launch an internal webinar series accessible for all employees, to involve them and share how they can directly contribute on a personal level. This includes training, but also providing suggestions and working on first initiatives.

That’s a whole transformation journey internally and mindset shift, as we are doing it together. This requires constant updates, but we see the importance of bringing awareness to the process repeatedly. It is nothing you do just once, and it’s done. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Bring us into this marathon, which actions do you take beyond your company borders?

Ada: “As part of our net-zero targets, we have three different reduction targets focusing on Scope 3, all of which require some level of involvement from our suppliers and other partners in our value chain. Specifically: We aim to reduce 66.5% of the emissions from our purchased goods and services by 2030.

Climate Performance Assessment, the various performance results as overview from beginner to intermediate and leader.

To do so, we are focusing on introducing supplier engagement programs, emphasize SBTi as the golden standard. Doing so, we work with our suppliers on understanding their climate maturity, which includes their climate targets, total emissions, and reduction efforts.

There is a lot to do. Breaking it down to the essence, we start however with first emission measures and the request to set targets. That has been for now the biggest impact.”

In this decarbonization journey, which best practices can you share with others?

Ada: “First off, it’s important to start. Don’t get demotivated by the various obstacles. Those are normal and there are best practices to overcome them.

The 6 most important Best Practices to drive Decarbonization are for me:

  1. Align with your leadership team. Set together a net-zero target and more importantly, create a strategy how to reach it. You need to get the leadership team onboard and behind it! Otherwise, there is no trustworthy and impactful plan.
  2. Get down to work! When you have the targets, the commitment and your budget, work on employing your plan. It does not stop with words on paper. It’s a journey we are all in for the next decades. But again, start with breaking it down.
  3. Scope 3 Emissions: Get the inventory of your emission right, in all Scopes. Start from there to get into actions.
  4. Focus on Reduction: Reach out to SBTi to set your target and get a decarbonization plan.
  5. Collaborate: Implement trainings internally and share your knowledge with your suppliers.
  6. Report & Repeat: Track your progress within your company and along the supply chain.

What are the learnings you gained by the Climate Performance Assessment, Lenovo took for itself?

Merene: “The biggest learning is that you easily think that you already do a lot, but then you always discover something new you can do. We have for sure learned a lot during our journey so far, and also did a lot, but we have to do more as well. And I say on purpose ‘have to’. Setting climate targets is a huge responsibility, and we mean to fulfill it.

That requires us to not get stuck where we are. There is always room for improvement. Time is ticking for all of us. Our commitment is to get ahead – and even if we often talk about a ‘race to net-zero’, it really is not. We all see how slow processes sometimes are.

For us at Lenovo, that means that we need to maintain our path, review the successes, and learn from there, but moreover understand the failures and learn from them quickly! We will never really be ‘finished’. There is always just the next step to take.

Climate Performance Assessment of Lenovo in Climate Intelligence Platform from The Climate Choice.

This is what we saw confirmed by the Climate Performance Assessment we took, and published in the Climate Intelligence Platform of The Climate Choice.

In our case we need to double down on collaborating with our suppliers, our distribution partners, other companies and related stakeholders to help each other. We cannot change just ourselves. We need to do it in the ecosystem we navigate in. That’s our shared responsibility and the only way towards reaching our shared target of limiting global warming to 1.5°C.

That’s the motivation we take into 2024, making it happen together.”

Dear Ada and Merene, thank you for sharing your journey with us!

How do we support your supply chain decarbonization? With the help of our Climate Intelligence Platform, you can assess the climate maturity of your suppliers, including purchasing emissions (Scope 3.1), climate target status and decarbonization measures. Our software supports different levels of accuracy and methods to take your current process to the next level. From climate data to actions, request here your personal exchange with our team of experts.