Exploring the Positive Impacts of 5G on Sustainability – The Six Five Summit Sessions

Tune in for a replay of The Six Five Summit’s Environmental Social Governance ESG Spotlight Keynote with Angela Baker, Chief Sustainability Officer, Qualcomm. Shelly Kramer, ESG practice lead at Futurum Research and Angela discuss the rise in global corporate sustainability initiatives, why that’s happening and some of the technology solutions that are aiding organizations in measuring and reaching their sustainability goals. They also discuss what to consider when developing corporate ESG strategies, what leaders can do to help facilitate change, buy-in and adoption from the many different stakeholders involved, and the nuances of balancing green/sustainability strategies with profits for the company. This is a conversation that viewers will walk away from better able to develop and deploy their own corporate sustainability initiatives and position themselves for success.

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Shelly Kramer: Hello, Angela, and welcome to the Six Five Summit. We are so happy to have you as part of this year’s event. So, before we get started, just a quick intro. Sustainability has become a business imperative in the last few years. Companies everywhere are creating ESG initiatives and embracing new sustainable business practices, which is great to see. I spend my days focusing on ESG initiatives, and there’s just not a better role to play within an organization. I love it. But the strategies that businesses are embracing require technology, and they need to be aligned with strategies within the organization as a whole. And that’s what we’re here to talk about today. And Angela… I’m going to start that over again. Which is what we’re here to talk about today. I’m joined by Angela Baker, the chief sustainability officer for Qualcomm. Angela, it’s great to see you again.

Angela Baker: Thank you. Thanks for having me today.

Shelly Kramer: Well, absolutely. And one of the things… I’m of course, so excited to hear about all Qualcomm is doing as it relates to ESG initiatives. But before we dive in, you are coming to this conversation from across the world. You are in Rwanda right now. And I know that the program that you’re working on is based in Kenya. Tell us a little bit about that.

Angela Baker: Yeah, sure. So I’m in Rwanda right now for the UN ITU World Radio Telecommunications Conference, which kicks off tomorrow morning. So we’re here with a few folks from Qualcomm for that, and there’ll be some work around our wireless reach program, which is our Tech For Good program, which is really how the company looks at how we can leverage the tech we designed for social and economic impact globally. And before this, I just got here today, I was in Kenya visiting one of our programs with our partner Next Leaf, which is a cold chain vaccine program. And essentially what they’re doing is they’re using Qualcomm tech in a monitoring box on the national cold storage room. So when all vaccines come into Kenya, they go to this one room, which is very cold. Vaccines have to normally be kept between two degrees and eight degrees Celsius.

If they get any colder or warmer, they’re basically rendered ineffective. And of course with COVID right now, some of those are ultra cold, but essentially COVID vaccines and a lot of immunizations that babies receive, life saving immunizations need to ensure that they’re kept at the correct temperature. So we’ve been working with this partner for a number of years, and we’re really excited, the Cold Trace X, which is the tech that they’ve designed with the Qualcomm LTE IOT modem, has rolled out in Kenya, India. I believe it’s going to be in Pakistan soon. So they’re really working globally to ensure that kids and now everybody with the COVID vaccine are getting vaccines that are effective, and they’re using a lot of data to ensure that the cold chain of the cold room stay cold. And if there’s a problem, whomever’s monitoring that room is alerted immediately.

Shelly Kramer: Well, that’s awesome. I remember in the early days of the global pandemic hearing about temperature being an issue and that sort of thing, so that’s really cool Qualcomm’s a part of that. Absolutely.

Angela Baker: Yeah.

Shelly Kramer: So talk with us a little bit, if you would Angela, about your role within the company and share with us, if you would, a little bit about Qualcomm’s vision for ESG.

Angela Baker: Yeah. Well, as you said at the beginning, I think I have one of the coolest jobs at Qualcomm. Well, certainly there’s a lot of really great things going on with the company, but I’m the chief sustainability officer, which essentially means that I’m responsible for helping to drive this strategy as it relates to environmental, social, and governance issues. ESG and corporate responsibility really are a company wide effort at Qualcomm.

So I get to work with a number of colleagues around the world. For Tech For Good, the program I just mentioned, we have a number of initiatives focused on STEM education and workforce development, really trying to build that diverse talent pipeline. And then, looking at things like human rights in the supply chain or environmental strategy and what we can do to be a more responsible corporate citizen. So every day I sort of work on a number of different things and there’s a really robust team that I work with that’s helping to ensure that we can make sure that we’re buying renewable energy where it makes sense or make sure that we’re looking at process emissions changes in our FABs or whatever it might be.

Shelly Kramer: As you get into this, I have a feeling that you’ve experienced this as well. It’s just such an enormous undertaking. It’s such a big space. And really, maybe one of the examples that I use, I tell my teenagers all the time, I’m the sustainability freak in our home. I’m the person who’s pulling things out of the garbage and putting things into compost and trying not to buy plastic water bottles and things like that. And my kids look at me sometime and I’m like, here’s the thing, like all of us doing these things together as how we make a difference, but when you extrapolate that out company wide and global initiative wide, it can be overwhelming sometimes, but you just kind of have to map out. And, and I think that’s the beauty of being a strategist. It’s kind of mapping out what’s now, what’s next, where we can have the most impact and it’s an exciting role, isn’t it?

Angela Baker: It is. And I think that’s what’s so interesting about sort of ESG at companies is that what works for one company might not work for another company. So you really have to look at your own operations, what products you’re making, what services you’re offering, what your employees are interested in and your investors and policy makers, where you work. There’s a number of stakeholders. So it is a huge area that’s covered. So every day I feel like there’s something new that’s coming in, which keeps it interesting for sure.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah. Well, and I think everybody… Speaking of stakeholders, right? Everybody has a different thoughts on what’s important. So I would guess you’re an expert juggler.

Angela Baker: I don’t know if I’d say expert, but definitely I can multitask and I can definitely get hold a lot of things up at once. So it’s needed, I think when you’re working on these types of issues, especially at a huge company like Qualcomm.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. Absolutely. So we can’t talk about Qualcomm without talking about 5G. So let’s talk a little bit about 5G and the role that sustainability… That 5G rather will play in sustainability, in improving sustainability, both within the wireless industry and beyond.

Angela Baker: Yeah. So I think 5G is really, obviously something that we’ve been working on at Qualcomm for a number of years. We know it’s enabling a world where everyone and everything will be intelligently connected or can be intelligently connected. It’s got fiber like speeds, ultra low latency, massive capacity for data, high reliability. And I think all of those things will be instrumental in helping to improve environmental sustainability and combat climate change. We actually conducted a study at Qualcomm to look at this and you can find it on our website, but essentially looking at how 5G will be able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, everything from real time monitoring of water usage, to working with the smart grid and making it even smarter. And so I think there’s a number of ways.

There’s a number of use cases out there, right? Some that we’re working on, some that a number of other companies are working on. CV2X, smart manufacturing. So I think 5G will really revolutionize both on the side because of all of those things I just mentioned, but also because all of the data capacity that we’ll be able to monitor things like… You could think about if you have a water leak in your home, you could know that instantly and the water company could know that instantly and could send somebody out to repair it, so we’re not wasting water or smart agriculture and drones and machine learning and AI, so that you can use fewer pesticides. We’re talking about like large scale farms, right? You can use fewer pesticides. You could see where there’s crop issues. You could use less water, so you’re not over watering or under watering or things like that. So there’s lots of applications for it.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, absolutely. So the way that we think about ESG here, my next question has to do with digital transformation and organizations have started in many instances on digital transformation journeys, sometime in the last decade. What we know about digital transformation journeys is that they are never ending, right? Technology keeps evolving, innovation keeps happening, and that journey is something that keeps evolving and adapting as needed. And that’s the thing that I think that is true about ESG initiatives as well, because we are at a stage where we’re seeing, and I know you and I have talked about this before, a lot of organizations are planning a flag and here’s what we want to be by 2025 or 2040 or whatever. And now what’s happening is that they’re stopping to say, wait a minute, we’ve made these promises to our customers, to our stakeholders, to our employees. Now, what technology solutions do we need to get there? And so I think that’s part of my next question is what do you think the most effective way for organizations to ensure that their digital transformation strategies align with their climate goals? That’s a big one, I think.

Angela Baker: Yeah, I think it’s key and I think there’s a few answers to this. I think the first thing is it has to be a company wide effort. So these initiatives, whether it’s digital transformation or not, can no longer just live within a corporate responsibility or a sustainability team. It really needs to be a company wide effort. The executive team needs to be bought in, but really everybody needs to be bought in. Right? Because if I think about how we’re driving our environmental strategy, we’re working with our facilities teams. We’re working with our engineers. We’re working with the folks that handle business travel for the company, right? There’s a number of people that touch some aspect of environmental sustainability at the company. I think it’s really important. You sort of touched on this, but mapping out a strategy from the start, even before you announce the big audacious goal.

And map out a strategy, look at your baseline, look at your data. What are your scope one, scope two, and scope three emissions? What makes sense for your business? Take in a lot of internal stakeholders and external stakeholder’s input. So it’s not just a strategy that’s driven from one little team. And really look at what makes sense for you and your company. What digital tools will help you get to net zero or will help you make more energy efficient technology, or will help you have cleaner cafeterias, whatever it is your goal is that you’re setting.

And so I think you really need to have the baseline. We’ve seen a number of companies, which has been exciting, announce really big goals, and some have released more information than others about how they’re going to get there. And some of it, a little bit of a guessing game at this point, right? Because we’re talking about 20, 30 years in the future. We don’t even know all the tech tools that will exist, but I do think it’s important to sort of get together internally and make a plan and make sure you’re doing it across the company.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah. And I think that we touched on this a little bit, but this is something that probably is best driven from top leadership on down. And so I think that… Tell us a little bit about your experience in terms of how Qualcomm leadership has embraced sustainability and what it is you are doing and how they support you.

Angela Baker: Yeah, absolutely. I think our leadership is extremely engaged from our CEO. I report up through the president of global affairs and QTL. He’s extremely engaged. Our CFO does a lot of work around ESG, given the ties with investors, right. And then of course the head of human resources. We also report out often to the board of directors, both to the governance committee and to the full board. So I would say that our leadership is engaged and is really interested in looking at solutions that make sense from a Qualcomm perspective. And I think that’s really important because if, again, if you’re just doing this on this side, it’s not going to work. It has to really be either driven or at least be done in tandem with the leadership.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah. Yeah. I think this is something that really has to be truly woven within the fabric of your corporate DNA. And it’s like anything. It’s like creating a culture of embracing innovation and continuous learning and all of those things, but it is something that you can’t fake. You can try, but you can’t fake it. And really you’re-

Angela Baker: You can only fake it for so long. You can only fake it for so long.

Shelly Kramer: You’re absolutely right. But I think that when you have an organization that truly is invested and not just only in a financial sense, but this matters. And I think that it shows. It shows from the outside, looking in. It shows from the inside looking around. And I think that’s a big part of the equation for success.

Angela Baker: Yeah, absolutely. And I think I’m not a new recruit. I’ve been at Qualcomm for a long time, but new recruits certainly are really interested in looking at what kind of company they’re coming in to work for. What are their values? I think people that work at a company want to feel good about where they work and want to know that the company’s doing things to, I hate to say it, but make the world a better place. It sounds a little cliche. So I think there’s a lot of… I think it can matter for the bottom line in a lot of instances. Certainly investors are looking at it. We know the SEC is looking at it and the European Commission, but employees as well.

Shelly Kramer: Right. Absolutely. Absolutely. So we agree. This is super important. This is something that leadership needs to be on board with, but let’s talk about how we balance a green sustainability strategy with profits for the company.

Angela Baker: Yeah. Well, I think that I’ve said this and feel repetitive now, but it really has to be a company wide effort. I think we have to look at things. As I mentioned, when you’re setting a goal, you have to look at your baseline. I think it can be done. At Qualcomm, we always say that energy efficiency is in our DNA. I’ll just use one example. Our always connected PCs are more energy efficient. And I know one of the things that the sales team is looking at when they’re going out and talking to large companies or organizations who have their own net zero targets, is if you are buying devices that are more energy efficient, that need to be charged less, that can run on a longer battery, can help you achieve your own energy efficiency goals, or your own net zero and climate goals.

So I think there is a business play there. That’s what makes sense for Qualcomm, but certainly lots of companies have different tech. Same thing with connected vehicles to everything. I think there’s going to be a big sustainability play there as well as a safety play. So I don’t think it’s one or the other, but certainly sometimes it is one or the other. And I think you have to have leadership that just says, we’re going to take a stand on this. We know it’s important. Especially as I just mentioned, with regulation and investors asking, it’s no longer I’m only going to focus on one or the other, you really have to focus on both.

Shelly Kramer: They have to be.

Angela Baker: I think those days are gone. Yeah. I think those days are gone

Shelly Kramer: Best done when woven together, integrated together. Well, Angela Baker, thank you so much for taking time for me today and being a part of the Six Five Summit. It’s been great to have you. I can’t wait to hear more about your trip to Kenya and all that comes out of that, but it’s been terrific spending time with you today.

Angela Baker: Thanks so much. Great spending time with you. Next time, I’ll see you in person.

Shelly Kramer: I can’t wait.

Angela Baker: Perfect. Thank you.

Author Information

Shelly Kramer is a Principal Analyst and Founding Partner at Futurum Research. A serial entrepreneur with a technology centric focus, she has worked alongside some of the world’s largest brands to embrace disruption and spur innovation, understand and address the realities of the connected customer, and help navigate the process of digital transformation. She brings 20 years' experience as a brand strategist to her work at Futurum, and has deep experience helping global companies with marketing challenges, GTM strategies, messaging development, and driving strategy and digital transformation for B2B brands across multiple verticals. Shelly's coverage areas include Collaboration/CX/SaaS, platforms, ESG, and Cybersecurity, as well as topics and trends related to the Future of Work, the transformation of the workplace and how people and technology are driving that transformation. A transplanted New Yorker, she has learned to love life in the Midwest, and has firsthand experience that some of the most innovative minds and most successful companies in the world also happen to live in “flyover country.”


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