Sustainability and Innovation: Two Sides of the Same Coin


Innovation and Sustainability are two sides of the same coin

EDP is a multinational company that focuses on electricity generation, distribution and commercialization; its Brazil operations represent 20% of its worldwide net revenue. But EDP Brazil is about much more than the electricity. It is about questioning assumptions, protecting our environment and nurturing sustainable growth in our society.  And it is about doing all those things while adding to the financial bottom line.

Changing realities in the energy sector

power-generation1The energy sector is keenly aware of changing environmental and regulatory realities.  EDP’s leaders recognize that their business is fundamentally interconnected with the challenges facing humankind, including social inequalities, CO2 emissions and climate change.  While efforts to limit CO2 emissions clearly impact upon power generation, one might wonder about the impact of social inequalities. Consider a city such as Rio de Janeiro where 40% of the energy that is distributed to residential customers is consumed without payment to the supplier, often being stolen and distributed in the large favelas (slums) that are home to so many.  It is not simply that social inequalities might affect business realities – they already are having a bottom line impact.

For over fifty years there has been no significant technological disruption in the energy sector but reduced costs for solar photovoltaics, smart grid developments, the threat of peak oil and anticipated carbon emissions regulations leave little doubt that this sector will face tremendous technological change in the years to come.

Miguel Setas, VP of Distribution and Innovation at EDP Brazil, explains: “We have to make the right decisions now to assure our future success. The sustainability of our business in economic terms depends on the decisions we make today to contribute to a better environment and a better society tomorrow.  This is not simply an altruistic approach – it’s about our very survival.”

Sustainability Commitment

EDP is the world’s third largest renewable utility operator with multiple hydro, wind, and thermal power plants. It was the world’s first electricity company listed in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and EDP Brazil is one of only 36 companies listed in the Corporate Sustainability Index (ISE) of the São Paulo Stock Exchange.

EDP has a strong corporate culture of Corporate Social Responsibility – every employee must sign an ethics code agreement.  The company is committed to the principles of the UN Global Compact, challenging the world business community to support and comply with ten principles in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and anticorruption.

Changing markets demand innovation

Brazil’s economy is growing, buoyed by developments including plans to host World Cup 2014 and the 2016 Summer Olympics.  With increased opportunity comes increased competition, and EDP Brazil must anticipate and adapt to changing economic, social, environmental and technological realities.  Innovation is now, more than ever, a business imperative.

EDP has long understood the value of innovation. In 2010, EDP Brazil adopted a new innovation strategy designed to reshape the organization to address anticipated changes in the energy sector. The innovation strategy was implemented using several initiatives, each designed to connect with different groups and achieve different objectives within the organization.

Innovation Team

The EDP Brazil Innovation Team (iTeam), established in 2010, is a group of about fifteen company executives, from all company business units, who offer a breadth of experience ranging from advanced consulting skills to extensive research and development experience. iTeam members act as internal consultants; they define the company’s innovation objectives, identify and approve new projects, and promote innovation throughout the organization.