On Zero Emissions Day, let’s remember the importance of targets and goals in the energy transition

Established in 2008, Zero Emissions Day on 21 September is an important landmark, both for the planet and for ABB and its many thousands of employees around the world.

The aim of the Day is simple and profound: to give the Earth a break from fossil fuels and what they release into the air – everything from greenhouse gasses, polluting substances, microparticles, and other elements that are harming our planet – at least for one day, every year.

This is a noble sentiment, one that resonates with ABB’s own Mission to Zero® initiative. But why should we mark these days? Why set these targets? And how do we move from noble sentiment into measurable action? One important consideration is understanding the subtle difference between targets and goals – and how they marry to best effect.

Stepping into Action 

While many discuss the steps needed to combat the ever-increasing consequences of climate change, at ABB, we are committed to shaping the future of industry, cities and energy, today.

That is why we have put decades of experience in electrification and pioneering digital technologies into creating Mission to Zero, our journey to reach carbon neutrality by 2030 that can be used to inspire change around the world.

Our first carbon neutral site in  Lüdenscheid, Germany for example, features a solar power plant that delivers around 1,190MWh of climate-neutral solar power a year, the installed energy distribution and management technology, with our ABB Ability™ digital innovations at its heart, will generate enough power to cover on sunny days 100 percent of the factory’s requirements. It will also reduce CO2 emissions by 681 tons a year.

With more such sites planned, this intelligent ecosystem enhances energy efficiency, sustainability and resource conservation, enabling a genuine zero emission future for buildings.

People Power

It is important to note, however, that while the global energy transition is informed by science and technology, ultimately it is driven by people. Over the past two years I have been proud to witness the commitment and passion of ABB employees, particularly those in the company’s Electrification Division, in making Mission to Zero such a success.

Mission to Zero is a key part of ABB’s 2030 sustainability strategy, in which we are actively enabling a low-carbon society by working with our customers and suppliers to reduce their emissions as well as achieve carbon neutrality in our own operations.

I believe that effective leadership, and, more specifically, understanding the difference between setting targets and working towards goals, is of vital importance in helping us achieve these ambitions.

On Target

‘Target’ and ‘goal’ are phrases that are often used interchangeably, especially in commercial organizations. But in fact they are fundamentally different. A target is an object of attention and can be set by anyone. As leaders, we set targets for other people all the time as a way of bringing important focus to our teams and their work.

Goals on the other hand, are personal. They are the object of a person (or team’s) ambition, effort or desired result. By definition then, they cannot be set by third parties because they are so inextricably linked to a person’s individual motivations and values.

In my career I have put specific emphasis on these principles, particularly when it comes to people management, the structure of personal performance reviews and getting the best from teams. The most effective people and teams have not only been involved in defining their own goals, but write them down and review them regularly.

That is why initiatives like Mission to Zero will succeed. Like many business programmes and product offerings its structure is target-based. But I’m particularly proud that it is goal-driven too. The teams at ABB have been very vocal about how much they want to work together towards lowering our carbon and waste. They want to play an active part in creating a cleaner, more equitable society.

This magical meeting of top-down targets with bottom-up goals is a critical success factor. Understanding both, and working together effectively to achieve them, will help ensure that future generations have many more zero emission days to look forward to in the decades to come.

We invite you to join us on our journey to carbon neutrality. You can learn more about our sustainability strategy here:

Categories and Tags
About the author

Oliver Iltisberger

Oliver Iltisberger is President of ABB’s Smart Buildings division. He was appointed to this role in July 2018. In this position he has full accountability for the performance of the Smart Buildings business line in ABB, which includes a broad portfolio of market leading home and building automation solutions. Previously, as Executive Vice President and member of the Executive Committee, Oliver led the Asia Pacific and then the Europe, Middle East, Africa (EMEA) region of Landis+Gyr, a publicly listed global leader for smart metering and smart grid solutions. In 2010 he became one of the founding members and the first President of the IDIS Smart Meter Association. Earlier in his career, Oliver worked in the automation & drives division of Siemens, heading sales, product management and marketing functions within the low voltage Power Distribution business. During his career, Oliver has lived and worked in Germany, South Africa, Singapore, Australia and Switzerland. Oliver has a joint master’s degree in mechanical engineering and business administration from the Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany, and executive training at the Duke University Fuqua School of Business.
Comment on this article