San Francisco, December 13, 2022: Like-minded stakeholders, innovators, and entrepreneurs are counting on hydrogen generation to combat climate change and dramatically minimize CO2 emissions. Well-established players are prioritizing decarbonized hydrogen to propel the green portfolio. The environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance has received an impetus with bullish government policies. In April 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden announced a robust goal of minimizing greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52% by 2030. Green hydrogen—created from the electrolysis of water—has gained ground as the most environmentally friendly fuel to produce energy without emitting CO2. In common parlance, hydrogen is a major enabler of clean energy transition and produces zero emission at the point of use.
Exponential demand for green hydrogen has boded well for ESG policies amidst the fuel warranting significant storage, transportation, and production infrastructure. The U.S. has proposed Climate Disclosure Rule requiring public companies to make GHG-related disclosures. Besides, it mandates public companies to disclose Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions. The disclosure rule is poised to prompt and incentivize industry participants to infuse funds into greener energy. Hydrogen could be a silver bullet to minimize GHG emissions. Industry players are gearing up to provide a sustainable future with cost-effective, dependable, and accessible green hydrogen energy.
As stakeholders emphasize a clean hydrogen economy to boost productivity, reduce carbon footprints and minimize operating costs, bespoke hydrogen generation solutions could bring a paradigm shift globally. Investors are aligning their businesses with environmental performance, with companies striving to inject funds into clean energy technologies to foster energy efficiency and cut climate-changing emissions. Even though hydrogen is a low-carbon energy source, transportation of hydrogen using internal combustion engine trucks contributes to GHG emissions. These trends have compelled leading companies to invest in green hydrogen. In 2022, Plug Power acquired Joule Processing to bolster its green hydrogen ecosystem and reduce the logistics networks and hydrogen infrastructure cost. The company plans to augment the green hydrogen production to 200 TPD by 2023 across North America.
Leading players aspire to infuse funds into clean energy technologies to reduce fleet emissions. Linde asserts around 83% of GHG emissions could be reduced from transportation using renewable diesel. The company has implemented an environmental management system in line with ISO 14001—the international standard for EMS—for the management of atmospheric emissions and waste, to leverage pollution prevention and control, management of environmental impacts from transportation, and protection of biodiversity and natural resources. Around 99% by weight of the raw materials used in 2021 were renewable raw materials, such as produce hydrogen, oxygen, gaseous nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and argon. It has an audacious target to cut absolute GHG emissions by 35% by 2035 and claims it helped customers do away with over 88 million metric tons of CO2 in 2021.
Investors prioritize community investment, diversity & inclusion, ethical supply chain, harassment-free workplace, and employee health. Prominently, these factors act as a marker shaping the future of business, creating resilient business plans, and cementing equality of opportunity. Linde has been at the helm with over 80% social score as it integrates sustainable strategies into business strategy. The company introduced the Global Giving program to infuse over USD 4 million into educational programs. The Board of Directors and CEO are accountable for social issues affecting Linde. Meanwhile, the CHRO oversees management and retention, talent sourcing, inclusion, and diversity. However, the global voluntary turnover rate was pegged at 6.7%, according to its Sustainable Development Report 2021.
Linde has furthered its efforts on a safe operating environment through investment in cutting-edge technologies. For instance, in 2021, the industrial gas company invested around 5 million hours in safety training for its contractors and employees. The company is leaving no stone unturned to promote gender diversity. It introduced a “30 by 30” gender balance goal intending to have 30% females at all professional levels by 2030. The company is emphasizing training for inclusion, business accountability, and strengthening the pipeline program to achieve the ambitious goal.
IndianOil has propelled its recruitment strategy and equal opportunities policy to develop, attract and retain top talent from diverse backgrounds. According to its Sustainability Report 2020-21, the company hired 490 new employees; 90% of these hires were below 30 years of age, while 43 were female during the year. It also formulated Talent Vision and Strategy Framework for the 2021-24 period to foster learning, employee engagement, and workplace safety, among others.
Notably, the Indian giant rolled out the revamped employee satisfaction and engagement survey in 2021—Pratidhwani—to underscore engagement activities and understand the feedback and opinions of internal stakeholders. The company has also established reporting kiosk to report near-miss incidents. It conducts regular safety audits to comply with standard operating procedures, detect unsafe and hazardous acts, and analyze the effectiveness of safety systems. The energy major has developed Emergency Response and Disaster Management Plans (ERDMP) to streamline preparedness during fires, spills, leaks, explosions, and other risk scenarios. The Indian PSU asserts its 100% locations are equipped with ERDMP plans and performs liaison activities with central government agencies, including National Disaster Response Force (NDRF). Amidst strong safety policies, IndianOil recorded 8 cases of fatalities during 2020-21, a two-fold rise from 2019-2020.
Understand how key industry participants like IndianOil Corporation, Linde, PLC., and Air Products & Chemicals, Inc. are identifying, analyzing and mitigating ESG risks and ensuring compliance
Ensuring compliance with the rules, regulations, and laws has become a major prerequisite for sound corporate governance. NEL ASA published its first sustainability report in 2020 with the goal of 100% of executive management and other employees completing anti-corruption training by 2022. In September 2020, the company launched its whistleblowing channel—NEL Ethics Hotline. In the next month, it introduced the Nel Anti-Bribery and Corruption Policy and the Nel Competition Law Policy.
A transparent government structure is a vital cog in the governance pillar for sustainable growth. Companies such as Plug have set the goal of continuing the development of ESG governance to boost transparency, standardization, and consistency across the landscape. The CEO at Plug organizes weekly hall meetings with employees to share updates on initiatives and answer questions and queries. The company provided compulsory training on vigilance to eradicate corruption and bribery.
Air Liquide has propelled its sustainability portfolio, contributing to ESG commitments and creating positive impacts for climate, people, and health. In April 2022, the French company published its first Sustainable Development report, taking a giant leap toward transparency. In March 2022, the Group laid out a strategic plan—ADVANCE—to combine financial performance, environmental and societal performances. The company aims to augment the investments to around 16 billion euros (approximately USD 16.5 billion) from 2022 through 2025, with 50% earmarked for the energy transition.
The France-based company aims to increase the percentage of women among managers and professionals to 35% by 2025, up from 31% in 2021. The company has spotlighted an international, independent, gender-balanced board of directors. Prominently, 50% of its board are women and around 92% are independent members. In June 2022, the board of directors announced the separation of the roles of the Chief Executive Officer and the Chairman of the Board of Directors.
With a strong case of independent directors in better-performing organizations, forward-looking companies have reinforced their governance profile. In essence, Linde’s 8 BOD are independent non-executive directors. The board has fostered its governance structure with a focus on, including but not limited to split roles of Chairperson and CEO, director independence, board effectiveness, ideal board committees, alignment with shareholder interests, shareholder outreach, limits to service, and board diversity. In 2021, the BOD included a new Sustainability Committee emphasizing clean energy initiatives and environmental aspects. During this period, the executive leadership team reviewed the ESG presentations prepared for the BOD.
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Governing bodies and other stakeholders are emphasizing sustainability development targets through innovations and decarbonization investments. In December 2021, the European Commission reportedly proposed an EU framework to boost hydrogen, decarbonize gas markets and minimize methane emissions. The European Network of Network Operators for Hydrogen (ENNOH) would be formed to underpin dedicated hydrogen infrastructure, interconnecting network infrastructure, and cross-border coordination. The new rule is expected to expand in two phases with access to the separation of hydrogen production, tariff setting, transportation activities, and hydrogen infrastructure.
Industry participants are striving to create a business model that enhances social, economic, governance, and environmental values. Well-established players are prioritizing hydrogen as a cornerstone of the energy transition. For instance, Air Liquide has earmarked 8 billion euros (around USD 8.25 billion)—over the next ten years—for the full hydrogen value chain, such as electrolysis, supply chain, carbon capture, and storage. It expects its hydrogen revenue to be pegged at 6 billion euros (approximately USD 6.2 billion) by 2035. In 2021, Shell initiated production at the electrolyzer with the 10 MW proton exchange membrane using renewable energy to produce up to 1,300 tons of decarbonized hydrogen annually. In January 2022, Shell New Energy was involved in a joint venture with Zhangjiakou City Transport to start a hydrogen electrolyzer in China with a 20 MW capacity. It expected the electrolyzer to render around 50% of the total green hydrogen supply for fuel cell vehicles during the Winter Olympic Games in the Zhangjiakou competition zone. The hydrogen generation market size garnered USD 129.85 billion in 2021 and could witness a 6.4% CAGR from 2022 to 2030. Soaring hydrogen demand and a surge in global spending on energy research will provide a quantum leap to the ESG efforts.
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