50% of wastewater’s energy-related carbon emissions can be eliminated with existing technologies. What’s even better in the race to net zero water is that 95% of this impact is achievable at zero to negative cost!
with 🎙️ Austin Alexander – Vice President, Sustainability and Social Impact at Xylem
💧 Xylem is a leading water technology company with the famous “solving water” motto – and a finalist for this year’s Net Zero Carbon Award at the Global Water Summit
What we covered:
🌎 How climate change is the overarching concern for many further challenges
🦶 How the supply chain’s carbon footprint is a nice benchmark, but much less impactful than its handprint
🛗 How carbon savings can come in various shapes and how the simplest is often the best
⚡ How energy savings are greenhouse gas impacts before cost reductions
🏗️ How water infrastructure may benefit from more nuanced takes on its revamping
0️⃣ Growing as a Xylem supplier, net zero as a hot topic, ratings being a tedious task, sustainability being embedded in water topics, water professionals being on a mission, sustainability being a long-ball game… and much more!
🔥 … and of course, we concluded with the 𝙧𝙖𝙥𝙞𝙙 𝙛𝙞𝙧𝙚 𝙦𝙪𝙚𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨 🔥
Teaser: Wastewater Carbon Emissions
🔗 Have a look at Xylem’s website
🔗 Read Xylem’s zero-carbon whitepaper
🔗 Come say hi to Austin on Linkedin
is on Linkedin ➡️
One Pager: Wastewater Carbon EmissionsOne-Pager-Austin-Alexander-Xylem-Cutting-Wastewater-Energy-Carbon-Emissions-in-Two
Quotes: Wastewater Carbon EmissionsQuotes-Austin-Alexander-Xylem-Cutting-Wastewater-Energy-Carbon-Emissions-in-Two-1
Table of contents
These are computer-generated, so expect some typos 🙂
Get Season 2's Summary!
Antoine Walter: Hi Austin. Welcome to the show.
Austin Alexander: Hello. Thank you for having me.
Antoine Walter: I have a tradition on that microphone, as I warned you a little bit, which is to open with a postcard, and I’m asking you to send me a postcard from the place you at, which is. It is not really a city, but I Googled it and it exists.
And that is big timber Montana. So what can you tell about that place that they would ignore by.
Austin Alexander: So big timber is in Montana in the United States. It’s very rural. Ranching agricultural community. And I grew up here. I grew up in pretty small town, America very outdoors focused, you know, beautiful mountains and landscape around us. Grew up here when I graduated high school and then, you know, left to go to college, start working lived on the east coast for a while.
And during the pandemic I was living in New York. And had the opportunity to actually move out to Montana. And now I work remote from my hometown. My fiance’s here with me and I love it. I get kind of the best of both worlds from the mountains in the outdoors and still gets worked for a large company. Like Xylem!
Antoine Walter: To go fully remote in a position like yours is quite a bold move for a company like Xylem.
Austin Alexander: I think part of it that has worked so well. I mean, for one, you know, the, how much we’ve adopted with technology and zoom meetings, you know, live on zoom now. The, what I think is probably the coolest part of my role is it’s very global. I get to work with teams in Singapore and India and Europe and the us.
And so where I sit matters a whole lot less than we’re, You know, we’re coordinated and we’re acting as one team. So it makes that pretty easy.
Antoine Walter: You mentioned the nature the connection to the outdoor and all of that. And I researched you a bit before having the discussion and I thought that you were sharing. That you took in 2009 where you were I guess at university at the time, and you were involved in an H2O for life fund raising projects.
And I was wondering, so that means your involvement with water is started quite early. What was your initial trigger?
Austin Alexander: Yeah. That was even, that was high school. So I was probably 16 or 17 years old. And we had this opportunity to Raise funds. I hadn’t met this organization H2O for life, and I thought, wow, this is really cool. I really didn’t know a lot about global water challenges at that time.
that opportunity really opened my eyes to not only, you know, the environmental aspects, which I was probably more familiar being somebody that loves to be outdoors near the water. You see that environmental impacts of taking care of our water. But then, you know, you think of the economic and social impacts, particularly for those communities that are developing or underserved that do not have, in this case, it was a school in Uganda.
Didn’t have toilets, didn’t have running water and how much that impacted their daily life. And So it really kind of opened the door for me to really get into this, into water and wastewater and love that journey. It’s been able to take me on.
Antoine Walter: So if I fast forward now to 2022, your vice-president sustained. In social impact that Xylem, which is an interesting title. But if I ask you to break it down, so that’s my seven year old daughter gets it. What would your definition of what you do today?.
Austin Alexander: that’s a good, analogy. You know, I think I said. I helped Xylem consider the way we take care of the planet. And we take care of the people around us, the communities we live in. So we’re not only creating economic value, making money by doing business and doing that really well and operating really efficiently.
But as we do that, let’s make sure we’re also taking care of the environment, taking care of the planet. doing what.
we say we’re going to do around providing people clean water and sanitation. So yeah, I’d say layman’s terms, maybe take care of the planet. Take care of people.
Antoine Walter: And in that reel of social impact and sustainability, carbon is only one of those aspects. I guess it’s going to be our deep dive for today, but I’m just wondering how much does it weight in your priorities compared to. Other topics like, like social justice. I mean, it’s pretty bold in your sustainability report or the aspects of it.
Austin Alexander: I would say they’re equally important.
if I talk about water stewardship and resiliency, the way we’re adapting to climate change or taking care of the water sources that we. Or when we’re talking about issues of equity, providing those that do not have access today with access to clean water sanitation, those issues are very big challenges and are very important.
But I think what we’re coming to realize is that if we don’t address mitigating climate change, those issues are going to become even more exasperated. And so I think it’s more of a. We need to really get greenhouse gas emissions under control, really addressing climate change pretty aggressively, or those other challenges achieving SDG six or building really sound watersheds on operating really, you know, in a resilient way to changes in climate change are going to become nearly insurmountable challenges.
Antoine Walter: Regarding that the carbon aspect of things Xylem set some ambitious targets. If I’m right by 2025, you wants to be reducing your CO2 footprint by 2.8 million metric tons. From what I’ve seen. Really on track of achieving that because in 2020 alone, you’ve reduced your carbon impact by as much as removing 150,000 cars from the road.
What I’m wondering is that you mentioned carbon being like, like the mother of all concerns and hence you’re targeting that, but why did you come with those targets and what did you put in place to achieve those first results?
Austin Alexander: that goal in particular, the 2.8 million metric tons of CO2 footprint is specifically related to how much we reduce our customer’s footprint. So we’re measuring our products impact. In our customer’s facility and we have about 50% of our revenue is the utility sector, water wastewater, utility about a third industrial users of water.
And so it was kind of a revolutionary change for us. You know, we still measure our own footprint, our own operational. our factories, supply chain and all of that. But we really said, okay, but how can we measure the positive impact of our products and hold ourselves accountable to say what we do sell.
We’re gonna sell that into the market and really help our customers because if we reduce our carbon footprint alone. Great, nice, good for Xylem. But really it’s about the entire sector coming together. And so what role we can play with providing, equipment to move or treat water in a much more efficient way is really important to us.
So that was kind of the first step for us and getting into this. What’s our impact on the sector. How can we really, you know, bring our customers into this and really, everyone who touches water into a carbon reduction.
Antoine Walter: If I go back to the definitions global watch intelligence was preparing for the global water summits and they defined. footprint and handprint. So what you’re saying here is that would be the hand print. So footprints NLM itself. If I take an example, let’s take a flight pump. So when you’re building a flight pump, it has a certain footprint, but whenever your customers use that flight pump within their network, then it hasn’t handprints.
And what you want to do is you want to reduce the handprints of your customers.
Austin Alexander: That was absolutely perfect. We have to do both. If we’re going to address climate change, you have to do you have to address both things, your footprint. And in our case is a supplier of equipment. We have to think about our hand print. Otherwise we’re not nearly doing justice to our own greenhouse gas commitments.
Antoine Walter: And how did you measure your handprint?
Austin Alexander: we work with an Institute, the shine Institute out of Massachusetts Institute of technology MIT. And we work with a few team members there to really help us make sure. the way we’re calculating The methodology we’re using is really credible. And so we work with them pretty closely and we’ve been slowly adding products to what we can’t.
We started very small, only, xylem has whole bunch of different products. So started with a very small handful of products. We started to measure that. And then we continued to add an ad and each is a little bit different in the way that you measure. for example, I’ll give a couple examples that would probably paint a picture.
You know, with our pumping equipment use example of a flight pump, when we use more efficient motors when we used digital solutions that reduce the amount of runtime calculating that savings. But we also include things like our census metrology meters. Those are the water meters on our house or on industrial users of water.
Well, when you installed lot of places still have drive by water readers. A utility person gets in their pickup truck drives around the town and reads the meters. Well, that’s a lot of driving when you’re doing that for an entire city. And so things like simply applying a advanced metrology infrastructure, AMI technology.
Where It’s reading real time. You don’t need that truck. So we account for that savings as well as, Hey, that’s quite a bit of a mission that a utility is savings on let alone costs and you know, all the other things it’s not having to pick up driving around town.
Antoine Walter: It’s a very interesting down to earth aspect of it’s because when I read your papers, it was seeing digitalization. I thought, yeah, of course you go on the network and you measure stuff and your models and everything, but that is probably. Much more of an impact to say you take the trucks off the roads because simply step one, you have something which can be measured online.
It sounds like a dead angle, which you address.
Austin Alexander: I mean, I think What we really tried to get across with that paper and a lot of technology exists when we’re talking about making fairly big, you know, greenhouse gas reductions. It’s not like you need to buy this really cutting edge technology, although we will continue to develop that and we’ll still be part of the story.
There’s a lot of very simple changes that we can make in our operations, either at utilities or an industrial users of water, they can have pretty profound impacts not having to drive by and read. All meters has a pretty profound impact over time
Antoine Walter: you’re hinting that White paper you published. And actually when I read that white paper, I was kind of shocked to be honest, to see that you’re estimating that you can divide by two, the energy related emissions of wastewater. As a sector and these with existing technologies. And you’re saying if I’m right by 95% of the cases that would be at no additional cost and probably even at lower costs.
So if that figure is right why are we so slow in moving? It sounds like a no brainer.
Austin Alexander: you know, I think that goes much bigger than the water sector alone is, you know, why are we slow to move on greenhouse gases as a whole, organizations like Xylem, we’re taking our responsibility of saying we haven’t done probably as good a job as communicating, Hey, user of our equipment. There’s not only these typical specification items that you need to be concerned about quality and, you know, meeting your operational specs, those kinds of things. But we really need to get better at communicating the sustainability impacts as well this energy savings. Isn’t just a cost savings. It also has greenhouse gas impacts and I would say, you know, we’re really starting to get better at that. We have room to grow. Telling that full picture of how simple changes to equipment or digital overlay solutions can have on that day-to-day operations, the cost savings.
When you’re in the day-to-day business of just getting clean water into people’s homes there’s a lot that they’re dealing with to just keep things running.
And so really being able to effectively tell that 10, 20 year story of our equipment in the context of an, this gets your job done today. It’s something that, will always be continuing to be.
Antoine Walter: That means you, you kind of breaking kind of halo effect where they might be focused on the day-to-day enhance you. You miss a bit, the, this longer term, and you see that as the duty of a company like Xylem to bring that communication element and that educational stuff.
And to say to people, look, there’s a low-hanging fruit. But how do they react to that?
Austin Alexander: I’ll be honest, a lot more positive and broader than I even anticipated. We have, you know, utilities, I’ll say, oh, highlight, you know, the UK water utilities that are ahead of the game. Thinking about greenhouse gas emissions, they’ve set their own commitments. You have those set of probably more progressively thinking about greenhouse gas footprint, a utility.
I have been totally amazed at how many more utilities, particularly in small and medium utilities that are saying we’re taking this really seriously. the upcoming, global water summit in Madrid is net zero water positive. It is the hot topic right now, or one of the hot topics in the water sector.
I felt certain we were going to be able to speak to a certain number of utilities that were already thinking about this, but I was definitely taken aback by just how much pickup we had of, smaller utilities that were saying, wow, this is something we really care about.
And it’s something we are setting goals towards and starting to address.
Antoine Walter: We’ve talked so far from what happens between you and your handprint, so your footprints and then how it goes to your customers. If I’m right. You’re looking also at the full value chain and the food value chain would mean also your suppliers. How. Bring the suppliers into that game. And how do you nudge them into having the right approach
Austin Alexander: In 2021, we announced our net zero commitment by 2050 science-based target by 2030. And we said that’s across our entire value chain, including all scope three emissions, which includes of course our supply chain.
Antoine Walter: Not that the ones who to catch you, but just to be clear, you have scope one scope, two scope, three, just refill for the laymen scope. One scope two, and scope three is your hand print, but here I’m oversimplifying.
Austin Alexander: no, that’s perfect. So scope three, think upstream, downstream emissions, you know, supply chain in the upstream, downstream in the hand print of your products. Scope one and two are more operational. Forgive me. I get really into these weeds in my day to day role, so I can easily jump into that.
Antoine Walter: Thanks for the explanation.
Austin Alexander: Okay.
Hopefully that helps. I go back even as early as 2019, we set out our 20, 25 goals. At that time, one of those goals was to. Require our suppliers to report through CDP. That’s a climate disclosure project, their rating company. We at Xylem report to CDP and in our investors and some of our customers use that data to make decisions.
And so we said, you know, we want our suppliers to report to us. Part of that includes their scope one and two emissions, their operational core emissions. said, we want you to do this. We’re going to work with you on it. But eventually we’re going to make this, if you want to be a preferred supplier, at Xylem, you know, top list of who we go to, we’re going to want you to have this.
And so we took the approach and we’re still in the approach today of we’re doing, we’re your partner in this. We’re not going to, you know, like you said, it’s a balance of you’re. You’re not going to demand it. Right. But we’re going to ask you to do it and we’re going to coach you. We give you resources.
My team works with our supply chain team daily to help work with suppliers, get them there with the vision of in a few years, you really need to be doing this. And so for us, it really started with reporting. Turn the lights on. Let’s see what our supply chain looks like, what the emissions profile.
We’re still, I would say, you know, still doing a lot of learning in that stage. As we get more refined in what is our missions profile and supply chain, and then working with them to set their own targets, set their own goals and work with them as partners to reduce it. And I think even over the last year, I’d say that’s another area.
I was probably pleasantly surprised in how. Responsive and receptive our supplier partners are because we’re not the only customer of theirs asking for this information for one. And for many of our suppliers are starting to make their own commitments. So this is really important to us as well.
We have our own sustainability programs, reducing greenhouse gas emissions is good for us, and it’s good for our customers.
Antoine Walter: But I guess that, that, that cannot be a light on light of option. Like you say, 2019, we start looking at it in 2020. If you don’t comply with. Find yourself a, another supplier. How does that work? Did you have, like, you, you give them like a timeline where you say, you know, we want to be all on the same boat and if we reach something by 2025, you’ll have to reach it with us.
Austin Alexander: It’s still an ongoing process. We’re still very much in that let’s work together. Let’s report your missions, work together to set targets. It’s not it’s, like You said, it’s not an on-off switch. There are also other things that we take into consideration. Like there are other sustainability programs and their water targets and the base minimum of ensuring that their meetings, requirements of human rights and other things.
It’s all of those things together make up the decision, but it’s not a on-off switch. At this point I could first see down in the future that becoming a, if you don’t have a greenhouse gas target, we’re going to need to go elsewhere, but we’re not at that stage.
Antoine Walter: You mentioned. No, we discussed your suppliers. You mentioned how you use CDP as an external body, which is assessing whatever you do. But CDP is not the only one ranking Xylem, and there are several institutes associations. There’s a lot of those reports out there and regularly Xylem is ranked as a company.
Doing good. How important is that for you?
Austin Alexander: The ratings and awards environment for let’s say sustainability in general or ESG environment, social governance, reading. An enormous landscape. That seems to be growing every day, hundreds of ratings, we could go for hundreds of awards we could apply for. But we apply some pretty rare, actually quite rigorous on our approach to this.
For one being it could be easily become my full-time job to just fill out ratings. It could, they are not easy surveys. They’re very in-depth and they take a lot of. So we selected a small handful of ratings. CDP is one of them. We also utilize Sustainalytics and an organization called the EcoVadis a small handful of ratings that we’ve said, these are our priority that we think do a robust and independent job.
And. Reviewing our sustainability performance across the full spectrum of sustainability for us, sustainability is much bigger than greenhouse gas emissions. It includes water includes the way we treat our people, diverse representation. You know, it is the whole gamut. So we look for those ratings that take a very holistic approach or independent and that we really think of a robust assessment.
Those are some of those organizations, and there’s a lot of ratings that we say. We’re just not going to do all the time. And then when it comes to like those awards and those great, which are fabulous, we love to hear, Xylem the top of environmental lists or other kind of sustainability performance lists.
We have. Don’t go for any awards that are paid to play which are actually quite a few are very specific on that. And you know, for us, and we say this internally quite a bit awards are wonderful. We love to receive awards. It’s not why we do what we do. They are the benefit that?
comes from continuously executing and performing and improving the award.
They will come or go as they will, but we’re going to continue to do our progress on sustainability no matter what.
Antoine Walter: So you’re not doing it for the awards. Why are you doing all of that? What is your primary driver?
Austin Alexander: Well, I’d say primary is what is this world going to look like in five or six generations from now? Are we good Xylem even going to be able to. In five or six generations. And our view is yes. If we take care of the planet, we take care of the people in Xylem and around Xylem.
And we take care of the communities in which we operate in, and that gives us the license to operate. It also creates a company that will withstand all of the challenges yet to come ahead of us. And so for us, I mean, that’s the course, do we want to, what kind of world do we want to leave? For future generations.
And then the second reason we’re a water company. And if any sector is the sustainability sector, it’s water. What water sector does day in and day out is sustainability. We’re protecting the environment by treating wastewater. We’re ensuring people have access to clean and reliable drinking water.
Wash their hands COVID-19 pandemic. I mean, the simple things that the water sector does every single day is sustainability. And so if anybody’s going to do it well, it damn sure better be. Yeah.
Antoine Walter: I think that’s something which is pretty strong in all the papers I’ve read from Xylem preparing for that conversation, which is your belief that the water sector is going to move faster, is going to lead the way is going to be an example. And I’d love to share your optimism, but the water sector has also a history of being a laggard by, by many aspects.
So what makes you optimistic in that specific endeavor?
Austin Alexander: The water sector is fairly risk adverse for very good reason. In my career so far. I think the people that I have met around the sector, whether it’s at Xylem or outside of Xylem, podcasts like this utility leaders, engineering consultants you know, other equipment providers in the space, nearly everyone I’ve met has that sense of optimism. And that sense of duty.
That we don’t do this just because it’s a nice job. It pays the bills. People are in water because they want to make a difference. They’re in water because they feel that deep sense of responsibility and passion to give back to the planet, to give back to the communities in which they live. And so nothing can beat to that.
If you have that people and those belief throughout the entire sector, no challenge is too great. And we have some pretty big challenges ahead of us.
Antoine Walter: I have a problem? Because I’m very positive so far about everything you said, and I agree with you. But I have to be French and to take my devil’s advocate hat. When I was looking at whatever you publish there is a problem with bumpings and hopefully someone could come up with better pumps and and solve it.
And you happen to have pretty strong pump brands. There’s a problem with audit quality and it would be so great if someone could solve it with UV disinfection and you happen to have you read his infection. And I was just wondering, do you find all the problems which you can solve and then highlight those.
Or do you maybe just build the company cleverly so that you make it future ready in the sense that you align itself? The challenges of tomorrow?
It’s a curveball. I’m sorry.
Austin Alexander: no, it’s okay. I love this. This is you know, I think something I’m seeing and it’s not just at Xylem. I think this is something I see. From a lot of different organizations in the water space.
Are evolving right now from thinking about
Issues as they come and go fix that pump problem, fix this treatment problem. You know, that those specific issues to really thinking about the entire water cycle as a system that needs to be managed.
As such, both in thinking about the, you know, the wastewater cycle all the way through to drinking water cycle and what that means for the watershed. That’s a lot harder to do, feels a lot more conceptual. But I think we have for the last century been very much, you know, piece by piece focused and now we’re reaching that point.
That’s great. We can. The best thing pump you’ve ever seen in your life or you’ll ever see, you know, but if we just do that and we don’t solve for all the other problems who cares, it has to all be connected. For us at Xylem, we’ve been investing quite a bit into our digital portfolio to say, okay, how do we tie all these pieces together to say, you can operate your entire system?
And you can think about the entire system as a whole and really make those real-time nuanced decisions based on the full network, the full system as a whole, we no longer can think about, okay. Pump station a is separate from pump station B, which is separate from this treatment plant. They all are interconnected.
And we have to think about operating those Very much together. Maybe that was an okay. Answer to your curve ball question.
Antoine Walter: Very good answer to my curve ball. I have, if I zoom out a bit, you mentioned how education is important, how we need to convey the right messages so that all of that happens. And I would see two scenes where that shell transfer. I would say the general population and we’ll come back to that.
And the other scene is maybe the political word, because you will need to have policies and regulations to enforce all of the right moves. How do you work on that part of the equation? How do you work with governments agencies and help them in tailoring the rights policies and regulations?
Austin Alexander: So I sit here in the United States and every year the American society of civil engineers, ASCE puts out a report, grading the U S infrastructure. And every year it seems like the grade goes down and water infrastructure is one of them. And then on the flip side, you hear about, okay, it’s going to take,, trillions of dollars and investment to get us back up to the quote unquote, eight grade.
And so as Xylem, I think there’s two ways that we’re engaging in particular that more policy focused audience and this applies to us, but also our approach around the world, the first is, okay, we know we have a big infrastructure problem. It’s not a us problem. This is, you know, everywhere in the world has some form of water infrastructure challenges.
We know we’ve got these challenges. We know it’s going to take a whole bunch of money to fix it. But let’s figure out how can we improve the infrastructure with a lot less money and much more efficiently. So can we use what we got better use the infrastructure we already have in place much more efficiently.
Can we make small upgrades where before may have been massive cap X investments and really educating the policymakers to say, okay, it doesn’t have to be one or the other. You don’t have to do. really terrible infrastructure or you spend a whole bunch of money, there’s an answer in between.
And that means, you know, innovating and using better and better technology. That’s the roles Xylem plays is finding that middle ground.
Antoine Walter: We have a very concrete example of rolling out such an approach.
Austin Alexander: I sure do. One of the digital solution investments we’ve made. A few years ago was into wastewater network optimization. So you have a wastewater collection system pipes pumps that are transporting sewer to the wastewater treatment plant in the U S I’ll use this example. But this is a problem.
Again, a global issue of sometimes in some communities, a storm will come through a bunch of things. It overflows the system. And we call that combined sewer overflow, where sewage basically runs out. And typically that enters into rivers streams, water bodies, where you now have polluted sewage running into water bodies. Hey, it’s gross. It’s not good for your public relations. And in some communities, our EPA environmental protection agency actually comes in. All right community. This has gotten so bad. You have to fix this. One of those communities was south bend, Indiana. Here in the U S and the EPA came and said, your sewage overflow problem is so tremendous.
You have to fix this right now. And so they did the typical design to do this is you build a massive underground storage tank and then when the storm event comes through, you fill that tank up and then you run it down. And that’s really expensive to build. They were estimating in the range of 800 to $900 million investment, but for a community where the median income is less than 30 K us dollars a year. That kind of investment. It just ain’t happening. It’s no way you can make it happen. And so we were able to apply sensors throughout their sewer network, a digital machine learning system over that network that started to learn when a storm water storm event comes through. Let’s use the infrastructure we already have.
Make a few small upgrades and you can move within that system in a much more efficient way. You know, where your weak spots are, where you could potentially have overflows. And you’re using that network much more efficiently. It saved the city, hundreds of millions of dollars, which for a community like south bend is massive.
It’s not something that is, you know, we’re waiting to be developed. This is technology that exists today that has affordability benefits for those citizens who don’t now have to pay a much bigger and bigger costs. The infrastructure, it has environmental impacts.
You don’t have that sewage overflow issue anymore. At the end of the day, it just makes sense for us to use what we have versus some big cap ex project.
Antoine Walter: So that was for the policy aspect of things. And now the other fact, which I alluded to, which is reaching to, to, to the wider, I mean the general population, the ones which are. Not stay in day out into water. And there I was so jealous because your ambassador as is Manchester city and pep Guardiola.
I don’t know how big it is in the U S but I can tell you that in Europe, if you come with pep Guardiola, it’s probably the food manager everybody wants to listen to. And he’s making a full video explaining why sustainability in water management is so important why the carbon footprint of a system is so important.
How does that move the needle? Can you measure that to me?
Austin Alexander: That’s pretty cool. Isn’t it? I think a critique. I have, you know, if for the water sector as a whole is we often end up talking to each other. We all know the water issues intimately, and we kind of end up talking to each other about them. We have to, if we want to solve both the policy changes we need, if we want to think about just the general awareness of water challenges, we have to engage the rest of the population and we have to educate.
And bring them into the conversation. If we don’t shame on us, we were able to find a mint, just such a cool opportunity to engage something. Everyone in the world knows sports. Every culture has some form of sport and the most common one is soccer. Or as you say, football,
Antoine Walter: Come on.
Austin Alexander: And so what a fabulous partnership for a organization like Manchester city that not only has of course their man city team, but they have clubs all over the world, including here. You know, we have New York city football club, it’s part of their organization as well as many others and bring the passion and creativity and you know, all of that, that comes with sports. Put that into water. And we have found both, you know, just the awareness impact, the eyeballs we’re able to reach through Manchester city. Massive compared to anything, Xylem could do on.
their own. But even the engagement right now, we’re just coming out with just ending a campaign of a walk for water.
And we had a plugging with pep campaign with , as you said, and we ran this on Strava and in the first few weeks, over a hundred thousand people got onto Strava and said, I’m going to participate in this. I’m going to go plugging which plugin. Essentially a Swedish term for going on a jog and picking up trash. And so I’m going to do this in to address water issues in my community, where I live in work. And that is huge. That’s when you get, you know, an everyday person who really just likes football to get off the couch and go make a difference in their own community related to water issues. That’s when we really start to make changes.
So, it’s been a really cool campaign and partnerships so far, and I think we’re just getting started.
Antoine Walter: You’ve mentioned how you can transfer this creativity and impact from sports into the world of water. You’ve opened with the fact that your employer is a bit different because you’re a vice president, which is working full remote. There’s the last element, which I’d like to bring here about this this impact of in this now back to the footprint of Xylem, which is your water.
Program and and the engagement and impressive engaged when you have within your team. So can you tell us maybe what watermark is and how your people act within.
Austin Alexander: watermark is probably my favorite part of my entire job in. We have. So why did mark was founded? You know, since the beginning of Xylem and it’s our corporate social responsibility program through that, we have philanthropic partners. We have six NGO partners include organizations like UNICEF AmeriCares, mercy Corps, planet water to others that we, you know, not only provide philanthropic donations to, we also partner with.
With our employees and that’s often activities reaching those in the most underserved communities of the world, providing access to clean water and sanitation. Particularly, we also have our employee volunteerism as part of that. And last year we reached nearly 80% of Xylem employees went out into their communities and volunteered. And we think about that. We have nearly 17,000 employees around the world, and that was everybody from our CEO, Patrick Decker to an assembler on the factory line. And everyone in between was going out and volunteering. And that’s pretty powerful. And those volunteer activities include everything from.
Simply going out, picking up trash, something easy like that, going into school, speaking to students building water towers in communities that need access to clean water. All of those things contributed and it all, again, it goes back to something that I think is so unique to the water sector. People don’t come to water, they don’t come to Xylem.
Just because it’s a great. Or maybe they do, but the reason they stay is because they get really passionate about making a difference and belonging to a company that cares about their community And cares about making a difference. That’s not just silent, but it sure is something that we pride ourselves on.
Antoine Walter: And from all these various aspects we’ve covered in that deep dive, do you have like a north star metric, which you will be looking at in 2025 or 2030, and which will tell you we did it, or even did something greater than we expected, but what is that single one, if it’s to keep only one.
Austin Alexander: Well, we do have our 2025 sustainability goals that are my guiding light. And I think one of them, one of the many that are so equally important is to provide clean water and sanitation to 20 million people living and what we would call the base of the economic pyramid those most traditionally underserved communities.
And if we can reach that goal by 2025, and I think we will with our partners, nonprofits and other. That’s a pretty big impact, but it’s also just a drop in the bucket. And so while that’s one.
of many measures that I, and my team are held accountable to delivering on, there’s also, you know, getting to 95% of employees volunteering.
We’re at 80, we got to get to 95. sustainability is not something that you can get to the end of the road and say we did it, or we’ve accomplished it. It really is a journey and it, we get to 2025 and let’s say we get there. We accomplish that goal. Well, we’ll have another goal in place for 2030 and for 2035. And this will continue on.
We will always have ways to improve both for ourselves. And then for the communities we live in.
Antoine Walter: Well, that makes for a awesome some conclusion for the deep dive too. So thanks a lot. If that’s fine with you, I propose you to switch to the rapid fire question.
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Rapid fire questions:
Austin Alexander: Okay.
Antoine Walter: So in that last section, I tried to keep the questions short and your duty is to keep the answers short, but I’m never cutting the microphone.
My first question is what is the most exciting project you’ve been working on?
Austin Alexander: Oh, it’s so hard. Cause there’s so many good. I am very excited about our role in the waters, race to zero and moving the entire water sector to net zero greenhouse gas.
Antoine Walter: Can you name one thing that you’ve learned the hard way?
Austin Alexander: I think trust the people around you. If you have really good people around you, trust them to do a really good job and they.
Antoine Walter: Is there something you’re doing today in your job that you will not be doing?
Austin Alexander: I hope we find a more efficient way to do emails. I think, you know, whether this is the role of sustainability, I would love to get to a point where my, this role is obsolete because it’s just so integrated in everybody’s day job that you shouldn’t need somebody in that role. I don’t know if that will come to fruition, but I’d love for my job to go away.
Don’t tell my boss that, but I’ll.
Antoine Walter: I get the feeling, you know, in France, we just had political elections and it was a bit stair the message. That’s the a then the green and the ecological people were saying it would be good that we disappear, that everybody just embodies that in their program. But not that they want to talk politics on the microphone, but it sounds like something which, which has the same approach of it.
It’s just become a best practice. And I close my own sidetrack. Sorry for that. What is the trend to watch out for in the water sector?
Austin Alexander: I think talent. This is not new news, but it’s an aging workforce. And in a lot of geographies, it’s not necessarily represents the diverse communities in which water serves, which is everyone. And I think getting a diverse set of talent is going to be really important.
Antoine Walter: I keep mentioning that’s stupid statistics. But we have 83% of men in that industry. And I’m pretty sure we would have problem that planet if we were really 83% of men. So just that it’s not very representative, but again, I’m not reset tracking you here. It’s just, I think these kinds of thing where I wish I’d have an awareness on that.
If you want a word political leader, what would be your first action to influence the fate of the words? What are challenges?
Austin Alexander: This is gonna probably sound like a little bit of a cop out, but every single student in the entire world needs to know about water challenges?
And needs to be educated on them. If you start there, you educate people when you know better, you do better. And oftentimes water is one of the last things, you know, that we really think about in all the ways it impacts our economy.
It impacts our health. We need to eat, you know, even more education and access to education on water. There’s a whole other list of things I would do, but maybe that’s where I would start.
Antoine Walter: And so maybe to teach, to help educate people. I did more, very cool guests like you on that microphone. So who would you recommend me to, to invite you?
Austin Alexander: Ah, there’s so many that’s one great thing about what. We have no shortage for very cool people. Someone I’ve really learned to look up to over the last year, particularly in this race to zero is Kate lamb with CDP. And she leads their water work and she is fabulous articulate. And most importantly, just down to earth and easy to talk.
Antoine Walter: Well, thanks for the recommendation. Two last closing questions. One is we’re recording all of that 10 days before the award ceremony at the global water summits. Do you have a hint? Are you winning that award?
Austin Alexander: My fingers are crossed but we’re just really happy to be on the list And means we’re doing something right. And we’re just really happy that there is the award because it means sector is really paying attention to.
Antoine Walter: And my last question here is if anybody would like to follow up with you after that conversation, where should I redirect them?
Austin Alexander: They can email me. It’s Austin dot firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m also on LinkedIn and Twitter. So, feel free to find me on there.
Antoine Walter: As always to the links will be in the show notes. So have a look there and yeah, Austin, it’s been a pleasure. Thanks a lot. And talk to you very soon in Madrid at the time where that episode comes out, we will be together on a scene in the, in Madrid. So. Yeah, I’m looking forward to having that panel conversation with you there as well.
And thanks for everything you shared today.
Austin Alexander: Well, thank you. I really appreciate the opportunity to talk about Xylem. And