Ignite Talks unwraps net-zero pledges with 17,000 industrial leaders

Oyvind Eriksen Ignite Talks keynote

In one of the first in-person industry events since COVID-19, international leaders from across asset-heavy industries took to the stage in Oslo, Norway, on Sept. 21, to present how they are working toward net zero or net negative and the investments they’re making in technology, ESG solutions, and workforce transformation. Set to a backdrop of industrial images juxtaposed with glimpses of majestic nature, the industrial technology and digitalization conference provided a blunt reminder of the world that these net-zero pledges are trying to protect. 

[Editor’s note: All of these sessions, plus dozens of other Ignite Talks, are available on-demand now.]

Oyvind Eriksen Ignite Talks 2021

First on stage was Aker CEO and Cognite Chair Øvyind Eriksen, who opened with a rallying cry:

“You’ve made the [net-zero] pledge, but there are only 10,000 days to go,” Eriksen said. “It’s time to discuss the hard issues about what it will take. He added that addressing the challenges “head-on” is what Ignite is all about. In its fourth iteration, Ignite Talks brought together more than 100 speakers and 17,000 attendees—by far the most to date. 

Cognite CEO John Markus Lervik brought technology into the discussion:

“While there is no silver bullet to transformation of the world’s industries, it is becoming clear that software is a crucial ingredient,” Lervik said. “Indeed, we can rephrase Marc Andreessen’s famous phrase from 2011 from ‘software is eating the world’ to ‘software will be saving the world.’ Without data and software we will not be able to sustainably transform the world’s industries in the short time span we have available.”

Joining the stage virtually from Denmark, Ørsted CEO Mads Nipper (pictured above left) had one of the more memorable quotes of the day, though it was not his own originally:

“A little less conversation, a little more action, please,” Nipper said, quoting Elvis Presley. He added, “Without smart, digital, data-driven solutions, we can’t make progress. We must embrace a data- and digital-driven approach, or we won’t meet our targets.”

Things got positive when leaders from Microsoft, Accenture, and Ørsted reflected on how the pandemic has impacted them. Accenture’s CEO Julie Sweet summed it up well:

“If there’s a silver lining to the pandemic, it’s that it has required companies to accelerate their digital transformations,” Sweet said. “We can use the technology to achieve our goals around sustainability much faster than pre-pandemic. This is a huge opportunity, and we should all take it.”

Things got real when Statnett CEO Hilde Tonne talked about the company’s own road to net zero:

“Our purpose is all about sustainability,” Tonne said, pictured above center right with the CEO of Petoro, Kristin Kragseth, and the CEO of Aker Horizons, Kristian Røkke. “It’s about electrifying society… and our own work on sustainability internally is about minimizing our impact on nature. We still have challenges on the way.”

The road to decarbonization was made clear by Statkraft CEO Christian Rynning-Tønnesen:

“The main way of getting emissions down is to introduce as much renewables as possible,” said Rynning-Tønnesen, above with Aker Carbon Capture CEO Valborg Lundegaard, Equinor EVP Carri Lockhart, and Cognite SVP Paula Doyle. “That’s the dominant factor. But we do need carbon capture as well—both on biofuel plants, cement industry, and other applications. But the dominant part is renewables.”

Aker BP CEO Karl Johnny Hersvik offered a reality check for industrial companies now scaling up digitalization work:

“You are going to fail massively and spectacularly [in your digital transformations],” Hersvik said. “But it’s a good idea to celebrate failures… and use those events not to go back but to go forward.”

Watch all of these sessions along with dozens of other Ignite Talks on-demand.

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