October 04th 2022

Climate and energy crisis as an opportunity? - Success factors for the future.

As part of the MCI Alumni & Friends lecture series, MCI | Entrepreneurial School® was pleased to welcome Martin Hagleitner, CEO of Austria Email AG & Group Managing Director Groupe Atlantic DACH Region.



Martin Hagleitner, CEO of Austria Email AG & Group Managing Director Groupe Atlantic DACH Region explains why rapid action matters.

Since 2010, Martin Hagleitner has been CEO of Austria Email - as an Austrian company one of the leading European manufacturers of high-quality water heaters and the only storage tank manufacturer with its own development and production of future-oriented fleece insulation for large and buffer storage tanks. And Hagleitner knows: in multiple crises it is not easy to recognize opportunities.

Quo vadis, global economy?

One thing is clear: things have to change urgently. Man-made global warming and climate change are here and partly irreversible. The economy and the financial world have long since addressed the issue, and calculated scenarios paint a catastrophic future: by 2050, economic power is threatened by a loss of 18% due to climate change, in some emerging countries even up to 40%.

High time, then, to take the threat to the economy and the capital market seriously. The fact that climate policy has now also become industrial and economic policy is already a reality in many companies, which are trying all the harder to be ESG-compliant and green without falling into the greenwashing trap. "Something is made into a new hype that should have been self-evident long ago," says Martin Hagleitner and criticizes taking the statistical data of a supposedly manageable global warming of 1.5 - 2°C lightly. This is not a small matter, he says, because "anyone who has fallen ill, especially in the two pandemic years, knows the difference between 36.5 and 38°C!"

Slow energy transition

The fact that energy in Austria currently still comes from about 70% fossil fuels clearly shows how urgent a major transformation really is. Thus, several approaches that have simply not been thought through to the end make the big sentence "We need an energy turnaround" actually a half-hearted thing: for an urgently needed large-scale conversion to photovoltaics, solar and wind energy, there is lack of not only infrastructure, but also appropriate regional planning and unified standards and support in the individual federal states.

And the fact that district heating is not so "green" either, because 60-70% of the energy for it is generated with gas, must be clear, especially in the current uncertain situation and the dependence on Russian gas supplies, in other words, "the district heating fairy tale is in danger of bursting!"

Decarbonization as a feasible opportunity

Hagleitner points out that a rapidly advancing decarbonization could open up a market potential of 12,000 billion US dollars, according to McKinsey, and thus create massive growth opportunities for transportation, buildings, electricity, water and consumer goods. Martin Hagleitner sees potential especially for buildings, which account for about 40% of energy consumption and about 30% of emissions in Austria. After all, around 90% of the energy consumed in buildings is for hot water and heating. In order to be able to achieve the self-set climate targets at all, given the massive underinvestment in Europe to date, the renovation rate, which is currently around 1%, would have to be tripled. A transformation of enormous proportions.

From Challenge to Change

So what might the success factors for a decarbonized future be? Martin Hagleitner is convinced that a mindset reset is required, especially in the approach to the existing problems: away from fighting the symptoms and toward tackling the causes. Alternatives must be secured for the future, he says, so that a step-by-step transformation can be successful: "Every decision we make should serve multiple goals", and that requires broader systems thinking and European alliances.

With adapted leadership and communication, the most important messages could finally reach the consumer to cause a change in thinking habits and enable small first steps - such as reducing the heating temperature by 1°C, which would bring savings of 6%. "For whom this is a loss of comfort, is suffering at a very high level."