At the beginning of 2020, few of us could possibly imagine what would come as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. All of Europe, including Czechia, has been paralyzed by states of emergency, lock-downs, restrictions of production and business activities as well as sad stories of those who died due to the disease. At the same time, we can witness an unprecedented show of solidarity and mutual help.
During these unsettling times, ČEZ, as a provider of critical state infrastructure, has the main task of ensuring the smooth operation of generation and distribution of electricity and heat. We too, however, felt that this was not enough. The ČEZ Foundation therefore immediately established a Crisis Help fund. Within a few days, it paid more than CZK 30 million to 651 projects of non-government organizations, cities, and municipalities in order to implement measures aiming at mitigation of consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Assistance was directed primarily to people at the front line: those helping people in enclosed areas, volunteers helping seniors and disabled people with shopping, organizations producing face masks. Our employees voluntarily sewed thousands of face masks and printed hundreds of shields for medical professionals in the regions. We also donated hundreds of liters of hand sanitizer produced by our colleagues in power-plant laboratories. We allowed customers in difficult financial situations to defer energy payments. By doing this, we have again verified that making donations and helping others are something quite natural for us and that our processes are set in such a way that they allow a fast response to critical situations.
At the same time, however, we have to devote full attention to problems we have been facing for a long time. There is no doubt that 2019 was a year of climate. The topic of climate changes and efforts to slow them down resonated across continents. Particularly in Europe, it culminated in December with approving an ambitious agreement, the European Green Deal. Although the energy sector started its path to greener operation a few years ago and has been going through major changes since then, the pace of introduction of various measures will have to be accelerated and other revolutionary changes are ahead of us.
CEZ Group has been paying attention to the gradual mitigation of effects of its operations on the climate for a long time. Its undertaking to achieve carbon neutrality from generation of electricity by 2050 was announced already in 2015. Since then, we have been decreasing the emission intensity of our production. Over the last three years, specific emissions from our facilities decreased by 20%. By 2040, we expect a decrease by a further 72%. We see the protection of the climate as one of our priorities.
Our company, however, considers the world to be much more complex. We understand that climate action is an important part of the world’s sustainable development, but still only one of multiple parts. Therefore, we thoroughly analyze all of our activities from the viewpoint of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (the SDGs). As one of 14 Czech companies, we also participated in the global SDG Challenge 2019. In total, we identified 14 of 17 goals to which we can actually contribute. At the same time, we also carried out a stakeholder dialog in accordance with international standards, specifically on the topic of CEZ Group‘s sustainable development. Thanks to that, we have obtained a better understanding of areas which are perceived as being crucial in relation to our company.
It is always very difficult to select from the large number of activities performed in 2019 those that are most significant. I am proud of all our successes, however small they may be. If I should name just some of them, I cannot omit the area of water management. For the energy sector, water is an absolutely critical raw material and also a liquid that is getting more and more precious. We have to handle it in the most efficient manner. We gradually decrease consumption of surface water as well as of drinking water. We make an effort to recycle water in our production to the maximum level. At the same time, we upgrade our hydroelectric power plants so that they can generate more electricity from the same amount of water.
Protection of customers is another topic I would like to mention. ČEZ has been pointing out unfair practices of some players in the energy sector for a long time. It has been also supporting the adoption of legislation protecting senior citizens in particular.
I would also like to highlight our effort to positively contribute to our local communities. Our support is not limited to financial assistance only, although it is very important too. In my opinion, a helpful attitude in daily interaction like between good neighbors is something worth mentioning too. Our firefighting units help in areas surrounding our power plants, our physicians have opened the door of their offices for citizens of neighboring municipalities, our employees buy products of local sheltered workshops at regular charity markets. We organize cultural and family events in our facilities and information centers. I would say that thanks to it we have become an inseparable part of life in regions.
I hope that you find reading our report inspirational.
Member of the Board of Directors
Chief Administrative Officer
CEZ Group Sustainability Leader