ALICIA VALCARCE

Mexico 2021 | ECONOMY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Alicia Valcarce, Director of Foundation Iberdrola, about the goals of the foundation, R&D, and aims for 2021.

What are the goals of the foundation?

The foundation was established in 2017 due to the necessity to build a protocol for social projects. Iberdrola has been present in Mexico for the last 20 years, and in that time we have been involved in social programs. Social corporate responsibility divisions are new for many Mexican companies, and the foundation was created to institutionalize our extensive experience in social programs. There are four key areas in which the foundation works: education areas; investigation; climate change; and improving the ecosystems in Mexico. We have another focus on art and culture in Mexico and another area in social support. In social support, we gather all our actions for communities and all programs to support the communities in which we operate. We are closely aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals, as well.

What are your goals for the Luces de Esperanza program, and how has the foundation evolved in the states of San Luis Potosí and Oaxaca?

Luces de Esperanza is one of our priority projects. The project started with a company called Ilumexico, a Mexican start-up. The goal is to use the power of the sun through solar panels for rural communities, and this program has been extremely successful and has enjoyed wide-spread acceptance in the communities. The first stage started in the municipality of Tamazunchale, and we installed 50 units in homes, schools, community centers, and health centers. We not only provided electricity to families, but also brought electricity to health centers that did not have them. We started that project in that area with five-year goal. In Oaxaca, we have another five-year goal to install solar panels. In this project, we want to support schools, health centers, and community centers. It is not enough to provide electricity in homes; it is also important to have freezers in hospitals to store the vaccines safely.

How does the foundation improve communication between Iberdrola and the local communities?

We cannot implement a project without understanding their needs. To achieve that, we work closely with our operative teams in communities because they understand best the problems that they face. We are constantly in touch with the local authorities to understand them and the challenges that they face. The projects that Iberdrola develops in these regions are long term, so we work closely with the local authorities and communities to adapt and customize our projects to meet what they need.

Can you elaborate on your work in research and development?

We have another project that has to be completed within five years, which is a STEM program. We seek to get more young people interested in these areas. These are the best-paid jobs, where there are more opportunities. We have launched that project in Oaxaca, and we are particularly focusing on women in this project to close the gender gap and support more women studying these degrees. For this program, we have a partnership with the Institute of Renewable Energy of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and the Universidad Tecnológica de los Valles Centrales de Oaxaca. With them, we have been able to provide training for teachers in the local schools. Some of the local teachers were not aware of the benefits that these STEM areas can bring to students. In addition, we launched a program of student grants to ensure they continue with their studies. This is an offer of 100 student grants during the next five years.

What are some of your programs for 2021?

We have another program in the area of Oaxaca as we are heavily focused on the Southeastern region in Mexico. The program is called Construir para Educar. The region is still experiencing the aftereffects of the 2017 earthquake, and more than 4,000 schools in Oaxaca still require some sort of support in terms of reconstruction. Our goal was to rebuild several schools in five years. To achieve that, we are working with the local authorities to improve the educational infrastructure in the area. The goal of this project is to benefit 10,000 students to ensure they continue with their studies.

Are you collaborating with other private companies in the regions?

Not for this project. We have worked with local and federal authorities. This is how we have always worked, though we are always open to collaboration. We are members of different chambers in an attempt to find partners; this is really important for us.

How did the pandemic affect you?

The technological transformation has been massive. Most of our programs are done in-person with the communities, and we had to reinvent that and do them digitally. Many of the procedures in the company are being done digitally, for example. We have also implemented measures to provide gloves, masks, and other equipment to doctors in the regions. On top of this. we also implemented a program to distribute disinfecting gel and other equipment in communities. We have also delivered food items and cleaning products. Our company donated many supplies and goods to these communities in response to COVID-19.