The new era of ECO ENTREPRENEURS

BY Becky ON August 26, 2014.

Two entrepreneurs are taking the measurement of carbon footprints to new levels.

What’s measured can be managed and what’s managed can be reduced, so say Swiss-based company Quantis, one of the leading companies in the field of quantitative environmental assessment. They have put life-cycle assessments (LCA), used to measure carbon footprints, at the heart of their business, which, in eight short years, has soared to new heights.

Quantis was founded in 2006 as a spin-off of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL). How has it evolved over the past eight years?

Damien Friot/Julien Boucher: In the beginning, monitoring environmental footprints was quite rare outside of academia, so our objective was to build a loose network of experts and to diffuse our scientific knowledge as widely as possible. After a few years, it became clear that a new trend was emerging. The publication of ISO 14040 and ISO 14044 provided the first framework for the environmental comparison of products (and communication of environmental claims) and helped raise the credibility of LCA-generated metrics.

Now, due to growing environmental awareness, the focus is changing to simple metrics. Corporations are being asked to consistently and continuously assess, improve and communicate the environmental scores of their products.

You’ve been participating in standards for over a decade. What have you learned over the past few years ?

We are convinced that standards play an important role for spreading the use of LCA while ensuring robustness and credibility of the calculated metrics. Most of Quantis’ associates participate in different standards developments, including the recent ISO standards on water footprint (ISO 14046) and ecodesign (ISO 14006).

When companies invest in LCA, how do you make sure their money is not wasted ?

Our experience and research shows that neither environmental management systems nor LCAs will guarantee environmental improvements, but it is an important step.

The barriers that businesses face relate to business strategy, corporate structure, decision-making processes, information management, corporate culture and employee performance management. Today, we are at a crossroads. Coming from end-of-pipe solutions in the 1970s to environmental management systems in the 1990s, and further to environmental information systems in the years 2000, we now need to engage in a new vision in order to move from assessment to action