Interviews - February 4, 2021
Each month we recognise the efforts of one of our Solar Impulse Experts. The Expert Community plays a vital role in the Foundation by assessing the solutions seeking the Solar Impulse Efficient Solution Label. The Expert Community is made up of over 360 Experts from across the world, bringing expertise from a diverse range of fields including science, engineering, research, industry, business and much more.
We're delighted to announce that the Expert of the Month award for January goes to Guillaume Féry! Since joining as an Expert, Guillaume has helped to label over 10 clean and profitable Solutions! A big thank you to Guillaume for his hard work and dedication in the Expert role.
Please tell us a little about yourself!
Guillame: Hi, I am a French national from Nancy in the east of France. I have lived in the Indian Ocean (Ile de la Réunion), Paris and London. Myself and our three boys landed in Lausanne back in 2017 when my wife was relocated to Vevey. My academic background is in agriculture. I then graduated with a Masters in Drinking water and sanitation (ENGEES). Later in my career, I went back to university to take a degree in Innovation Management (Master PIC).
Could you tell us about your area of expertise and your professional work?
I have been working in the areas of water resource management, sustainability and innovation for 20 years. I started as a sustainability consultant and then held technical roles in water utilities, Over the past years, my focus was on the implementation of new technologies to invent new services and help tackle climate change (remote sensing, bio sensors, big data analytics, etc.). I have a keen interest in adoption and innovative operating models. Today, I am an independent consultant in the fields of the modernisation of utilities (electricity and water). I help international institutions and private companies plan, develop and manage sustainable water and sanitation services. Current work includes digitalisation in Morocco and sustainable water asset management in Lesotho.
You’ve worked on sustainability issues for over 20 years. How has the approach to sustainability in business and industry changed over this time?
What a journey! Back in the early 2000s, I remember endless board meetings where, as a young consultant, I spent just hours trying to explain what sustainability was. People would hear “cost”, “constraints”, or regulation. Now, managers and decision makers have shifted their mind and I feel they clearly see not only the imperative but also the opportunities in new approaches. However, sometimes, some still struggle with prioritisation or ambition when it comes to acting and reinventing their business models, or just acquiring the right skills and tools to focus on the initiatives with the biggest impact.
What is the most promising or exciting area of your professional focus which could help the transition to clean energy and sustainability?
At the moment, I am very much on the digital side of things. It is a very exciting topic as it embraces a wide range of business areas and stakeholders. At the same time, it is much more than just technical components but rather people and organisational dimensions. That makes the subject stimulating as you always need to manage expectations, help people adapt and understand complex things (software, hardware, data, processes) and also explain the impacts and benefits in simple terms.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?
People. In my daily work, I am lucky enough to connect with a variety of stakeholders, from multiple background, skillset, responsibilities and seniority. We work together and share our knowledge to solve problems, invent and make things work – sometimes in a different way. I love to learn from others. I am not a blue-sky thinker and there is nothing more like a project in real life that makes me happy. Even small ones. Sometimes, (starting) small is beautiful. Sustainability and green transition bit by bit with a positive and optimistic mindset!
You joined the Solar Impulse Foundation back in 2019. Why did you decide to join the Expert Community?
Living in Lausanne makes an obvious connection with the Solar Impulse project. Moreover, I read the book “Objectif Soleil” and was impressed by the vision, the teamwork and the determination of André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard. I wanted to give back and share my knowledge and experience on topics related to SDGs 6, 7, 9 and 11. And I really loved the positioning of the #1000Solutions initiative, aiming at promoting clean and profitable solutions with a positive impact on the environment and quality of life. My feeling was I could bring my rich and diverse experience to help assess solutions.
What does being part of the Solar Impulse Foundation mean to you?
Interacting with the passionate and supportive SIF team is a highly rewarding experience! Being part of the community of Experts is an incredible source of connections, ideas and inspiring discussions. I remember an intense session back in early 2020 when we collectively assessed dozens of projects during the Change Now Exhibition in Paris. It was a memorable experience to meet the community and the staff in person as well as living our values together. And some of the experts became my friends and we now connect regularly.
What are your hopes for the labelled Solutions, and the mission of the Solar Impulse Foundation more widely?
Competition is tough and there are so many projects out there to tackle climate change! It can be difficult to stand out of the crowd. I believe that the professionalism and the robust methodology developed by the SIF will help identify the right, credible and impactful solutions. With the #1000Solutions initiative, I love the idea of creating a “toolbox” with the components to help fix the planet and address the hot topics. I am happy to dedicate some time to support bright innovators on their entrepreneurial journey.
To find out more about the Expert Community, see here.