Interviews - February 3, 2022
Each month we focus in on one member of our Expert Community, a group of independent Experts who play a crucial role in assessing Solutions seeking the Efficient Solution Label. Experts assess Solutions based on five key criteria to decide whether they can be awarded the Label.
We're happy to announce that February's Expert of the Month is Nadja Lavanga! Nadja joined the Expert Community in 2019, and has helped to award the Label to over 10 Solutions since joining as an Expert. Nadja has expertise in climate and water protection, sustainable supply chains, and environmental management and risk assessment in industry.
Please tell us a little about yourself!
Nadja: I am from Switzerland and completed my studies at ETH Zurich in Earth Sciences (BSc) and Environmental Sciences (MSc). Through my self-organised travels which focus on getting to know the everyday life in the country I visit, I have a wide horizon on sustainability issues worldwide.
During my education I had the opportunity to follow one of Bertrand Piccard’s inspiring presentations at the closing speech of a young talent forum. Here, I understood everyone can contribute to a future we want to live in. And I became aware that we must overcome our “problem thinking” attitude and grow into “solution thinking”. When the Solar Impulse Foundation was looking for Experts, it was clear to me immediately that I wanted to contribute with my expertise in sustainability topics.
Please tell us more about your area of expertise and profession.
Since 2014 I have worked as an environmental consultant. At Arcadis Schweiz AG I was in chemical safety and product stewardship. I consulted companies from various industries, distributers and the Swiss administration and I had the technical lead for a team in a REACH registration program. Since 2019 I've been working at Intep - Integrale Planung GmbH in the environmental and resource management team, where I’m dedicated to ecological assessments, consulting and the development of new consulting services.
My main areas of expertise around sustainability are environmental management, environmental risk assessment, climate change assessment and mitigation, natural and anthropogenic resource cycles, resource efficiency, water protection and management, life cycle assessment, circular economy solutions and sustainable business models.
You are a Senior Consultant at Intep. What does your role entail, and what sustainability themes do you work on?
Intep is an interdisciplinary consulting and applied research company for environment, economy and society. I am mainly working on sustainability and resource efficiency for organisations and I am leading the development of new consulting services related to circular economy.
For example, I support international companies and SMEs in the identification of their environmental impact and encourage them for sustainable-innovative solutions. I’m using and developing methods that assist organisations in measuring and assessing their potential and progress in their journey to a circular organisation within the planetary boundaries. Also, I’m an expert in the mirror committee ISO TC 323 where I give inputs in the development process of the world’s first global standards on circular economy.
What are some of the exciting projects or themes that you have worked on, at the moment or in the past?
An exciting project was the development of a reuse concept for a huge building. Thereby we assessed the feasibility as well as the ecological and economic potential of reuse for building materials (e.g. bricks, doors, grids etc), technical equipment as well as tenant specific equipment. The project showed large potentials are awaiting to be unlocked.
My favourite projects are sustainability consulting during the early product or service development phase or in setting companies’ sustainability strategies. This is exactly where the biggest levers lie. Decisions on business model, processes, materials, shape and function all predefine compatibility with a circular economy, the life cycle paths (ideally more than one cycle) and the negative as well as positive effects on sustainability.
In your time working in sustainability consulting, how have you seen companies’ approaches to sustainability change?
A traditional driver for sustainability is regulation. Regulation will always play a key role as it sets the common framework where companies can operate in.
New factors that are becoming important are a) clients, suppliers, shareholders and employees sensitised for sustainability and b) digitalisation which allows fast and direct feedback on individual products or services. Both make the demand for sustainable products and corporate responsibility tangible.
More and more companies recognise sustainability as a competitive advantage and an opportunity for innovation. Especially, founders today often have an intrinsic aim for sustainability and then start a business providing a solution to an environmental or social challenge.
You’ve been an Expert since 2019, assessing 14 Solutions! What kinds of Solutions have you assessed, and which stand out as the most impactful?
Typically, the Solutions are very innovative and demonstrate that better alternatives are already there and provide interesting business models. Among the Solutions I have assessed are:
Technical innovations for monitoring or prevention of greenhouse gas emissions
Cleantech solutions that prevent waste in production
Platforms for new collaboration and making supply chains transparent, enabling disruptive innovation in bio-manufacturing, or enabling re-use and recycling
Products that use waste as a resource or that replace hazardous materials
What are your hopes for the Labeled Solutions, and the Solar Impulse Foundation more widely?
The Solar Impulse Foundation gives a voice to sustainable and efficient Solutions and introduces them to investors. I am confident this gives a large 'impulse' to the Solutions and inspires other companies.
The Solar Impulse Foundation follows a unique approach in collecting worldwide Solutions and using them for dialogue with governments and many other stakeholders. I hope that this awareness-raising strengthens national and international sustainability campaigns and that regulations (not only environmental!) are adapted to encourage sustainable business and innovation.
Find out more about becoming an Expert.