Interviews - January 5, 2023
The Solar Impulse Foundation’s Expert Community is essential to the attribution of the Efficient Solution Label to Solutions and the global adoption of profitable and clean technologies. We are privileged to collaborate with Experts from all over the world with prestigious careers in research, engineering and consulting.
Every month, we reward one of our Experts whose work and commitment to helping label sustainable and profitable Solutions has particularly impressed us. We are happy to announce Jose Vega as the Expert of January!
Since joining the Expert Community in 2019, Jose has completed 25 assessments and been recognized among the 20 best-performing Experts in both the 2021 and 2022 Awards. A massive thank you to Jose for his devotion and outstanding work!
Could you briefly introduce yourself and outline your background for us?
I was born in La Coruña, Spain, and studied in Santiago de Compostela, where I completed a Bachelor's and a Master's degree in Chemistry. Following this, I continued my education at the University of Arkansas (USA) where I graduated with a Master's and a PhD in Chemical Engineering. Soon after that, I joined Procter & Gamble at the European Technical Centre in Belgium as a Process Development Engineer for the Fabric Care business unit. Over the years, I took on several assignments in Brussels and Cincinnati (P&G Headquarters) working on many of the products we use every day such as Ariel/Tide, Lenor/Downy, Fairy/Dawn, etc. as well as in the Corporate Division focusing on process design areas to manufacture these products. After retiring from P&G, I have been teaching and consulting where I can add value with my background and scientific expertise.
What is your area of expertise and profession?
For over 30 years, I have worked in the FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) industry first as an R&D technologist and later in managerial roles. My career has been highly focused on developing new products, prototyping them in pilot plant units and scaling them up to commercial manufacturing processes. While at P&G, in the Fabric and Home Care business unit, we developed new products we use for our everyday care of clothing and cleaning of homes. Since I retired, I have expanded into other areas of consumer goods. Due to the frequent use of these products, they have a large impact on the environment and an important part of my work today is revising these products and their production processes to improve their sustainability.
From a sustainability perspective, what are some of the radical shifts that you have seen while working in R&D for P&G for 29 years?
P&G is a company that deeply cares about the quality of the lives of the consumers that buy their products. The company is always striving to innovate and improve our everyday life in all their business domains. Lately, P&G has also embraced strong care for the impact of their products on the environment, to ensure we continue to enjoy this quality of life in the future. It was not always this way in P&G, where value was the main driver of decisions. However, something changed during the past decade that enhanced the focus and attention to measuring and reducing environmental impact. Very much how P&G approaches everything, once this was a key driver of decisions, it has made and continues to make fast progress, bringing together better products with better environmental profiles. For example, before retiring, I was fortunate to participate in the initial effort to develop laundry products that allow consumers to wash in cold water, given that the main CO2 footprint in doing laundry is caused by the heating of the washing water. Another example is the leadership the company is demonstrating in reducing the amount of water we waste in our everyday life via the 50L Home Coalition initiative. There are a few solutions from P&G that have already been awarded the SIF label. It is excellent to see that not only P&G, but many other companies in the FMCG industry are working hard towards reducing the everyday footprint of their products and striving for sustainable solutions.
What led you to create your consulting company JVegaSolutions in February 2020?
When I retired from P&G after nearly 30 years, I was not ready to "hang up the gloves". I have thoroughly enjoyed my professional career and I thought I could add value to other enterprises. After so many years of working in the development of new products, I have learned how to navigate the complex world of corporate projects and their inextricable connection to the changing world around us. Most of the products that you can buy today in supermarkets did not exist 20 years ago and those older than that have been substantially redesigned.
Establishing my own company has enabled me to make my connections with clients easier and allowed me to focus my efforts in the areas that I find most rewarding and where I feel I can be most valuable. I must say that I have been fortunate to find places where I believe I am being of help towards achieving new objectives.
What aspect of your work is the most rewarding?
I thoroughly enjoy working with people, and the new world of virtual connections has really arrived at the right time for me! My consulting activities are carried out inside teams where I interact very regularly mostly via virtual calls, with some ad-hoc personal visits when required. In this context, I also find a lot of personal reward in volunteering to teach some of what I have learned when working in the industry to students or at the companies with which I collaborate. There are so many things I wished I knew when I started my career that I feel I must try to pass them on to those I can. An important part of my work with these companies and with the Solar Impulse Foundation is related to creating or supporting the development of solutions that help reduce the human impact on the environment. This is a win-win situation for me!
You joined the Solar Impulse Foundation back in 2019. Why did you decide to join the Expert Community?
We all must take a part in the daunting issues we will face in the next few years; as they say: "if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem". In my case, I do my best as an individual and consumer to reduce my footprint in my everyday life, but I also have my professional background that perhaps can be of added value to this end.
I believe in the mission of the Solar Impulse Foundation as a means to make progress. We are together supporting a set of technology solutions to replace older ones that are both economically more attractive as well as sustainable. Accelerating the rollout of these solutions as the Solar Impulse Foundation is doing, will have an important impact on the challenge we all face. If I can help in any way, I am definitely in!
What are your hopes for the Labeled Solutions, and the Solar Impulse Foundation in general?
My best hopes are that the Labeled Solutions are adopted as quickly as possible all over the world. We are now reaching a point where technology is not the obstacle anymore and it is the political will to act that needs to be accelerated. Just as companies like P&G and many others, driven by consumer sentiment and a genuine sense of responsibility, are already working hard to become net zero greenhouse gas emitters, I would love to see decisions by municipalities or at the national level (from our tax revenues) being assessed for environmental impact before being approved. The ambassador role of the SIF with political entities is critical to unlocking the progress we need.
Anything else you would like to share with our readers?
When we retire from a long professional career, we have a few years ahead of us where we are still very capable and yet not many opportunities exist for retirees, especially in Europe. As a generation that has enjoyed the benefits of industrialization with the resulting impact on the environment, we have a duty toward the next generation. We have overused the natural world for our comfort and well-being and we are now passing a problem to our children without any remorse? We tend to think that mostly the young are those who should be concerned about the environment, but I believe many of us, older people, are too. Is there a role that we could envision for our generation of aged professionals, perhaps as ambassadors in the communities where we live? Is there a way to engage the minds of retirees in an organized manner for the environmental cause?