Science at the bedside of the planet

Climate change, loss of biodiversity, exploitation of non-renewable resources, growing inequalities: there is no doubt within the scientific community about the urgent need to act. The general public is also increasingly aware of the importance of sustainable development, and expects governments and companies to do their part according to their impacts, their means and therefore their capacity to contribute. act in line with their responsibility for today’s and tomorrow’s society.

Going beyond CSR: the “sustainable by design” approach

To do sustainable development, you have to go beyond the immediate desire to do marketing by constantly promoting the term “Durability” – or “Sustainability”. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) cannot focus solely on creating a “feel good” feeling for customers and staff. Planting trees to aim for “carbon neutrality” is not only missing the point, but it is above all marketing and greenwashing. Carbon neutrality should not be done at the company level, but at the State level in order to achieve it on a planetary scale. The motivations come mainly from the regulator and prices, and for the moment the price of pollution is not included in the price of resources purchased by companies. They must then ask themselves the question: what is happening elsewhere in the world? I am convinced that companies must concentrate on the heart of their business, attack their cause, their “raison d’être”, and take into account all the externalities linked to their activities in order to develop both their vision and strategy.

Carbon neutrality should not be done at the company level, but at the State level in order to achieve it on a planetary scale.

Christina Ehlert,&nbsp sustainability officer,&nbsp Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (List)

Sustainable design – or “sustainable by design” also promoted by List – is an approach that aims to integrate environmental, economic and social aspects very early in the design process of a product in order to improve its performance in terms of sustainability throughout its life cycle, from raw material sourcing to end of life. The aim is to develop products that not only meet technical specifications, but can also be safer and more sustainable, for example by improving energy efficiency or using chemicals that are harmless to humans and animals. environment.

Indeed, many products still have unintended side effects that were overlooked during the development process. At List, we want to change that, and society expects researchers to help businesses and governments achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Policies are also moving in this direction, notably with the European Green Deal.

A framework to help companies in their ecological transition

To help businesses, the List defines a framework for designing technologies, products and processes with sustainability in mind. Based on life cycle thinking, this framework aims to identify the most relevant design choices, to estimate the future impacts and risks of the product when it is brought to market and to support the definition and realization of objectives to improve the environmental and social performance of the product. This approach is adapted according to the maturity of the technology, in order to facilitate its systemic adoption. This “sustainable by design” approach also aims to avoid greenwashing through a process of quantification and verification.

The List defines a framework for designing technologies, products and processes with sustainability in mind.

Christina Ehlert

Christina Ehlert,&nbsp sustainability officer,&nbsp Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST)

Other frameworks exist to improve the environmental and social record, such as the “Science-based targets” initiative which helps different economic sectors to contribute to the objectives of the Paris Agreement, the GRI framework aimed at enabling to assess the company’s effort to reduce the environmental impact of its activities and its supply chain or the United Nations Global Compact, a very accessible general framework. On a national scale, we can cite the ESR label.

The List shows the example

The List strives to apply this approach to its own operations: we are committed to setting an example both in our research activities and in our day-to-day mode of operation. The first works were launched in 2019 through the creation of the “Sustainability” working group. In 2020, we completed an in-depth assessment of our carbon footprint according to the international standard of the “Greenhouse Gas Protocol”. From the impacts of our buildings, to those of our purchases, our consumption or even our mobility habits, we have analyzed the impact of each of our operations. This first step has already made it possible to submit and implement several recommendations. For example, we have decided to improve the ability to control our electricity consumption and to use certified green energy.

Sustainability must go far beyond compliance

The sixth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published in April 2022, calls for immediate action to ensure “a livable future”. The List is mobilizing and will lend a hand to ambitious companies that want to go beyond compliance and make sustainable development a reality.

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