fairphone phones

A recent study, conducted by the German Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM, confirms Fairphone’s key message that smartphones should be kept in use for as long as possible. In three different scenarios, the researchers project that using a smartphone for five instead of three years could reduce the phone’s annual carbon footprint by 31%. When used for seven years (including two battery replacements), the emissions per year even dropped by 44%.

The report also validates the assumption that replacing or repairing parts of the phone significantly reduces the environmental impact, since the lion’s share of emissions and finite resource consumption occurs during production. To facilitate repair, the Fairphone 4 consists of eight modules, including the battery, the cameras and the charging port, that can easily be replaced by users. With the exception of the core, the report shows that such replacements to repair the phone pay off quickly.

Repairing phones

Repairing single modules to then reuse them, however, holds little advantage over simple replacement for most modules. The emissions created by producing the spare parts, packaging and shipping them to the user, or sending the device to a repair center are then theoretically compensated after just a few weeks of additional use of the repaired device. On top of that, the additional connecting parts enabling the phone’s modularity hardly cause additional impact on the environment, a significant improvement compared to earlier Fairphone models.

The researchers estimate the total contribution of the device to global warming at 43 kilogram CO2 eq. and therefore at 4 kilos higher than Fairphone 3. The study attributes this difference mostly to the increased functionality of the newer model, as well as to a higher proportion of shipping by air during Covid-19 and the chipset crisis. For the first time, the Life Cycle Assessment also analyzes the impact of the accessories available for the phone, including charging cables and plug, wireless earbuds, protective cases and a screwdriver.

The full report can be found here.

Thea Kleinmagd, Circular Material Chains Innovator, comments “The ‘smarter’ the phone, the higher its impact. Given that the chips in Fairphone 4 are a big step forward when it comes to performance, it is no surprise that the carbon footprint is slightly larger than the one of Fairphone 3. However, we are happy to see that the report confirms that Fairphone is on the right track: The best way to reduce the impact a phone has on the environment is to make sure that it can be used for as long as possible. Parts that can be easily replaced or repaired allow this – which helps to minimize the phone’s effects on people and the planet.”

About Fairphone

Pioneering more sustainable ways to make smartphones. The latest device, Fairphone 4, is described with the tagline ‘Sustainable. Long-lasting. Fair.’ Fairphone 4 offers an unprecedented 5-year warranty*, is a unique electronic waste-neutral handset and contains fairly sourced materials, challenging the electronics industry to take a more responsible approach. It is the only smartphone on the market certified with the German eco-label Blue Angel and TCO Certified (for sustainable IT products).

  • 5G and dual SIM
  • Modular design for easy repair
  • 5-year warranty* for maximum longevity
  • 48MP dual rear cameras with supporting sensor and 25MP selfie camera

About Fraunhofer IZM

The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, headquartered in Germany, is the world’s leading applied research organization. With its focus on developing key technologies that are vital for the future and enabling the commercial exploitation of this work by business and industry, Fraunhofer plays a central role in the innovation process. As a pioneer and catalyst for groundbreaking developments and scientific excellence, Fraunhofer helps shape society now and in the future. Founded in 1949, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft currently operates 76 institutes and research institutions throughout Germany. The majority of the organization’s 30,000 employees are qualified scientists and engineers, who work with an annual research budget of 2.9 billion euros. Of this sum, 2.5 billion euros are generated through contract research.

Invisible – but indispensable

Nothing works without highly integrated microelectronics and microsystems technology. The basis for their integration into products is the availability of reliable and cost-effective packaging and interconnection technologies. Fraunhofer IZM, a world leader in the development and reliability assessment of electronic packaging technologies, provides its customers with customized system integration technologies at wafer, chip and board level. Research at Fraunhofer IZM also means making electronics more reliable and providing its customers with reliable information on the durability of the electronics.

lithium recycling of batteries

Four of the largest environmental organizations in Europe call on negotiators to introduce an environmentally ambitious legislative framework for batteries, particularly with regard to due diligence, low carbon footprint, collection of used batteries, the establishment of a deposit system, replaceability requirements, high-quality recycling, prevention of illegal imports and promotion of second-life applications.

After the European Parliament and the Council submitted their final amendments to the Commission’s proposal for a Batteries Regulation, decisive negotiations among the three institutions are kicking off.

Ahead of the trialogues, NGOs provide negotiators with an overview of civil society recommendations on each institution´s position to ensure a truly sustainable battery market in the EU.

Notably, NGOs warn that requirements risk being dramatically weakened during the course of the negotiations, especially as some proposals do not cover all battery types or foresee delays of several years before they enter into force.

With electromobility and digitalization booming, the EU Batteries Regulation is crucial to guarantee sustainability requirements for the whole life-cycle and recycling of batteries, from ethical mining of raw materials to their end-of-life. The final outcome of this Regulation will be an important blueprint for other future legislative initiatives, such as ecodesign requirements for sustainable products and collection and treatment rules for waste electrical appliances.

Rita Tedesco, Senior Programme Manager at ECOS – Environmental Coalition on Standards, said: “We are at a turning point for battery production. In Europe alone, at least 38 battery gigafactories are planned or have been announced, with enough capacity to power around 8 million electric cars. The final result of the trialogues will determine whether the battery boom will be truly sustainable. Weak rules could result in tonnes of additional waste, and make Europe dependent on a handful of countries for the sourcing of rare materials, such as nickel, cobalt and lithium. For batteries to sustainably power the energy transition, regulations must enable batteries to have long lifetimes, be easily repaired when they break, and, at the end of the road, be repurposed for a second life”.

Jean-Pierre Schweitzer, Senior Policy Officer for Circular Economy and Product Policy at the EEB, said: “Europe relies on imported resources to produce batteries, so it must lead on high environmental standards and its ambition for a circular economy. It is crucial to make reuse, repair, refurbishment and high-quality recycling the default option for all batteries. Going into the negotiations, the Parliament’s position is our best bet to minimize the risks of future dependencies”.

Alex Keynes, Clean vehicles manager at Transport & Environment, said: “Amendments adopted by the European Parliament put Europe firmly on the path to a sustainable zero-emission future and ensure that electric vehicles and light means of transport will continue to improve their climate advantage over combustion engine equivalents. With regard to battery recycling targets, it is essential that policymakers prevent current proposals from the Council from delaying the recovery of secondary raw materials. Europe’s battery factories are being set up today, and industry cannot wait until 2029 to start building up a domestic supply of critical metals like Lithium”.

Thomas Fischer, Head of Circular Economy at Environmental Action Germany (Deutsche Umwelthilfe – DUH), said: “The collection of old batteries is a necessary prerequisite for reuse and recycling. If portable batteries end up as household waste, valuable resources are lost completely and there is a higher risk of fires in treatment plants. Therefore, return incentives, high collection targets and consumer-friendly take-back options are essential to guarantee proper treatment for all batteries. A highly effective solution to guarantee high collection would be a deposit system for Lithium-Ion batteries. Unfortunately, the current proposals delay the setup of such a system for many years. Another crucial point within trialogue negotiations may be the undermining of battery regulations by non-EU sellers through online marketplaces. The Council proposed effective measures against illegal imports, which must not be weakened under any circumstances”.

NOTES

[1] Decision aid for negotiators giving an overview of current proposals from EU Commission, EU Parliament and EU Council as well as presenting NGOs joint positions on decisive topics for sustainability during battery life-cycle: https://eeb.org/library/eu-batteries-regulation-four-position-paper/

[2] Environment Council, 17 March 2022 – Fit for 55 package: https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/env/2022/03/17/

[3] Transport & Environment brief – Weak climate rules put Europe’s battery boom at risk: https://www.transportenvironment.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Battery-brief-1.pdf

[4] New rules on batteries: MEPs want more environmental and social ambition: europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20220304IPR24805/new-rules-on-batteries-meps-want-more-environmental-and-social-ambition

[5] McKinsey & Company – Recharging economies: The EV-battery manufacturing outlook for Europe: https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/oil-and-gas/our-insights/recharging-economies-the-ev-battery-manufacturing-outlook-for-europe

wind power clean energy transition

The latest edition of SEB’s The Green Bond report explains why the war in Ukraine may at first delay the clean energy transition and increase emissions, but ultimately will lead to an even faster acceleration in the pace of the transition as a push for energy independence amplifies the boost from low cost and climate risks. The report also looks at the challenging start to the year for sustainable financing, with the first quarter seeing a decline in sustainable debt issuance and sustainable assets underperforming in secondary markets.

“The war in Ukraine is above all a human tragedy, but it will also have a major impact on the outlook for the energy transition given the fact that Russia is the world’s largest fossil energy supplier,” says Thomas Thygesen, Head of Research, Climate & Sustainable Finance, at SEB. “Even though we will have to use more coal and oil in the next year or two to compensate for acute shortages as a result of the war, which is likely to lead to higher CO2 emissions in the near term, these tragic events are now also resulting in the convergence of three powerful drivers for transition investment.”

First, the political motivation for investing in renewables has changed as the war exposed Europe’s vulnerability and reliance on external suppliers of energy. Energy policy has thus essentially become part of security policy focused on securing energy independence, with renewable energy and nuclear power the main sources of energy that are not dependent on access to fossil materials. Secondly, the economic case for renewable energy has strengthened tremendously following the supply shocks related to the war in Ukraine.

The high cost of fossil-based energy relative to renewable energy means countries can significantly reduce the cost of energy by accelerating the transition. The final argument for clean energy transition investment is the one that has been there all along – the need to prevent an irreversible climate disaster by reducing CO2 emissions.

Sustainable Financing for clean energy transition

The report also looks at the challenging start to the year for sustainable financing, after the first quarter saw the first year-on-year decline in sustainability debt transactions since at least 2016. According to preliminary figures reported until 1 April, a total of USD 255.9 billion in new labeled bonds and loans were transacted from January to March 2022, which marks a more than 30 percent decline from the USD 416.3 billion that was transacted in the same period last year.

“This is the first decline in at least six years but it is likely to be a temporary reaction to geopolitical turmoil,” says Gregor Vulturius, Advisor at Climate & Sustainable Finance at SEB. “We expect issuance to pick up again in the coming months, not least for social bonds that may help fund spending to support those afflicted by war.”

“There are also signs of a change in the pricing of sustainable assets,” says Thomas Thygesen. “For bonds, lower ‘greeniums’ reflect lower realized returns and higher realized risk. In equities, the clean energy index has de-rated after what looks like a liquidity bubble, but still looks expensive. We think this is a healthy repricing to more realistic assumptions about future returns.”

About The Green Bond report

SEB, which together with the World Bank developed the green bond concept in 2007/2008, publishes the research publication The Green Bond 5-6 times a year. It strives to bring readers the latest insight into the world of sustainable finance through various themes. Even though the report covers all kinds of products and developments in the sustainable finance market, we have decided to keep its historic name – The Green Bond – as a tribute to our role as a pioneer of the green bond market. You can find The Green Bond report here.

oil rig

Following the latest CA100+ benchmark and IPCC report it appears that not a single oil major is Paris-aligned, Follow This reports.

Despite net zero emissions by 2050 pledges by some oil majors, no oil major is aligned with 1.5°C on three other crucial indicators: medium- and short-term emissions reduction targets and capital expenditure (indicator 6.1b), signifies the Climate Action 100+ Net Zero Company Benchmark.

Oil majors misuse engagement as an excuse not to set Paris-aligned targets

Oil majors, for example,Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips, and Chevron misuse engagement to claim that most investors support their current strategies, even though these strategies do not decrease absolute emissions by 2030:

  • BP claims to have “heard clear support for [BP’s] strategy” during “extensive engagement with investors after the vote”,
  • Shell claims “broad indications of support for Shell’s strategy”; in written responses to voting results, required by the UK corporate governance code (attachment),
  • ConocoPhillips claims that during engagement “Stockholders overwhelmingly did not express an expectation for ConocoPhillips to set a scope 3 target as set forth in the climate resolution” (proxy statement, page 16), and
  • Chevron states “Most stockholders generally did not favor shrinking Chevron’s traditional oil and gas business or shifting the core business to renewables as ways to reduce Scope 3 emissions” (2022 notice of the Chevron Corporation Annual meeting of stockholders, page 35).

As engagement happens behind closed doors, we can never be sure of the results reported by the companies. What is clear is that in 2021, investors increasingly voted in favor of emission reductions; 21% at BP (up from 8.4% in 2019), 30% at Shell (up from 14% in 2020) and 58% at ConocoPhillips and 61% at Chevron.

Therefore, only engagement combined with voting will send a clear and unambiguous signal to the boards of these companies.

Follow This is a group of green shareholders in oil and gas companies. Thanks to the votes of investors for the Follow This Climate Resolutions, Shell, Equinor, BP, Philllips 66, and Chevron reluctantly set ambitions to reduce their product emissions (Scope 3).

The Follow This Climate Resolutions support oil and gas companies to set Paris-consistent reduction targets for all emissions, including Scope 3 (product emissions).

mahi two usv

Mahi Two, an uncrewed surface vessel (USV), has become what is believed to be the first to cross the Atlantic Ocean using only solar power.

The autonomous robotic boat left the coast of Spain in September 2021 and made landfall in Martinique, in the French Lesser Antilles, six months later, after more than 4,300 nautical miles at sea.

Project Mahi started as many success stories do — in the founder’s garage. Pieter-Jan Note assembled six friends from a variety of engineering backgrounds. They spent the next few years building, designing, and writing software. “Our first crossing attempt in 2019 capsized during an unusually heavy storm in the Bay of Biscay,” said Note. “We learned a lot from that short journey, however, and used that knowledge to build Mahi Two.”

The four-meter Mahi Two has a composite hull for strength, efficiency and durability. It is driven by a Torqeedo Cruise 2.0 pod drive which the team modified to rotate. “We learned from the previous attempts that we didn’t want a rudder,” said Note, “So we modified the drive to rotate and steer the vessel.”

The Cruise pod drive is powered by two 24V Torqeedo lithium-ion batteries which are charged by Solbian solar panels. The system powers the drive, plus the steering actuator, electronics and bilge pumps. The steering, communication, hardware integration, navigation and energy management onboard are all managed by Mahi’s self-developed USV software. The boat communicates using an onboard satellite modem, GPS and automatic identification system.

Contact lost

Mahi Two’s oceangoing adventure started off well, despite spells of bad weather. “The first few months were flawless. Other than adjusting speed to compensate for reduced solar power production, Mahi took on stormy, cloudy days at sea with no problem,” recalls Note.

In January, however, disaster struck. Mahi Two suddenly started using more power. The team began to fear that the little USV was taking on water and the bilge pumps were working hard to compensate.

Just days later, the team lost communication with Mahi Two altogether, only 700 nm from her destination. Note recalls, “We tried everything to save Mahi. The Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Martinique reached out to a sailing vessel that travelled near Mahi’s last known position. The competitors in a transatlantic rowing race searched as well, but it was all for nought. Mahi Two seemed lost.”

Note and the rest of the team — Bertold Van den Bergh, Julien Meert, Andreas Belderbos, Quinten Lauwers and Koen Geurts — scoured the gigabytes of data Mahi Two had sent home, looking for answers.

“Then,” said Note, “two months after we had lost communication, I received a surprise call from the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Fort-de-France. Mahi had been found! She didn’t sink after all. Instead, she had completed her mission, navigating her way to the coast of Martinique all by herself.”

“What an extraordinary achievement by the team at Mahi,” commented Maurice Bajohr, vice-president of quality for Torqeedo GmbH. “The successful completion of this trans-Atlantic trek is a clear demonstration of the incredible durability and reliability of solar-electric technology for autonomous long-range missions.”

Bajohr observed that USV builders and customers are increasingly switching to solar-electric drives instead of traditional internal combustion engines to eliminate emissions and noise during data collection and navigation, and to reduce operating costs for fuel and maintenance. Torqeedo-powered electric drives are currently used on many hundreds of USVs around the world. These highly specialized boats are used by government and commercial operators for a wide range of missions such as seafloor mapping, oceanographic survey, harvesting data from underwater sensors and surveillance operations.

Part of the Project Mahi team recently started a company, MAHI (www.mahi.be), to bring maritime autonomy solutions to the market. They are developing software and hardware products that enable USVs to detect obstacles and other vessels accurately and avoid collisions according to the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.

tree felling for biomass

A new report from the Forest Defenders Alliance, an international coalition of environmental NGOs, demonstrates that many wood-burning power plants and wood pellet manufacturing plants in the EU appear to be using tree felling for biomass, logged directly from forests, despite claims to use sawdust and other mill waste for fuel and feedstock.

European Commission scientists have warned that burning trees for energy undermines both the EU’s climate and nature restoration goals. The report includes photos of more than 40 biomass and pellet plants across Europe that appear to be utilizing tree trunks (stemwood) for fuel and feedstock. Report photos were sourced from a variety of publicly available information and on-site photographs, including Google Maps/Earth satellite view, Google Street-view function, images and videos from companies’ own websites, and on-site photographs.

The report compares evidence for use of logs with company website statements about the type of wood they utilize, finding that about a quarter of the companies make misleading claims, usually that they utilize sawdust and other mill residues, with no mention of stemwood.

The report also examines company claims about climate impacts of tree felling for biomass, burning forest wood. Despite unequivocal statements by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and leading scientists that forest biomass should not be assumed to be “carbon neutral” or beneficial to the climate, 25 of the companies – more than half – make misleading claims of this nature, in direct contradiction of accepted science. The claims often rise to a level that seemingly should trigger scrutiny under the EU’s consumer protection laws.

stockholm exergiStockholm Exergi plans to build Europe’s first large-scale negative emissions plant, a project supported by the EU’s Innovation Fund. EU’s contribution to the project amounts to 180 million EUR. 

When complete, the BECCS plant will capture 800,000 tonnes of biogenic carbon dioxide every year. The facility will contribute to Sweden’s and Swedish and international companies’ goals of achieving net-zero emissions.

The EU Innovation Fund has chosen to support seven European projects that contribute in various ways to combating climate change with innovative technologies. Stockholm Exergi’s project to establish a large-scale plant for the separation and permanent storage of biogenic carbon dioxide is the only one of the seven projects that deploy BECCS technology.

“The support from the EU Innovation Fund is very important to us. It means that we can maintain our time plan for opening the full-scale plant. The support also represents a clear recognition of the project, a recognition that is particularly important in our work to be a catalyst for establishing a market for negative emissions,” says Stockholm Exergi CEO Anders Egelrud.

Carbon capture is being developed as an addition to Stockholm Exergi’s already existing bio-cogeneration plant in Hjorthagen in Stockholm. At its research facility, which opened in 2019, Stockholm Exergi has been able to demonstrate the extent of the project’s innovation with very high levels of energy efficiency and sustainability. Tests show that it has been possible to capture almost 90 per cent of the biogenic carbon dioxide at high energy efficiency levels due to extensive heat recovery and reuse in Stockholm’s district heating network.

To secure financing of the BECCS facility, Stockholm Exergi believes that three main financing streams are needed, with support from the EU Innovation Fund being one of them. The other two sources are the Swedish state – through a so-called reverse auction, the details of which are due to be decided in 2022 – and income from the sale of so-called Carbon Removal Certificates (CRC) on the voluntary carbon market.

“We’re working intensively on reaching full financing of the project and have several dialogues with companies that look to purchase CRC to compensate or neutralize their remaining emissions and become “net-zero”. Our goal is to enter into agreements with potential buyers ahead of our final investment decision in 2023,” says Anders Egelrud.

About the project

Stockholm Exergi is financing and building a full-scale BECCS plant at its KVV8 bio-cogeneration plant in Stockholm. The BECCS plant will have a capture capacity of almost 800,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. To ensure that the project’s entire value chain is included in the initiative, it is necessary that agreements are signed regarding the transport and permanent storage of captured carbon dioxide. These negotiations are ongoing and will be a key aspect of work on preparing for the decision on how the project will be funded, which is planned for 2023.

european parliament, circular economy package

With its circular economy package, the European Commission released a set of initiatives to speed up the transition towards a circular economy. The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) welcomed the Package as a potential game-changer but stressed the need for swift action to reduce our emissions and resource use while respecting planetary boundaries and human rights.

Stéphane Arditi, Director of Policy Integration and Circular Economy at the EEB, said: “This package could help drive the much-needed market and industry transformations to achieve a resource-efficient, sustainable and fair economy – but it still lacks teeth to truly make sustainable products the default choice for all.”

Sustainable products and Ecodesign

The Sustainable Products communication lays out a number of measures targeting the sustainability of products sold on the EU market, and the Commission restated its ambition to make sustainable products the norm.

The Circular Economy Package also includes a legislative proposal to unleash the potential of Ecodesign, extending its scope to virtually all products placed on the market, and opening the door to new innovative measures such as carbon and environmental footprinting of products, the development of a Digital Product Passport, and impact consideration beyond EU borders.

However, the new regulation will only deliver results through the delegated acts established for specific product groups. These will take time to establish, notably as the Commission foresees a limited increase in staff working on product policy. Opportunities to deliver results from the onset, such as an immediate ban on the destruction of unsold goods, were not taken. Moreover, the proposal fails to address and disclose social and due diligence aspects within the Product Passport.

The circular economy package consists of:

  • A Sustainable Products Initiative aimed at boosting the circularity of products on the EU market, including a reform of Ecodesign laws
  • A Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles
  • A proposal for the revision of the Construction Products Regulation (CPR)
  • New rules to reinforce the consumer power.

 

Jean-Pierre Schweitzer, Policy officer for products and circular economy at the EEB, said: “Applying Ecodesign to a broader set of products will save Europe emissions, resources, and increase our resilience, but we are still a long way from these measures being put into practice.”

Sustainable textiles

The ‘Textiles Strategy’ sets out the European Commission’s plans for new policies to bring more sustainability to one of the world’s most polluting, wasteful, and exploitative sectors.

The EEB welcomes the clear plans for binding rules on product design, targets for more reused textile products, and for more weight on producers to bear the end–of–life costs of textile waste. However, the EEB calls on policymakers to ensure strong civil society participation in the development of the initiatives announced in the Strategy, and to enhance measures that tackle human rights abuses in supply chains, a clear blind spot in today’s text.

Emily Macintosh, Policy Officer for Textiles at the EEB, said: “You can’t green fast fashion. Today the European Commission has named overproduction as the problem by calling out the number of collections brands put out every year. Now we need to ensure that the actions set out in this strategy are translated into real industrial accountability for all companies regardless of size and that there are no get-out clauses when it comes to the destruction of goods and ensuring fairness for workers.”

Construction products

Despite larger advancements in other files, the Construction Products Regulation revision inches forward in regards to alignment with the Sustainable Products Initiative and the Circular Economy Package. Faced with rising demands for a Renovation Wave, the CPR continues to set a lower bar for construction products. Although product requirements could be developed in the current proposal, a timeline to define minimum sustainability/environmental performance requirements has yet to be set, nor is it mandatory to disclose these requirements transparently using digital product passports.

NGOs have continuously warned such lack of ambition is especially concerning for an industry desperately in need of decarbonization, as the source of 35% of EU emission. The lack of ambition is most evident in a continued allowance of manufacturers to set environmental standards and classes of performance for products’ functional performance (i.e. the way products are used in projects). The reliance on industrial standards leaves the door open for dominant industry players to agree on the lowest common denominator that stifles innovations and SMEs.

Gonzalo Sánchez, Policy Officer for Circular Economy and Carbon Neutrality in the Building Sector at the EEB, said: “Defining a work plan to set minimum environmental performance requirements as soon as possible and a mandatory Digital Products Passport for construction products are key to decarbonizing Europe’s built environment by 2050. Postponing these actions will mean an insurmountable task in the next decade to decarbonize the building stock, due to the delay in implementing circular measures and investing in low-emission materials.”

Empowering consumers

The Initiative on ‘Empowering the Consumer for the Green Transition’ is set to strengthen existing EU legislation to prevent greenwashing and reduce obsolescence, by amending both the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (UCPD) and the Consumer Rights Directive (CRD).

The proposal aims to improve the credibility of sustainability claims and labels – a measure highly called for, as recent research showed that 42% of green claims are potentially false or deceptive. Moreover, new rules on information provisions regarding the length of warranty periods, the availability of spare parts, and software updates, are meant to help consumers understand the expected lifespan of the products they purchase.

The EEB welcomes the measures as a much–needed step to stop greenwashing, but warned about possible loopholes: the initiative fails to clarify how some of the most problematic and widespread claims such as “climate neutrality” are going to be tackled, while the foreseen ban on planned obsolescence was dropped from the proposal.

The circular economy package is a fundamental step forward but still lacks teeth to make sustainable products the norm, the EEB warns

Blanca Morales, a Senior Coordinator for EU Ecolabel at the EEB, said: “We need bolder measures to prohibit unreliable credentials, especially on climate neutrality, and list those that are based on harmonized, robust methods. We call on the Commission to reinforce these provisions in the upcoming regulation on Green Claims. Companies should be obliged to publicly register their claims and evidence before use. No data, no market!”

 

sustainability experiences people

“Behind sustainable choices is not the actual sustainability of the company, organization, or brand, but the sustainability experience,” writes Timo Järvinen, CEO of the Finnish empathy analytics company NayaDaya Inc.

If we split the core of sustainability, in addition to the ecological, social, and economical consequences of our actions, we will find something that has a decisive impact on people’s behavior, business success, and sustainable development.

This other aspect of sustainability is experience. Sustainability is an increasingly important part of the customer and employee experience. Customers and employees appraise the sustainability of companies, organizations, and brands in relation to their own values. Appraisals lead to subjective meanings and emotions – thus creating an emotional experience of sustainability.

People respond to their own experiences not to sustainable actions

Emotional experiences have a decisive impact on behavior – as do sustainability experiences. We have seen this especially recently. Emotions make us ignite, participate, and commit to things that represent the world we believe in. The emotions within the experiences of sustainability can also cause the opposite: avoidance, resistance, and even aggressive behavior.

From the point of view of companies and organizations, the effects of sustainability experiences are at best seen as traction and retention, or even as a competitive edge. At worst, they can cause loss of customers and employees.

If a company, organization, or brand wants to succeed and be a part of change toward a better world, sustainability experiences are critical to the success of its mission. We must accept that, for example, behind sustainable consumer choices is not product sustainability but rather consumer sustainability experience.

People are not able to react to anything other than the experiences produced by their own judgment.

How do customers and employees experience sustainability?

A company or an organization needs to identify the essential parts of its sustainability to its customers and employees. It is beneficial to find out how elements of the sustainability experience affect behavior. By strengthening engaging elements and fixing or transforming the causes of stagnation, avoidance, and resistance, people are involved – this way it’s possible to create value for customers and employees, strengthen loyalty, and promote a sustainable, profitable growth.

Sustainability must be built, and the sustainability experience managed responsibly. However, this self-evident idea is not so self-evident after all. As people do not react to sustainable actions but rather to their sustainability experiences, it is possible to influence their experiences and emotions in ways that are not responsible but aim only to create images.

Recognition of authenticity contributes to healthy development. Companies, organizations, and brands that embrace sustainability as a key guideline and a part of their DNA implement these principles in all their operations and communications. When deeds and words meet each other and people’s values, the result is hope for the better, trust, change, and ultimately, success.

Sustainability is not pleasing

Sustainability is the way to a better future and competitive edge, but it is often full of curves and pitfalls. We must accept that sustainable actions do not always evoke positive, engaging emotions. It is not sustainable to always do and say what people wish and want to hear.

The consequences of acts of sustainability can be contradictory. Sometimes they mean cutting personal interests, which causes negative reactions. Sometimes the public and social media deal with events in ways that don’t do justice to real efforts.

In all circumstances, it is helpful to identify the customer and employee experiences and reactions. Collective empathy and data are needed to identify emotions as well as their root causes and consequences. The answers are not found on social media, where the loudest voice is often held by a relatively small number of people.

Communication is needed to manage sustainability experiences – not just to evoke images but to portray boldly and uncompromisingly the reality. From time to time, we all need to be steered in the right direction. Sometimes we must give up our own interests here and now so that all people, including future generations, will have hope.

The power of compassion should be better harnessed to engage and involve customers and employees.

The author of the blog post is Timo Järvinen, CEO of the Finnish empathy analytics company NayaDaya Inc.

battery

Lithium-ion batteries have fuelled our age of portable electronics, but they have increasingly become a victim of their own success. Lithium mining is expensive, and the metal is dangerous to handle, making processing and recycling difficult.

Demand is also outstripping available supplies, whose geographic isolation in places like the Australian outback can make supply chains difficult.

EU data shows that Europe will need up to 60 times more lithium by 2050 to fulfil the demand for electric car batteries and renewable energy storage that will form the backbone of reaching emissions goals laid out in the European Green Deal.

Calcium is one the most abundant elements on the earth’s crust. It’s not as geographically concentrated as lithium is. This could make a battery cheap because the raw material is cheap

Dr M. Rosa Palacín, ICMAB-CSIC

That has led researchers like Dr M. Rosa Palacín to try and create similarly effective batteries out of more abundant elements found right inside Europe. Based at ICMAB-CSIC near Barcelona, she and her team from around the EU aim to build a prototype battery that uses periodic neighbour calcium instead of lithium. The effort is funded by a European Innovation Council Open Pathfinder grant and has been dubbed the CARBAT project.

Found in everything from bones to chalk, calcium is roughly 2000 times more common than lithium.

‘Calcium is one the most abundant elements on the earth’s crust,’ said Dr Palacín. ‘It’s not as geographically concentrated as lithium is. This could make a battery cheap because the raw material is cheap.’

A Calcium Supplement

All batteries rely on a similar structure. Positive ions flow from a negative electrode across an electrolyte to a positive electrode, while negative electric current flows outside the battery and can be used to power devices.

But using calcium as the negative electrode provides advantages that graphite-using lithium-ion batteries cannot – greater energy density, or how much energy can be stored per kilogram.

‘With this configuration we were suggesting in theory we could achieve very high energy density, and this is due to the fact that we would use a metal as one of the electrodes,’ Dr Palacín explained.

Lithium-ion batteries can’t achieve as high an energy density since they cannot use highly reactive metallic lithium as an electrode in a battery. It tends to form dendrites, tiny rigid tree-like structures that can grow inside a lithium battery and cause short circuits or even for the battery to explode over many uses.

Using calcium metal within the battery let researchers take advantage of its elemental properties, with two electrons in its outer shell that it can lose.

‘As any calcium travels through the electrolyte, two electrons would travel outside (instead of one with lithium),’ she said. ‘One could imagine that for the same battery size, the range would be higher if you used it in an electric vehicle, provided a suitable positive electrode is found.’

Finding the right salt

Yet that same property made choosing other components to build a prototype battery, such as the electrolyte that ions flow through, more complicated.

‘There are many interactions in the electrolyte between the Ca2+ ions and the solvent molecules, and this hindered the mobility of calcium,’ said Dr Palacín.

Very good conductivity in the electrolyte means that ions can move faster, and the battery will have a higher power.

To solve this, researchers modelled different salts and solvents to find an electrolyte that would create a passivation layer on the calcium electrode which makes it easier for ions to transfer.

‘In the end it seems that all the electrolyte salts which work contain boron,’ she said. ‘We used calcium tetrafluoroborate dissolved in a mixture of ethylene and propylene carbonate.’

The next steps for commercialising the prototype would be to improve the methods used to fabricate electrodes using calcium and to develop suitable positive electrodes.

‘All the engineering for the cell assembly was very challenging since new protocols had to be developed,’ Dr Palacín said.

Other abundant elements

Dr Juan Lastra at the Technical University of Denmark was involved in another effort to create batteries out of more common elements. A researcher on the SALBAGE project, he was part of a team that worked on making a battery out of an aluminium anode and a sulfur cathode.

While aluminium is even more abundant than calcium, using it in a battery created similar challenges.

‘All these multivalent ions (Ca2+, Al3+) are very reactive…and it is difficult to move these ions by themselves,’ he said.

In aluminium-sulfur batteries, the aluminium is always in the form of aluminium and some chloride ions, AlCl4-.

‘You have a conversion process where this aluminium gets decoupled gradually from the AlCl4 cluster to react with the sulfur in the cathode side,’ said Dr Lastra. ‘It’s more like the lead-acid battery you have in your car rather than the lithium-ion battery in your phone.’

Computer-built bendable batteries

To improve the transfer of these ions, the team focused on creating using a new type of electrolyte known as a deep eutectic solvent.
‘A eutectic solvent is when you put two solids together and they become a liquid,’ Dr Lastra explained. ‘Like when you put salt and ice together and they form a liquid (brine) even below freezing.’

Using a supercomputer, they modelled how to combine an aluminium chloride salt with urea, which is commonly found in urine, to find the best mixing ratio for a liquid electrolyte.

‘We model around 300 atoms at most…and our simulation time is not more than one nanosecond,’ said Dr Lastra. ‘But to simulate one nanosecond of this liquid takes half a year.’

It takes so long because the researchers must look at one million steps per nanosecond to properly simulate all the possible reactions.

Armed with the right ratio for the electrolyte, researchers for the project in Spain found that they could make the electrolyte a gel by adding polymers to the solution.

‘Having a gel is very advantageous in terms of safety and in terms of form factor,’ said Dr Lastra. ‘If you have gel then your battery will be flexible, and you will be able to bend it.’

Using a gel instead of a liquid also adds safety in that the battery can’t easily leak. This comes on top of the fact that the materials are all safe and inexpensive.

‘It’s all based on cheap materials. Aluminium, sulfur, the electrolyte itself and urea is very, very cheap. Even the polymer is cheap,’ Dr Lastra said.

For stationary applications, like storing energy from a wind farm or solar power, this type of technology could be competitive

Dr Juan Lastra, Technical University of Denmark

The safety of the components could be a key factor in future-proofing the battery. One of the main disadvantages seen with lithium-ion batteries has been that they contain toxic and rare elements, making it hard to integrate them in the circular economy.

Aluminium-sulfur batteries offer the promise of sourcing components from within Europe and increased energy security for industry. Future refinement could even help increase our uptake of renewable energy by storing power when they are not actively generating it.

‘For stationary applications, like storing energy from a wind farm or solar power, this type of technology could be competitive,’ Dr Lastra said.

The research in this article was funded by the EU. If you liked this article, please consider sharing it on social media.

Why the EU supports energy storage research and innovation

With electrification set to be one of the main pathways to decarbonisation, batteries as electricity storage devices will become one of the key enablers of a low-carbon economy. Which is why developing  batteries/energy storage is a strategic priority for the EU

Hence, global demand for batteries is expected to grow very rapidly over the coming years, making the market for batteries a very strategic one. Click here to learn more.

This article was originally published in Horizon, the EU Research and Innovation magazine