Sustainability Series blog post: A Decade of Evolution in Sustainability — Q&A

By Christina

Q&A with Valérie Ferret, Director Public Affairs & Sustainability, Dassault Systèmes

Valérie Ferret, Director Public Affairs & Sustainability, Dassault SystèmesIn 2014, for the first time, carbon emissions decreased over the previous year while the economy grew. Valérie Ferret, Director Public Affairs & Sustainability, Dassault Systèmes, offered her thoughts on this milestone and on the evolution of corporate sustainability. Environmental-responsibilityValerie joined the company in 2008 to develop the influencer network and promote our vision of providing businesses and people

with virtual universes to imagine sustainable innovations. This is the third part in our “Sustainability Series,” aimed to shed light on the importance of positive contributions to preserve the earth’s resources for future generations.


3DS: Ten years ago, how would you define the role of sustainability in the enterprise? What evolution have you witnessed over the past decade?

 VF:  Ten years ago, sustainability meant corporate responsibility.  Companies had not truly embraced the concept of product innovation as part of their sustainability strategies.  This has since changed, yet there is still progress to be made, as it is rare to find an enterprise that has defined an end-to-end sustainability model.

 3DS: In 2014, for the first time, carbon emissions decreased over the previous year while the economy grew.  Can it be said that advances in corporate sustainability are responsible? 

 VF:  Global carbon emissions come mainly from the energy, transportation, agriculture and forestry sectors.  There have been great strides made by companies to integrate sustainability into their operations, and we are now witnessing the fruit of these efforts.  For example, alternative powertrain development is rising in the way of electric vehicles and hybrids, or more efficient turbo-charged internal combustion engines.  Better equipment and infrastructure investment over the last 30 years has doubled fuel efficiency of freight railroads. Now we definitely need to accelerate and develop new business models to decouple economic growth from carbon emissions and resources use.

3DS: Is sustainability top-of-mind at corporations now, or is there still progress to be made? 

VF:  Sustainability is an important aspect of a company’s reputation, and it has become an important topic at the CEO level. Yet the sustainability function is not yet integrated into all aspects of an organization, from marketing, communication and operations, to product development.  Sustainable decisions go beyond the concept of carbon emissions.  They involve resource efficiency and a product lifecycle approach.  Businesses that understand upfront the resources consumption involved in production and in a final product, and how these will benefit nature and life, have a greater chance of succeeding in the marketplace in the longer term.

3DS: How exactly is corporate sustainability measured?

VF: Sustainability methodologies and science have been well developed over the past two decades.  These include lifecycle assessment methodologies at the product level, a balanced combination of environmental, social, governance, financial and innovation indicators at the corporate level, as well as carbon footprinting methodologies both at the product and the enterprise level. A number of notation agencies measure sustainability and recognize corporations that engage in sustainability programs based on their improvement rate rather than on performance, meaning that companies with an excellent performance and lower lever of improvement are not recognized as they should be.  In order to provide a better sustainability assessment, there are more and more standardization and sectorial approaches, which will allow for more accurate comparison between corporations. In addition, we need to progress on real data reporting.  Most methodologies such as carbon footprinting still rely on estimations and average data, which makes it difficult to create a competition market for sustainability. Lastly, product innovation should be at the heart of the assessment in order to create a sustainable economy.

3DS: What kind of influence do consumers have on corporate sustainability strategies?

VF: Sustainability isn’t just about the product and how the consumer uses it, it’s the entire process behind making that happen.  However, consumers are powerful industry drivers.  Public opinion provides valuable feedback—and often pressures—that can extend the corporate innovation system.  For example, consumer desires for alternative and greener transportation methods have inspired large cities like Paris and New York to install short-term bike rentals. However, many companies are still finding that sustainability is not yet a large market driver.

3DS: Technology trends are influencing the types of products that are developed.  Which ones are impacting sustainability and how?

VF:  There are some technology trends which will help companies to have more integrated and ambitious sustainability strategies:

  • Cloud computing will enhance what we call the social industry. Companies will be able to work with an even more extended ecosystem to include not only the supply chain, but also research institutes, partners and consumers, in the innovation process. This will allow for systemic innovation which is key to achieving sustainability.
  • Big data and the Internet of Things will target end-to-end product experiences, from design to usage, for more delightful and efficient experiences.
  • Fablabs are changing production models towards more localized supply and demand.

Technology that can decipher consumer needs and wants and influence subsequent product development can later define new consumer uses, behaviors and experiences.

3DS: In 2050, the world’s population is estimated to surpass 9 billion.  What will be critical to meet the needs of such a large population?

VF:  We will need both scientific and economic innovation to define new business models which decouple resource use and carbon emissions from economic growth.  The world needs to think bigger in order to define targeted strategies.  Take urban infrastructure, for example. How will a city that was built for a population half its size be able to manage waste? With social and environmental pressures so great, virtual technology and process management are effective ways to understand, react to, and drive new initiatives.

3DS: In 2012, you launched Dassault Systèmes’ “sustainable innovation lab” to develop partnerships with customers and industry groups to share ideas and best practices on science, technology and business models for sustainability.  What was the inspiration for this?

 VF:  Sustainable innovation can be achieved by combining new design and manufacturing processes with new business and marketing strategies to create a sustainable and flourishing marketplace.  Our business experience platform, which is used by many businesses today for this, served as the inspiration for our sustainable innovation lab, in order to offer proof points of innovation and sustainability in industry.

3DS: Since joining Dassault Systèmes, what has been the most satisfying achievement in terms of sustainability? 

VF: From a corporate sustainability perspective, we’re proud to say that we have been included in the Corporate Knights Global 100 ranking of the most sustainable companies for four consecutive years, and we lead amongst software companies.  This is testimony to our dedication, and reinforces our mission of harmonizing product, nature and life.  Our focus remains on innovation for solutions to help the industry become more sustainable.  We are proud of every achievement: from helping a company reduce materials use through eco-design and simulation, and allowing a company be compliant with environmental regulations, to making its supply chain or its operations more sustainable.  Overall, we are committed to helping the industry define the best consumer experiences based on sustainable innovation.

Sustainability Series introduction: Buongiorno, Sustainability!

By Christina

Green nature landscape with planet Earth

There are few events that can bring people together on a global scale.  One is the Olympics, another the FIFA World Cup, and a third is the World Expo, which takes place every five years in a different location — this year in Milan, Italy from May 1 to October 31, 2015.

The first World Expo was held in London in 1851 as a platform for visionaries in industry, technology, arts and sciences from different cultures to show off their pioneering wares.  Events of yore have given us technical feats as diverse as the x-ray machine, the dishwasher and the Eiffel Tower.

In the past few decades, expo themes like “Better City Better Life” or “Nature’s Wisdom” have reflected changing demographics, trends and the complex social, industrial and environmental fabric that influence our planet.  At this year’s “Expo Milano 2015” the theme of “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life” examines the challenge of balancing nutrition for mankind while respecting the planet’s resources.

With a global population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, warmer climates, melting icecaps, farm droughts, overflowing landfills and polluted drinking water are issues that concern a global population and merit new and/or improved technological solutions developed with sustainability in mind.

One of the first steps towards remedying this is a greater awareness of the issues at hand.  Millions of Expo Milano attendees will discover traditions and technologies involved in food production from hundreds of exhibiting countries, in addition to participating in shows, conferences and meetings that address the environment and urbanization. After all, the food industry is a €2 trillion economy, the largest in the world.

Dassault Systèmes is proud to be an official sponsor of the Expo Milano, as its theme parallels our mission to harmonize Product, Nature and Life.  In order to play an active role in contributing to this awareness, over the next few weeks we will feature what we are calling our “Sustainability Series”—a selection of posts focused on environmental sustainability in our 12 industries that highlights challenges, groundbreaking moments, customer success stories and our own thought leaders, reminding us that everyone has a story to tell when the well-being of future generations is at stake.

Green design brings nature into the urban jungle

By Catherine

Written by Catherine Bolgar*

Dense RainforestA jungle is green and leafy, and the urban jungle should be the same, right?

Since 2010, more people live in cities than in the countryside for the first time in human history. The trend is expected to speed up in developing countries, with more than 60% of the world’s population living in urban areas by mid-century, the United Nations predicts.

Bringing nature into cities can make urban environments more sustainable as well as more aesthetic, more comfortable and healthier.

“Many architects today already claim to do green design, some to a greater level of authenticity than others. I contend that in the next five to 10 years just about every architect and student will do green design as second nature in their work,” says Ken Yeang, a principal with T.R. Hamzah and Yeang, a Malaysian architectural firm focusing on ecoarchitecture, and of Ken Yeang Design International in the U.K. “Green design is just one of the criteria for good design.”

Architects often see green design as a matter of certification, such as the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or the Green Building Initiative’s Green Globes, or the Building Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) in the U.K. Beyond aiming for certification, “I take the holistic view of an ecologist,” he says. “I see green design as bio-integrating everything that we as humans make and do on the planet with the natural environment in a benign and seamless way.”

That requires integrating flora and fauna, water, humans and the built environment in a holistic way. “We start design by looking at the ecology of the land and see how we can bring more nature back to a location and bio-integrate nature with the physical built environment,” Mr. Yeang says.

The Solaris

The Solaris, designed by Mr. Yeang and part of the Fusionopolis research and development park in Singapore, has more than 8,000 square meters (9,567 square yards) of landscaping—13% more than the original site—thanks to roof gardens, planted terraces and a 1.5-kilometer (0.9-mile) ramp of continuous vegetation that spirals up the 15-story building’s facade, helping to insulate as well as offering a range of habitats that enhances the locality’s biodiversity.

I design buildings as ‘living systems’ and as ‘constructed ecosystems,’” Mr. Yeang says. “It’s not just about green walls. I bring back the native fauna that are not hazardous to humans and match these with the native flora selected to attract the fauna, now set as ‘biodiversity targets’ in a matrix. With this, I create the local landscape conditions to enable flora and fauna to survive over the four seasons of the year.”

The idea is spreading. A primary school and gymnasium in the Paris suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt, now under construction, was designed by architects Chartier-Dalix to be covered with a living shell and house local flora and fauna.

BLG 18 classrooms school and sporthall

Argentine architect Emilio Ambasz built a multi-use government office building in Fukuoka, Japan, with 14 one-story terraces that make the one-million-square-foot building look like a green hill rising from the park in front of it. Mr. Ambasz also renovated the headquarters of ENI in Rome with curtains of vegetation.

Basel, Switzerland, has required since 2002 that flat roofs be covered with vegetation, in part to save energy and in part to protect biodiversity. While the peregrine falcon, one of the first species on the U.S. endangered species list in 1974, reboundedin part through urban nesting programs to nearly 100,000 birds world-wide today, less-glamorous endangered species, from spiders to beetles, also benefit fromthe increase in habitat. In the U.K., the Bat Conservation Trust has published a landscape and urban design guide for bats and biodiversity.

A green exterior is nice, but what goes inside—the design and materials—are important, too. “The building and products sector are seeing that environmental issues are moving up the agenda,” says Martin Charter, professor of innovation and sustainability at the Centre for Sustainable Design at the University for the Creative Arts in Farnham, U.K. “Construction, buildings and building products are associated with high carbon dioxide emissions on a macro level and big end-of-life waste issues. The sector does have a big-life cycle impact, not just in extractive phase but at other stages of life cycle as well.”

Concrete produces as much as a tenth of industry-generated greenhouse gas emissions. Researchers studying the molecular structure of cement found that changing the recipe to 1.5 parts calcium for each part of silica wouldcut cement’s carbon emissions up to 60% while making the resulting material stronger.

Simple design considerations can make a building greener. The shape and the orientation can affect heating and cooling needs. Natural ventilation with mixed mode systems can alleviate the need for air conditioning even in tropical climates. Mr. Yeang designed the Menara Mesiniaga office building in Selangor, Malaysia, so even elevator lobbies, restrooms and stairwells in the 15-story building get natural ventilation and natural daylight.

Green design includes water management in rainfall harvesting and storing water, so potable water doesn’t have to be used to irrigate the vegetation. Design must close the water cycle within the site, combining water management, water reuse and recycling with sustainable drainage and constructed wetlands for blackwater treatment, he says.

In nature, the only energy is from the sun. If we want to imitate nature, we should use only the sun,” Mr. Yeang says. “In nature, everything is recycled. Waste from one organism becomes the food for another. In human society, we have a throughput system where we use things and throw them away, but in fact, there is no ‘away’ in the biosphere—it just goes somewhere and pollutes the environment. If we imitate nature, we should have a closed system. As a design strategy, we need to study the attributes and properties of ecosystems as the basis for designing our built environment. When this becomes mainstream, there will be a stasis of nature with our built environment.”

*For more from Catherine, contributors from the Economist Intelligence Unit along with industry experts, join The Future Realities discussion.



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