Helping you build circular
An interview with Albin Kaelin, CEO of epeaswitzerland gmbh
As an accredited general assessor for Cradle to Cradle Certified certification and the C2C Certified Material Health Certificate, epeaswitzerland is at the forefront of driving sustainable innovation across commerce. Specialists since 2009, the company has established its own Network of Trust, with brands, customers and global supply chains to create circularity in the way products are developed, and move away from linear, wasteful methods.
epeaswitzerland is independent and 100% privately owned by Albin Kaelin. The European spoke to Albin Kaelin about epeaswitzerland’s important work.
Please explain a bit more about your company and outline your development in recent years.
Albin Kaelin: epeaswitzerland supports companies in different areas of activities in the development and implementation of Cradle to Cradle (C2C) design concepts. Through our experienced, globally-oriented and interdisciplinary management team, C2C projects are implemented across a whole range of industries worldwide. Companies who embrace our methods include Bauwerk Parquet. As one of Europe’s leading parquet floor manufacturers, the company produces floor tiles that can be reused for up to four generations – that’s 100 years, or the same time it takes an oak tree to grow. Another great example is VF Napapijri, an outdoor apparel brand that guarantees that their hydrophobic (water repellent) finishing is safe for humans and environment. They are also C2C Certified GOLD.
It is essential for the future health of our planet that companies manufacture products using safe and circular methodologies, maintaining non-toxic, raw materials in good quality for the next generation. This can only be achieved through innovation, and the huge number of awards we have received shows that we are recognised as innovators on a global scale.
In recent years, we have built our Network of Trust with hundreds of companies and thousands of suppliers – a result of epeaswitzerland establishing strong and sustainable partnerships with all our clients.
How does epeaswitzerland help to implement the C2C design concept to different industries worldwide?
AK: The Reference Model Cradle to Cradle methodology we have created, and use in all projects, gives companies an orientation and framework to developing certain materials and products, as well as ensuring development risks and opportunities are visible. Based on the use of this tool, managers can make sound business decisions to develop products with a clear idea of what can and can’t be done. We show them how they can develop their ideas in a sustainable way, to focus on the lifecycle of the product and embrace the principles of a circular economy.
It would seem big business is still not properly tackling the issue of industrial waste. Why do you think this is?
AK: We all have been educated to think in a linear way, as so many of our systems are based on linear thinking, for instance, accountancy and the concept of GDP work in a linear fashion. There is no future if we work on a “Cradle to Grave” basis, but at epeaswitzerland we are aiming to change this. Not enough industries are investing sustainable materials, we are still sacrificing quality for quantity, and many everyday materials, especially metals in technology, are toxic when they break down and therefore damage the environment. What we need is a Cradle to Cradle mindset, that takes into consideration how materials can be recycled, or what happens to them at the end of their lifecycle. Shipping waste off to third countries and burying it, where its pollutes the environment must end. We need solutions, and this is what epeaswitzerland specialises in.
epeaswitzerland was founded to support businesses to innovate, to become safe and embrace a circular economy. It is a different way of thinking; this is why it is so challenging. We need leaders who can prove that a new way of thinking can work.
Cradle to Cradle Certified certification is recognised as a preferred standard for responsible purchasing decisions. What are the main reasons behind this?
AK: Cradle to Cradle has been established for over 30 years, and C2C certification for 13 years. It is the only concept, and certification scheme, designed for material health-circularity, materials and products. It is a substantial reference in the marketplace across all industries, because organisations and companies need a methodology to follow and implement.
Now you’ve been established over 30 years, do you ever reflect on your reasons for starting the company?
AK: Yes, and I believe it’s a relevant story. I’m actually left-handed, but unfortunately at school I was forced to write with my right. I asked why, but I didn’t get a clear answer. However, this experience taught me not to accept anything which doesn’t make sense to me. It inspired me to shape my life so that it makes sense for me and for the community. In doing this, I feel I am able to take clear responsibility for my actions.
And now I work to enable innovators to develop new production concepts that don’t generate unnecessary waste, but instead become “nutrients” for other products. By showing new ways to better the old system. I feel I am contributing to a better future, and assuming responsibility for the challenges that the world faces in protecting the environment and humanity.
And what motivates you to keep going? Do all the awards you have won help?
AK: To be honest, this is a real challenge because trying to transform linear systems into circular systems is demanding. The hardest part is maintaining a work-life balance, but you can achieve this with family, friends, staying active, and ultimately believing in the dream: to protect the environment for the next generation.
Awards are always nice to get and give a signal of outstanding performance and leadership. They provide a level of independent credibility. For the company, and for me as CEO, it gives a timely push and boosts the company image. From this we can profit accordingly by securing additional business.
Where do you see your company in 5-10 years?
AK: I think with our expertise, the level of innovation and the unique nature of the products we create with our clients, we will be in significant demand. One of the main reasons is the legislation within the EU’s New Green Deal, which means we can support companies for their next steps towards a prosperous future.
“We show companies how they can embrace the principles of
the circular economy”
Albin Kaelin, CEO, epeaswitzerland gmbh
Cradle to Cradle® is a trademark of MBDC LLC
Cradle to Cradle Certified® is a registered trademark of the C2CPII