Recycling, already a good start, however, the circular economy is so much more. If we address holistic sustainability, recycling materials is not enough. Climate neutrality is complex and depends on how we look at the conditions under which we theoretically would achieve this goal. The topics are exciting because they have practical relevance and are not simply theoretical calculation models.
A brief introduction. Companies have to calculate costs to remain profitable. And even if they want to be sustainable, they will not survive if the costs are not considered and optimized. In addition, there is still a widespread belief that sustainability is more expensive. Optimizing costs and offsetting the product's footprint at the end is not enough in the long run. Let's start the new era of development processes and consistently combine cost and sustainability parameters. Decisionmakers can visualize development options in a decision tree where data is stored (costs and environmental impacts) and linked together. Following this, companies can use the optimization model to weigh costs and sustainability and find the optimal path to make product and process design decisions based on facts. And all this for economic activity in harmony with nature and nature in which our economy survives. Because at the end of the day we are not just about saving the planet, but ultimately ensuring our life on this planet.
Let's go back a few months and zoom in to a decision process of our product development, the closure for our laptop sleeve. We were evaluating the customers' requirements. Wouldn't it be nice to open the sleeve with one hand, have a slim design, low noise, no snagging, and no scratches? Of course, we thought, we could buy magnetic tapes. From a customer requirement point of view, magnetic tape is a great option. Magnetic tapes, a mix of plastic and metal. Is there no better solution? We thought one step further. Even though the industry can recycle plastic and magnets separately, it is no longer the case at the point where we inseparably combine two materials in magnetic tape. The same issue occurs with bonding different materials. Our claim: we stay away from gluing and instead find alternative technical solutions. We will focus on form-fit being a technical approach that makes it possible to separate different materials after the use phase. This way, we can return materials separately to their respective cycles at the end of their life cycle. Our solution for the closure is a single-variety plastic matrix that we will return to the raw material cycle without any loss of plastic quality. We let in a hole for including point magnets. The magnets are not altered by our production process and can be reused without restriction as at the moment we purchased them, regardless of how long you use our products.
The origin of sustainable design begins with the product development process. Decisions concerning the products must be critically questioned during the whole process, including potential environmental impacts. We will develop new product solutions that help decrease the ecological footprint through a smart design. Using this example, let's move on to the cost-based side. Surprisingly (or, strictly speaking, not surprisingly, if you think about it longer), our sustainably optimized alternative is much less expensive than the magnetic tape. If we apply this example to our approach to calculating costs and environmental impacts in a model, the optimization model here would have always favored the same alternative even regardless of the weighting of costs and environment. This product decision is still simple in its fundamental features. We can still do calculations with a piece of paper and pencil. However, the more complex a product and a company are, the more branches arise in the decision tree so that the software-supported calculation with an implemented optimization model will make the difference in the future.
Analogous to a nutrient table of food, we will provide an ingredient table of our products. At the current stage, we fill the ingredient table with all the information we have already stored in our database. Together with our suppliers, we work every day to go through the supply chain and expand our ingredient table. We will continue until we reach our goal: transparency of the entire supply chain. One of the biggest communication tasks ahead of us is reaching out to every manufacturer, supplier, and entrepreneur. To evoke the will and encourage them to share data and form supply chain transparency. The times of hiding behind undignified working conditions and ignoring nature in production processes must end once and for all.
As a small company we don't yet have any financial resources or negotiating position to convince manufacturers to share their eco-data. Of course, we are not resting on our laurels. We have the standards to communicate fact-based and transparent. We work on convincing our suppliers to work on the environmental impact assessments of their processes. Solely that way, our environmental impact assessments will become better and better. Communication will take time and energy. We are heartily pleased that we already have a serious exchange with our main supplier for the inner fabric of the laptop sleeve on the subject of LCA, on environmental certificates, circular economy, and on their data collection in the production processes. Above all, it is the knowledge that we have already moved something small that is indescribable.