When we talk about sustainability, it is unquestionable that the current situation forces immediate decision-making, both globally and at an individual and company level. This urgency to do and show what is being done, has resulted in many cases in a lack of rigor and transparency, what has come to be called “greenwashing”. The scandals at the highest level that have shaken the business world in recent years and the damage they have done to the credibility of this type of policy are well known for everybody.
Periodically new terms that become fashionable appear and due to the lack of rigor of those who use them inappropriately or the absence of standards that regulate them, lead to situations like the one we are describing. We all remember controversies over the use of the BIO or ECOLOGICAL designation of certain products, or more focused on the public spaces sector that concerns us, the laxity when it comes to classify a product as ACCESSIBLE or UNIVERSAL while the regulatory frameworks that regulated it were not established, and even after they existed.
Circular economy, sustainable design or eco-design are the terms that refer to the fact of replacing a current product or process with an equivalent alternative, but with a lower environmental impact. The 3 non-negotiable premises that GALOPÍN establishes, and their order of priority are:
- That the new product or process has the same or better properties than the original product or process in terms of quality, durability, functionality, etc.
- That the environmental impact of this new product or process is less than that of the original product or process.
- That the resulting production cost is affordable by the market.
This apparently simple starting point really represents one of the most important challenges for any company and how it carries out this transition will depend on the viability of the companies themselves.
Analysing each one of these premises in detail, we will see the complexity that this paradigm shift implies.
In the sector in which GALOPÍN works, it is essential that any alternative that is considered for an existing product or any new product that is brought to the market, does so with the characteristics and qualities established by design and in accordance with the regulations that govern that product. This implies that mechanical, functional, durability, resistance to use, chemical properties, absence of toxic components or other properties are guaranteed.
In a raw material or in a “virgin” material, traceability, composition, and homogeneity are generally perfectly controllable and reliable. However, when the composition of this material comes, to a greater or lesser extent, from waste, recovered materials, to guarantee this traceability, composition and homogeneity generally becomes complex implying a high cost that is neither constant nor controllable. In general, there are different types of recovered materials depending on their origin:
- POST-INDUSTRIAL material: production remains from cuts, leftovers, etc. that comply with the principles of traceability and homogeneity.
- PRE-CONSUMPTION material: remains from products that have not reached the final consumer and since they are perfectly identified, they comply with the principle of traceability.
- POST-CONSUMPTION material: from products that have finished their useful life and that after a process or treatment can be used again. In this case, both cleaning, identification and classification complicate the achievement of a material with traceable, homogeneous and certifiable characteristics.
In any case, regardless of the origin of the materials used, their traceability and the characteristics of the product must be always guaranteed.
That the environmental impact of this equivalent product is lower is not trivial either. In the first place, the means to measure this impact throughout the entire life cycle must be enabled, including possible recovery procedures and their costs once their useful life is over. Products of low quality and very short useful life or the use of mixtures of materials that complicate the identification, separation and traceability at the end of the cycle, are two examples of the importance of requiring that the scope of the certifications include the recovery of these products.
Achieving a technically viable and environmentally sustainable product should not be enough and it must be done at a measurable and affordable by the market cost throughout its life cycle, otherwise all these efforts will be in vain.
Faced with business positions and policies tending to launch dramatic and sensationalist message, with supposedly immediate returns but with negative consequences in medium and long term, there is another way of acting based on rigor, verifiable facts and demonstrable realities. GALOPÍN’s roadmap is fully aligned with this rigorous way of doing things and the guidelines on which the company’s sustainability policy is based attest to this.