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IUCN on aluminium

Interview with Andrea Athanas, Senior Programme Officer with the Business and Biodiversity Programme of the World Conservation Union.

  Capsules      Environment      Recycling    

“IUCN and Nespresso are working together to promote the creation of a “Responsible Aluminum” product”

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am Senior Programme Officer with the Business and Biodiversity Programme of the World Conservation Union (IUCN). I am responsible for IUCN’s work on energy, ecosystems and livelihoods and coordinate IUCN’s work with the extractive industries. My work includes overseeing the development of tools for managing the biodiversity impacts of energy technologies such as biofuels and offshore renewable, providing training on environmental and social impact assessments for energy projects and policies, and advising IUCN programmes on their energy work.

I have a Masters in Environmental Assessment and Evaluation from the London School of Economics and a Bachelors degrees in Economics and English from the University of Michigan.

Please tell us about how the IUCN is working with Nespresso on Ecolaboration. What are the key areas of involvement?

The overall purpose of the strategic Partnership between IUCN and Nespresso is to enhance the way sustainability and, in particular, ecological issues are addressed within Nespresso and its supply chains. The objectives of the Partnership are: one, to create a market differentiation for sustainability (including biodiversity) performance throughout the aluminum value chain. Two, measure and strengthen the ecological outcomes of the Nespresso Ecolaboration commitments; and three, explore new business models, which are designed to minimize Nespresso’s footprint on the environment.

IUCN and Nespresso are working together to promote the creation of a “Responsible Aluminum” product, which demonstrates measured and verified progress in implementing sustainability standards and practices in the aluminum industry. This involves convening companies from the aluminum value chain (from bauxite miners to recycling companies), interested stakeholders from civil society (environmental, human rights and labour organizations), and others (academics, governments, and international organizations) to agree a set of principles and criteria and develop a credible verification scheme for the aluminum industry.

IUCN is engaging with its Members and partners to explore how changes in policy frameworks can promote such recycling solutions. At the moment, IUCN is looking to identify experienced country specific partners among its membership and network to work on influencing strategy for recycling policies at national and EU level. This work will be done in close collaboration with Nespresso. It is envisaged that this type of work will be supported financially by Nespresso providing some benefits to the collaborating partners involved with the initiative.

The IUCN has been a long-term Ecolaboration partner of Nespresso. What are the key principles behind your relationship?

IUCN is interested in working with Nespresso on this programme of work because of opportunities both in the short term and over the long term. In the short to medium term, the AluCycle initiative provides IUCN with an opportunity to influence actors throughout the aluminum value chain to adopt more sustainable practices, in particular practices that safeguard biodiversity.  Also in the short to medium term, working with Nespresso offers IUCN the opportunity to influence individual consumers in Europe and globally to conserve biodiversity and safeguard the environment. Over the long term, a relationship with Nespresso may provide IUCN with the opportunity to influence a market leader in the coffee industry to create a new model for the most sustainable, highest quality, convenient single serve cup of coffee in the world.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in working with Nespresso on Ecolaboration? How have these been overcome?

Any relationship between the corporate sector and the non-profit world faces challenges, as the drivers for the two sectors tend to be very different. With our work with Nespresso on Ecolaboration, one of the main challenge to date has been finding the right balance between Company leadership and industry-wide responsibility. On aluminum, Nespresso has clearly taken a leadership position to promote the development of a third party verified “Responsible Aluminum” which will assure customers, and society, that the aluminum used in the capsules is being produced in a responsible manner. This leadership position has triggered an industry-wide response in the aluminum value chain which Nespresso is part of. But not all the others in that value chain to share the same concerns as Nespresso. Thus, it is important – but difficult – to keep true to the vision of Ecolaboration in the context of an industry initiative.

What are your hopes for the future of Ecolaboration?

My greatest hope for Ecolaboration is that the insights into the ecological footprint of the current Nespresso business model will inspire a new model for Nespresso that is based on the principles of nature. Taking from the work of the Bimimicry Institute it would be inspiring if Nespresso would find innovations that follow “Life’s Principles” which “instruct us to: build from the bottom up, self-assemble, optimize rather than maximize, use free energy, cross-pollinate, embrace diversity, adapt and evolve, use life-friendly materials and processes, engage in symbiotic relationships, and enhance the bio-sphere”.

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