Albin is a true pioneer of sustainability in manufacturing and an accredited assessor for the Cradle to Cradle Certified™ registered trademark and Certification Standard. His innovative approach earned Rohner Textiles 19 awards and impacted the textile industry globally. He shared the formula for the Cradle to Cradle processes with the entire textile industry. He helped Wolford to create a biodegradable polyester (PET) that is 100% toxic-free, which is safe for the environment and human health.
Industry from the very beginning has treated natural resources as essentially infinite, and the world’s capacity to accommodate waste with the same regard. As the economy becomes global, we now understand this is not true – so the way we make products also should change. EPEA Switzerland has developed ‘Reference Model Cradle-to-Cradle Design Innovations’. Their reference model works for every product in every industry. It can be used to create products in a way that aims to close the loop on the cradle-to-grave economy – whether that’s by using safe chemicals and materials, or designing products so their resources can be used across multiple lifecycles without loss of quality.
We at Fortunes Crown got into conversation with Albin Kaelin, Founder and CEO of the Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency (EPEA) to learn more about his journey and how he is changing the landscape of doing a business.
Please tell us about your educational/professional background. Would you like to mention some of the highlights from your journey?
“I’m actually left-handed. When I got to school, I was forced to write on the right. Back then I asked why, but I didn’t get an answer. This experience has taught me not to accept anything whose sense I do not understand. I want to shape my life so that it makes sense for me and for the community. In doing it becomes visual how I take responsibility. I work professionally to enable innovations to develop new concepts of production that no longer produce waste, but become ‘nutrients’ for other products. By showing new ways to the old system, I find my track of interface, where I am neither saying yes nor no and I am confident to bear my responsibility.”
“Innovation and Leadership are the only surviving strategies”
“If you compare, you start to compromise”
“This process never ends, if you never get this point, you never go to survive”
1981 to 2004 Albin Kälin was Managing Director of Rohner Textil AG in Switzerland. Since the 90s, under his leadership, the company won 19 international design awards. In 1993, he stimulated the development of the product line Climatex ® (www.climatex.com) and thus the first Cradle to Cradle ® products worldwide. Albin Kälin was awarded in 2001 UBS Key Trophy as the “Rhine Valley Entrepreneur of the Year.”
Please brief us in detail about the current scenario of the business. How have the customer preferences changed over the years?
“We all have been educated to think linear, all the systems we are living in are based on linear thinking. e.g accounting, GDP, recycling, landfill. There is no future, Cradle to Grave. We are losing resources, and their quality and most of them are even toxic. What we need is Cradle to Cradle. Enabling a positive perspective for future generations and the environment.
Legislation is taking this up rapidly within the EU Member States with the “New Green Deal”, forcing companies to transform into circular businesses and products designed for a toxic-free environment.
When was Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency established? Please tell us about the services/products your company is offering?
EPEA Switzerland was founded in 2009 to support businesses to innovate and become safe and circular. It is a different way of thinking; this is why it is so challenging. We need many lighthouses who can prove the different way of thinking is a success. How can we reach the tipping point soon.”
EPEA Switzerland GmbH supports companies in different areas of activities in the development and implementation of Cradle to Cradle ® design concepts.
With an experienced, internationally oriented and interdisciplinary working management team, Cradle to Cradle ® projects are implemented in all industries worldwide. EPEA Switzerland is an accredited general assessor for the Cradle to Cradle Certified® Certification. www.c2ccertified.org
What are the unique challenges your company is currently facing? How have they affected your company?
Building a Network of Trust
“To be honest this is a real challenge. Trying to transform linear systems into circular ones is demanding and challenging. Mindset, Management and Integrated Systems need to be transformed into a new way of thinking. This can only be created through innovation and strong and reliable partner networks. Over the years we were able to build a Network of Trust with hundreds of clients and thousands of suppliers on a global scale.
Please mention some of your achievements.
• CEO Today Europe Award Albin Kaelin EPEA Switzerland
• 2 Awards: Best CEO of the Year – Albin Kaelin > M&A Today Global Awards and Lawyer International
• Most Innovative CEO in the Worldwide Textile Industry > Business Worldwide Magazine CEO Awards
• Business Leadership and Outstanding Contribution to Sustainable Manufacturing > Business Worldwide Magazine CEO Awards
• Manufacturing – Leader of the Year Albin Kaelin- CEO- EPEA Switzerland GmbH > CEO Today Europe Award
• 2 Awards: Top 10 Most Inspiring CEO in Business in 2022 > CIO Views Magazine, Fortunes Crown
• Best Specialist Cradle to Cradle Products & Services Provider – 2022
• Acquisition International 2022 Global Excellence Awards
What measures do you incorporate to ensure motivation and productivity within the workspace? How do you respond to criticism and disagreements?
“For 25 years I experienced headwind and was considered a rebel. Now the time spirit touches the surface and you are recognized to be innovative. To receive tailwind is making it moving faster with less energy. Remain firm and never give up your principles.”
Changing a mindset is challenging and causes many contradictions, discussions and often criticism and disagreements. As Albert Einstein mentioned: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
A lot of time needs to be invested until the point of understanding is reached that “it makes sense”. After that and not before everyone is motivated to support and start the innovation process. We do not look back to the existing products or systems, we design everything new. Creating new perspectives for companies in the future for coming generations and the environment.
What measures do you undertake to ensure optimum customer satisfaction? How much impact does the customer feedback have on the company’s strategies?
All our projects are based on innovation, a high-risk environment with many hurdles to overcome each time. Building on a powerful network of trust, and communicating successful case studies on the web or social media EPEASwitzerland supports the image of credibility in the marketplace.
Our principle: A team is stronger as an individual. Within projects customers, integrated network partners, consultants, and accredited assessors are acting as a team working at eye level and enabling thinking out of the box.
Are you planning to launch any new products/services or advancements to your existing offerings? If so, we would like to know about it.
We are establishing right now an introduction educational program for companies, and universities to get them closer to changing their mindset and the path of innovation. We call it “Cradle to Cradle for Professionals”. Building on the next Generations to come.
Moreover, Mr. Kaelin proudly shared some of EPEA’s case studies to tempt the readers into finding out more about the company. A number of satisfied customers as prime examples tells that the business is indeed in action, and thus these case studies will tell the world how good the EPEA is.
1. EU planning green revolution for the chemicals industry
Brussels – From the perspective of the European Commission, the European chemical industry should seek to reclaim its competitive ability with the use of safe and sustainable chemicals. In preparation for its chemical strategy for sustainability, the European Commission widely consulted various stakeholders within the chemicals industry. In this regard, it held a conference on the circular economy in Brussels in 2018, where Albin Kälin had the opportunity to present the Cradle to Cradle concept and discuss the traceability of safe substances in closed-loop biological and technological lifecycles.
2. EPEA Switzerland forms Network of Trust
Bäch SZ – The circular economy is becoming ever more important. However, the implementation of principles such as Cradle to Cradle requires the collaboration of many partners. Throughout its longstanding activities, EPEA Switzerland, the accredited assessor for Cradle to Cradle Certified and Material Health Certified certifications, has built up a network of companies that are all singing from the same hymn sheet in this respect: the Network of Trust. Various companies form part of the network, including the specialty chemicals group Clariant, the textiles manufacturers Wolford, Napapijri, Calida, Trigema, Mary Rose and OceanSafe, the cleaning product manufacturers of the brand “Frosch” and Green Care Professional brands, the printing firm Vögeli, the furniture producers USM and Flokk-Giroflex in addition to the parquet flooring specialists Bauwerk.
3. Vögeli Creates Clean Food Packaging
Langnau BE – Vögeli offers the only printed paper for food packaging in the world that conforms with the Cradle to Cradle Certified GOLD Standard. This innovation has been made possible by collaborating with several partners. “The cooperative’s mission is to share expertise amassed by the founding companies over two decades with regard to healthy, residue-free printing processes, the circular economy and Cradle to Cradle certifications with other printing companies in Europe, conduct joint research, development and procurement activities in addition to working the markets.” Cradle to Cradle Certified GOLD Standard ensures toxins from paper and cardboard no longer pollute the environment, meaning that these substances ultimately also no longer end up in consumers’ bodies.
4. Mondi first to offer extensive portfolio of Cradle to Cradle Certified® uncoated fine papers from its European mills
18 January 2022 – Mondi, a global leader in packaging and paper, received the Cradle to Cradle certification at Bronze level for its uncoated fine papers produced in its mills in Austria, Slovakia and Russia. For many years, Mondi has been a leader, and often a pioneer, in the sustainability of its uncoated fine papers. For example, Color Copy became the world´s first FSCTMcertified colour laser paper in 2005. Thanks to our new Cradle to Cradle certification our customers have a uniquely wide choice of products to support the environment and contribute to the circular economy without sacrificing on quality or price,” says Devan Naidoo, Marketing and Sales Director at Mondi Uncoated Fine Paper. The holistic approach follows nature´s principle of keeping materials and resources in circulation and eliminating waste. The programme assesses five categories of sustainability performance: material health, product circularity, clean air and climate protection, water and soil stewardship, and social fairness.
5. Calida creates clothing fit for the circular economy
Oberkirch LU – With its fully compostable collection “100% Nature”, Calida has already signified its commitment to the circular economy. But the clothing manufacturers from the canton of Lucerne are not resting on their laurels; rather, the collection is being steadily expanded. As recognition for the company’s efforts to protect the environment and promote the circular economy, Calida was named as one of the three prize-winners of the Swiss Ethics Award, which was presented in the spring. Calida has been supported throughout this journey by EPEA Switzerland in its role as an accredited expert for Cradle to Cradle Certified certifications. This partnership was exceptionally valuable in Calida’s efforts to develop pajamas, underwear and t-shirts made from 100 percent cellulose. All the materials used to manufacture these products, including the yarn, label, buttons and dyes have been transparently and scientifically evaluated and found to be good. These also comply with the Cradle to Cradle principles and can therefore be reintegrated in the biological lifecycle.
In this way, the products in the “100% Nature” range are fully biodegradable. Calida will even take them back on request. However, consumers also have the option of putting the textiles on their garden compost heap. The process of decomposition takes four to six months overall.
6. Bauwerk produces parquet flooring for generations6. Bauwerk produces parquet flooring for generations
St.Margrethen SG – Bauwerk Parkett has developed a flooring solution that not only forgoes any such toxic substances in its products, but also does not produce any waste itself in comparison with combustion processes of today. The Silente technology allows the flooring to be easily dismantled, processed and reused at the end of its service life. The same parquet flooring can be used across at least three product generations without any loss of quality. The useful life of the resources used is therefore enhanced by three lifetimes, meaning that they can later be re-used for further products in the form of cascading. The parquet is designed in such a way that the materials always stay within a closed loop. No individual parts end up being thrown away, while unnecessary energy usage is also avoided. In this way, the CO2 contained within wood can be stored over decades and even centuries. Furthermore, the parquet flooring absorbs the sound. Bauwerk Parkett developed its new technology in conjunction with EPEA Switzerland in line with the Cradle to Cradle Design Innovation concept. For two of its products, namely Cleverpark Silente and Multipark Silente, Bauwerk Parkett is even the sole wooden flooring manufacturer to have been awarded the Cradle to Cradle Certified Gold certificate. The certification process also involved an analysis of Bauwerk’s suppliers enabling a transparent supply chain and a material health assessment of all chemical ingredients used in the product.