Lifecycle Assessment (LCA) provides a systematic framework to identify and assess environmental impacts associated with a product or service, including energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, waste generation, and as probably most interesting for us, water use.
Hence, LCA is a powerful decision-making tool that helps identify opportunities to reduce environmental impacts, improve efficiency, and promote circularity. Let’s explore it:
with 🎙️ Dubravka Skunca, LCA Representative and Expert for the European Commission, but also an SME Support leader at the European Regional Development Fund, Business Consultant, and Council Representative at various EIT groups.
💧 Dubravka is also LCA Leader for Green Protein, a European project which aims at a major innovation in the fields of protein production and food loss reduction in the EU by producing high-added value, food-grade functional proteins, and other ingredients out of green field waste.
What we covered:
♻️ What Life Cycle Assessment actually is, and what outcomes to expect from it
🦶 How Water Footprint is one of the dimensions of Lifecycle Assessment
🌐 How there won’t be any water circularity without a global circularity – a topic we had already addressed with Gonzalo Delacámara last week
👨⚖️ How sustainability can involve difficult calls to make for decision-makers and how LCA can help make the right decisions
🌱 How SMEs can benefit from Lifecycle Assessment not only for their own growth path but also to better interact with large companies
🛣️ How sustainability is on the roadmap of most CEOs for their companies’ future but also their present
🍲 How circularity will have to play an increased role in the agri-food value chain
🛠️ What to do once you’ve completed your Lifecycle Assessment and which tools and steps come next
🗑️ How wasted food is also a lot of wasted water, and how new approaches strive to fight that sustainability non-sense
Coaching SMEs, Lecturing at the University, startups as a way to feed major’s innovation, demonstrating impact to a wide audience… and much more!
🔥 … and of course, we concluded with the 𝙧𝙖𝙥𝙞𝙙 𝙛𝙞𝙧𝙚 𝙦𝙪𝙚𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨 🔥
🔗 Send your warmest regards to Dubravka on LinkedIn
is on Linkedin ➡️
Table of contents
These are computer-generated, so expect some typos 🙂
Antoine Walter: Hi Dubravka, welcome to the show.
Dubravka Skunca: Hi Antoine. It’s my pleasure to be here!
Antoine Walter: Actually, I’m curious to get to know a bit better today, your field of expertise and a different way to look at the water challenges we face right now because you’re not coming from a water angle and that is something which is quite appealing to me. I like to start by getting to know you. And that starts with a pretty simple question.
How did you first get interested in research and innovation and partnerships and global challenge?
Dubravka Skunca: That’s an interesting question. So for a long time I have been a professor at university. Research was something that I was doing since I was 22. But when I entered the Green Pertain project, Which was finance, European Commission, horizon 2020. Biobase Industries. Grant I was lifecycle leader in this project.
And this is actually where I got really accustomed and very interested in the global goals. And because our Goal there was to make a protein, to extract it in an environmentally friendly way from sugar beet leaves. And this was really interesting for me. And we had established a demo plant in Netherlands.
So the entire process was really the full research and development and innovation related so this is in 2016 when the project started. And this is the start of my serious career in this area. Let’s say it like that.
Antoine Walter: So for the muggle, which in this case is me can you define life cycle and life cycle assessment, where does it start? Where does it stop? What’s the content of it?
Dubravka Skunca: Basically life cycle assessment. It’s scientific tool and it helps you to measure the impact on the environment of products regarding all the stages of their life cycle. And for example, with the circular economy, you have different options regarding the recycling the reuse of components and so on.
And then with the help of the lifecycle assessment, you can get an exact number, an exact measurement of environmental burden, of your environmental pollution of each of these options. And then you can choose the one that influences the environment the least.
Antoine Walter: You started in 2016 to get interested into these global challenges and that got you to look at water. So water is one of the components in this life cycle assessment.
Dubravka Skunca: Yes, that is correct. Water footprint is one of the environmental impact categories. That lifecycle assessment is measuring with the help of the software. And when you enter all the input and output data of the certain production system you then get all these indicators, quantified.
Water footprint. Global warming potential. I mean CO2 ozone layer depletion, land use and so on. And then you can have a better picture about the possibility, how to do the mitigation optimization strategies to lower the environmental impact
Antoine Walter: you mentioned this Horizon 2020 project, which started in 2016. How long will it still last?
Dubravka Skunca: So it has ended last year at the end of May, 2021. So it lasted almost five years.
Antoine Walter: And so when the project was over, what did you do after that?
Dubravka Skunca: During the entire time when I was on the project at the same time, I was university professor, which I am still. And before the project ended, I have actually started to collaborate with the EIT and especially EIT food. And this is something that I have done and I have supported them in their activities.
And also soon after the project ended in October, 2021 I have become a leading SME support expert for the GO Project, which is helping Swedish SMEs to do the green transition and to implement life cycle assessments, circular economy principles and so on. In their business, it’s also an EU project financed by European Regional Development Fund and Reg.
Antoine Walter: If I’m right now, it’s right from the top of my head. At Project you have 25 SMEs, right?
Dubravka Skunca: Yes. All together 25 SMEs. .
Antoine Walter: What’s the profiles of those companies?
Dubravka Skunca: It’s a really good question. Because these companies are in the area of food. They’re in the different part of the value chain of the food production. And my area of expertise outside of lifecycle assessment is food chains. That’s what my PhD was about.
Antoine Walter: Okay. I’d like to come back to this topic of food in a minute, but you mentioned EIT and actually that’s what brings us somehow to together. We will be sitting in the round table together on the topic of how to go fully water circular by 2050. And I’d like to start with. Opinion as a life cycle expert. Do you think that we are ready to go fully water circle?
Dubravka Skunca: My colleague on the round table, Gonzalo, would be the right address for this question I would not give my prediction because I think he’s the expert for that question.
Antoine Walter: So I can give you my opinion, , which is very clear. It’s to, to me it’s a, no, we are not ready. So the question is how do we get ready? And I think to that extent, what you just said makes a lot of sense. How would you define Water circularity.
Dubravka Skunca: I would basically start not with the water circularity, but with the circularity concept,
On its own. So, in brief I would like to just mention that we have the linear economy, which is craddle to grave approach. We have goods designed for a single lifetime disposed on the landfill after the use.
And this is putting a significant pressure. On the environment, on the one hand, on the other hand, on natural resource extraction. But if we compare linear economy with the circular economy, we can see the circular economy actually promotes a quite different approach. It’s a craddle to craddle approach, and here we are using the waste of one industry as the resource for another circularity is implemented at every stage of the value chain.
And the usage of recycling renewable energy, using products as long as possible is enforced. And then we have one thing with the circular economy principles. So reusing of the components can require additional transport in some cases for the collection of these components. On the other hand, if we are using recycled materials, this would shorten the lifetime of a product and we sometimes have a problem how to choose the best circular strategy.
And this is where the life cycle assessment actually helps. As we’ve spoken before, it provides. with the number and a scientific tool. It measures environmental footprint, all stages of the life cycle of a product. And it can actually do the comparison of different circular economy strategies.
So for example, different types of water use, different types of water treatments in the case of water, for example. And why is this really important for example, for startups SM. In some cases municipalities, because this combination of the lifecycle assessment methodology on the one hand and the circular economy principles on the other provides a good comparison of circular strategies and helps this small player to choose the strategy that is best for them, not only from the environmental aspect but also from.
Cost cutting aspect because if you use less resources, you will in most of the cases, pay less. So life cycle assessment helps here to indicate hotspots in the production chain of the startups of the SMEs. And what is really important. It can help startups and SMEs to choose the most sustainable suppliers.
And why is this really important? This is really important because it can enable port startups and SMEs to be partners for the large multinational enterprises because these large multinational enterprises are wanting to collaborate only with those small companies, innovative companies which have the entire value chain.
And all of their suppliers in check and where their entire chain is environmentally friendly. So in this case it provides a a significant amount of help to SMEs and startups for choosing the sustainable suppliers, but also. SMEs and startups by using lifecycle assessment in combination with the circular economy, can actually showcase their own consumers, how can they lower their environmental footprint.
In the case of the food production chain, for example, they can showcase on the website or on the. Packaging of the product, how much CO2 or liters of water can be saved. If, for example, the packaging is being recycled. And there is no food waste with the consumer.
And it can be quantified. In liters of water and in kilograms of co2. So that’s very important for the consumers to see. And what I would also like to emphasize at the end that this combination of lifecycle assessment and circular economy can help startups and small and medium enterprises to build environmental profile, which can be part of their business plan.
So when they are pitching their ideas to investors or when they’re trying to get bank loans or when they’re applying for the European projects It’s the thing that they can get help from the most. But there is an also an added value because the research has shown that the group of consumers called millennials , are really attracted to buy products and services from companies that are environmentally aware.
And also on the other hand, millennials are motivated to work for these companies, for these startups, SMEs, and companies in general which are showing this environmental aspect in their business.
Antoine Walter: there’s a lot. You just said which I like to deconstruct it a bit , to try to understand it even better. Let’s start by the end with , this, how to appeal to millennials. Millennials today are a portion of the workforce and are a portion of the stakeholders in our associate, but I guess they’re yet the majority in the decision makers and and among the C- level in big companies. How widespread is it today? This awareness of the importance of circularity and this vision of the cradle to cra or really did the entire cycle of a product and all its component
Dubravka Skunca: There was actually research done by an EMD professor, which was also the conclusions of this research published at the World Economic Forum website. And basically the majority of CEOs are quite aware that their business strategy if not today, will have to be sustainable in the future. 62 uh, percent of executives are considering that it’s necessary for sustainability strategy to be competitive today. And another 22% of them are thinking it’ll be necessary in the future.
So, the data are encouraging. And also if we see the big multinational companies and their websites, it is encouraging that we can see the entire reports about circular economy principles, implementation. Then also life cycle assessment conclusions. And they are getting to implement all these strategies in their business because, their market research has proven that consumers nowadays are really environmentally aware and also what is really important their reputation depends on how much Environmentally friendly they are.
And what do I mean, by this? When I mentioned that they want to collaborate only with SMEs and startups, which are having the sustainable suppliers. So these multinational companies even have the special requirements for the companies they are associating themselves with, that they should portray in their value chain because.
If the opposite happens and if some kind of huge environmental pollution is related to the supplier network or on the other hand child labor or something like this, this entire multinational companies and their stakes in their financial market that they have is going to be actually really impacted by this, which we saw in the.
Last years, how these aspects are really important. So I would say that the answer on your question is that , yes, they are aware and they are working towards achieving the full sustainability across the value chain.
Antoine Walter: Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to push you in a corner. I’d like to get them the level of deployment and when you say that they’re aware and that it will be part of what they will be doing. What I hear also is that they don’t necessarily do it today, so it’s a rollout, I guess. The word doesn’t change in one day.
I’m just trying to figure out from your experience , with, for instance, the tool of life cycle assessment. When you present that to SMEs or , to bigger companies, is it a weird animal to them or do they know the tool and do you have to convince them of how useful it is? What is the level of deployment on this.
Dubravka Skunca: So you have mentioned in the future and not today, so No. Today multinational companies are requiring from the companies they’re associated themselves with to have a sustainable supplier chain. And these are the requirements which are enforced today. But the research that I have mentioned I have mentioned that CEOs are aware that.
If not their companies should have completely sustainable strategy right now. They will need to have it in the future. And this means that the great majority of them actually is doing this already. So, the answer on your question, life cycle assessment. When I speak with the representatives of large multinational companies, they are really aware of it.
And also when I speak with the SMEs, they’re also aware of it and the, regarding the startups, majority of them, yes. But I would like to say that it depends in which part of. We are talking about, so the parts of Europe, which are really environmentally aware and are employing sustainability strategies more than the others.
For example, if we have Sweden they, of course, there’s , great majority of startups, SMEs, large companies, know about lifecycle assessment and has either already implemented it or they will implement it in the future.
Antoine Walter: In the preparations of our round table I’ve seen the mention of this circular water 2050 Horizon which is a reports done by Kwr and they mention how it starts with a fully circular slash renewable and safe use of feed stock. And I’ve seen you talking about future fit food systems and I was wondering if those two concepts are the same, and what would be your definition?
Dubravka Skunca: When regarding my background as a scientist and university professor, my answer on this question should have to be based on the research that I have already undertake, because I do not like, To give subjective predictions or my own opinion in that sense, if it’s not based in my research.
So, regarding the feed I would like to say that the question that you have posed is very interesting and I have done an interesting research regarding the chicken meat. Chain, which actually included 119 farm slaughter houses, processing plants and retailers, and 500 households which had altogether more than 2000 consumers.
And what were the results from the environmental. Part of this research, it was lifecycle assessment. So 619 lifecycle assessment calculations have been done and the results were that actually the feed production at a farm had the highest influence regarding the environmental burden on the farm.
And the farm was leading within environmental burden. In comparison to the other four subsystems. So it had the same environmental pollution as slaughterhouse plus processing plant plus retail plus household altogether per kilogram of chicken meat, of course, because everything is recalculated according to the functional unit, which is kilogram of chicken meat.
In order for all this to be comparable, of course, so I would say that feed production on the farm provides the largest environmental burden and the actions towards this should be undertook in the future. So, that would be actually my answer regarding my own research from this point.
Antoine Walter: I’ve discussed on that microphone with. Claudia Winkler and Alice Schmidt, who wrote a book called The Sustainability Puzzle, and we discussed about systems of systems and how it’s difficult in a system of systems to decide which subsystem you start working on first. And sometimes it’s even not the sensitive way to do it.
Sometimes you go on the system of systems and you work there. When you identify that one of these subsystems is a significant contributor, what’s a possible way to address that? D o you? Address that? Portion of the feedstock value chain, or do you take the whole thing and try to reconsider step by step, everything which is inside?
Dubravka Skunca: Regarding any of the hotspot, so for example, here was the production of feed, but when you find, which is the hotspot with the help of lifecycle assessment analysis, what you do next is that you analyzes the possibilities for optimization for possible mitigation options. How to This aspect and what you do.
Then in lifecycle assessment, you are undertaking sensitivity analysis. Sensitivity analysis means that you are testing different aspects that could possibly provide solution for Lower environmental impact in this area. So you will test different aspects of the problem and then you will see which one is the best.
And this is how like life cycle assessment can actually provide the real help. Usually when life cycle assessment is being undertook, in my experience in the paper that I have published, in the project that I’m doing with the Swedish SMEs and so on, so we go into the subsystem that their environmental burden is the highest, and then we see what can we do to test different solutions for this.
And then if we lower the environmental impact like this, then in all together in the chain, it will be lowered.
Antoine Walter: I have again, a question for the muggle, which is still me. Life cycle assessment, is that a picture like , you do an entire calculation, you run it and then you get a result? Or is it like a living tool which will keep processing in the back and which will update you with new information as soon as something new happens in your process.
Dubravka Skunca: This is a really good and very interesting question. So, I will give you a brief intro into the how lifecycle assessment is being done. And first I will just say to you that yes, you are right. It depends at which point you are doing life cycle assessments. So for example, for the EU projects when.
The project is close to the end, when you have the entire production system at place. Then you do life cycle assessment and see if there any fine tuning can be done. I will tell you what was basically the steps for this chicken meat chain analysis? So first we have established the questionnaire.
Which we have structured and put questions for the people working in the farms, for our houses, processing plants, retails, and then also for the consumers in the households. What was our main reason for these questionnaire to, to give them was to have the, all the inputs and all the outputs from the process.
So, we have gathered data for the inputs, including. The water, the different types of energy, electricity, diesel, lpg, natural gas packaging materials, plastic paper materials, and also outputs, paper waste, bio waste, waste water, which are related to this production and consumption of one kilogram of chicken meat.
We have recalculated, like all this data per our functional unit, one kilogram of chicken meet. And then we entered this information into the software. And when we press calculate the software, then we get The exact numbers for each type of the environmental impact categories and what has helped us significantly regarding the chicken meat chain and the entire lifecycle assessment procedure.
It help us realize that the. Results were of course, quite different between examined farms, solar houses, processing plants, retailers, and the main reason that we have figured out why is because smaller stakeholders had higher environmental burden due to lack of the financial resources.
So this is something that was the practical implementation of lca, which led us to see that actually it’s really important for startups and SMEs to undertake LCA as soon as they can, cuz it can really help them in the future. But yes, life cycle assessment in a way is a dynamic tool.
But you are choosing to do it at one point. In the time. So at that point in the time, you will have the LCA and you will publish the. And also to this point of time, you will actually also make the boundaries of the entire system. You will say in your analysis that for example, you have included all the chemicals using for cleaning processes.
You have also including transport, and plus of course all activities that are taking place in each. Farm slaughterhouse, mid processing plant and retail, and this is how you actually close the system. You say when you have done the analysis at which point of time and then you have the results and then the afterwards you do the sensitivity analysis, which can actually help you with mitigation options, but you are completely right in a year.
Of course the life cycle assessment can be done again, and then probably the results will be different, especially if the stakeholders have implemented some of the mitigation optimization environmental options that we suggested.
Antoine Walter: During your life cycle analysis process, how do you deal with the externalities? Like for instance, water scarcity might be an externality. How does it, or does it even influence your calculation?
Dubravka Skunca: Regarding the usual practice of doing lifecycle assessment with. SMEs, and also large companies and the production plants and so on. So what do you do? Yeah. We are using the water use as an input, so we are checking.
How much water is needed for the production of one kilogram of chicken meat, for example, for all of these subsystems. And we are entering this in the software and then at the end we are seeing water footprint. So in that sense, we are using, but then we have an added value because of the sensitivity analysis, we can test the different water treatment options, and then do the.
Environmental burden comparison between the different water treatments and then choose the most environmentally friendly one. I mean, I also wanted to tell you an interesting effect about the bus water tower in Netherlands, which is one of the most sustainable buildings in Netherlands.
And actually what is interesting here is that doing the treatment of the waste water organically. So they have a pond with particular kind of plants, which purifies the waste water organically. So, this is maybe something that would be more common in the future. So I just wanted to mention that there are different, not only typical industrial ways of water treatment.
Antoine Walter: Yeah, it’s a topic we’ve discussed on that microphone with Denise Engelbrecht from Enso Earth on the living buildings and the living machines, which might be part of the future of the way we deal with water in a more circular fashion and on much shorter circle. So interesting that you mention it.
You’ve been co-authoring. White paper on innovative solutions to cope with water scarcity. What is your involvement in that white paper?
Dubravka Skunca: So my involvement in the white paper was regarding the food waste. And the aspects of the water scarcity and how they are interconnected. It’s actually because the percentage of total fresh water that agriculture is using is actually 70% on the global level according to the World Bank data.
Of course, the considerable lower pressure on water resources will be achieved if we avoid the cultivation of the surplus food, which is. Wasted regarding the European Union 88 million tons of food waste each year are being wasted and it has costs of around 143 million Euros as EU project Fusions has done these calculations and suggested so.
Food waste disconnected with climate change, with the consumption over consumption, food scarcity, but food security, but also water scarcity. And what is also really important is inside of this overall food waste, large part is domestic waste, and it’s contributing to pollution of water resources significant.
And what is also on of the information from our white paper is that about one quarter of all water used in agriculture each year is. Food that is consumed, but ultimately wasted. So one quarter of water is related to this water regarding the food waste and what is also these examples, which I mentioned also in the white paper but also during the water academy.
Which is inside the same project E B D E I T are the examples of startups, which made a huge difference in this area. And this is the audio app and also too Good to Go app. Both of them were founded in 2015 and, for example, all your app. Has over 6 million users and it connects people in local community.
People are providing food for their neighbors in need, and it’s a carbon negative company. They saved over 65 million portions of food across over 60 countries. And it helped fault waters cars significantly. They saved billions of liters of water, and on the other hand we have two to go app which is the user is downloading the app, finding the nearby restaurant, bakery, or hotel, then paying and picking up the food.
And in this way it’s saving it from going to waste and. The two good to go up is also having an additional benefit because with the help of the app, like you are finding the nearest place which you are taking the food from, which is really important because of the transport and related environmental emissions, which are then in this case or lower or insignificant because many people are going by foot to grab this.
And the important part is that too good to go up is finding ways in the future to reduce food waste across the entire chain, which is a really important for the future. So these are examples of the startups which actually have made a significant difference in relation to the food waste.
Water use and faulting waters scarcity is one of the additional benefit.
Antoine Walter: I just like to put , into perspective what you just said these numbers on agriculture being 70 to 80% of the water used worldwide and 25% of that water going wasted. That means that. 20% of the water the, in the world is wasted, and we are having this full conversation about water because of the.
The projection of the O C D E, which was showing how 40% of the water will go missing by 2030 if we want to strike a balance without changing anything in our behavior. So it sounds like an incredible, and sorry for the per low hanging fruit, to have this 20% of water, which is just pure waste today.
And if we eliminate that waste, half of the problem is solved. So I know it’s easier said than done but in terms of putting the big numbers, that’s interesting to see. obvious it sounds to be to be addressing that, that problem. The two apps you mentioned are B2C apps, so it’s really taking the consumer on boat 88 million tons was the amount of food waste you mentioned, right.
Dubravka Skunca: yes, in the European Union, each.
Antoine Walter: Is it households which waste that food? Or is it also, I dunno, supermarket or restaurant or agri food businesses. Where is the chunk of that, that that waste coming from?
Dubravka Skunca: It’s all the numbers that you have mentioned are for all together.
Antoine Walter: But what is the biggest contributor
Dubravka Skunca: it really depends on the country that you are looking at. So I don’t have an exact answer on your question. But households are having the significant percentage here in all of the countries. What is the common denominator? All of the EU countries is a households do hold in each of the country’s significant percentage.
And if we would work on the household part of the chain a lot of aspects could be changed. And Olio for example is working regarding this part of the chain.
Antoine Walter: But so millions of users for OYO and to get together. That’s incredible, really. And it’s an amazing achievement. But if I take the other side of the same coin, it’s still a small percentage of all the users. So how do you bring everybody on board?
Dubravka Skunca: I would say so for example, just to clarify, so Olio is including households, but it’s also including Hotels, restaurants, and so on, if they’re interested in donating food on the other hand too good to go is including businesses who are giving food to consumers. But otherwise, this food would be wasted.
My answer on your question would be that one of the solution. Would be actually in startups because they’re innovative and they are small and which means they’re very flexible. And I think that the solution is in in. Actually employing startups to help big companies with their innovativeness and their flexibility because if you join a big company which is not so flexible, but has the resources and startup, which is innovative, but doesn’t have so much financial resources then you can do a lot in this.
And this is one of the reasons why I think the competition like we are going to have in the main event is really important. And also the small and medium companies and startups floating waters scarcity can truly make a difference. So I would say in the beginning they can start by themselves with their innovative ideas.
In the future, they could possibly. With the larger players, and then we have the entire ecosystem interconnected and some important innovative and environmentally friendly solutions implement.
Antoine Walter: this aspect of bringing the consumer on board is something which let me do a very personal comment here. When you go to a shop like a supermarket in Switzerland, which is the place where I’m working day in, day out, 365 days per year, you see the same fruits and vegetables because consumers are used to have that delivery.
And so that means that in order to have. Fruits and vegetables available all the time, all year long. Not withstanding the rules of seasonality you need to have. Of course kind of a lot of waste because sometimes that food will be traveling much more than it should, reasonably. So that’s one aspect.
And the other aspect is I’ve been reading a very interesting study from Paolo d’Odorico and his team where he was showing that if you take the entire word and you change the location of crops, you know the places, then water can become much more efficient in its use to, to grow crops. Because if you plant the right crop at the right place, Then you’re gonna get much better returns.
And he was showing out in Europe, you could almost multiply four the value of water and up to eight , in Northeast Asia because he was showing out, for instance, rice wouldn’t be a ways to best crop , to grow there. And where I’m heading with that is that as a consumer, if we were going to that very water optimized way to, to choose our crop and the to kind of delivery we get, you can no longer have this ment of the same fruit and vegetables available all the time.
Next to your place, you might just get the ones which are really local to your region and that would make a lot of environmental sense. But you would need to win the adhesion of the people to, and the acceptance to, to go that route. Or you will need to have much more ships, which are taking. Fruits and vegetables across the world all the time, which means then a huge work in terms of life cycle assessment.
So I guess that’s the place where you, you come in again. So do you have an opinion on all of that?
Dubravka Skunca: I have a opinion regarding how can we put consumers in this entire innovative ecosystem. And in a way, what you have just mentioned consumers need to be showcased the difference of their different actions that they could under. Take and this difference should be calculated and this should be actually measurable.
So, people are reacting when they are seeing the exact. Guide the exact manual, how and why they should undertake the certain actions. If you just say to people it is better for the environment not to have all the fruits and vegetables available at all times during the year. Because of the pollution.
That is , one aspect of framing this, but if you say to end consumers the same sentence, but then you provide proof because this amount of CO2 liters of water, possibly connected echo toxicity, human toxicity, and the aspects that could influence human health and then quantify all of these aspects.
Then this advice and manual for consumers would have a different weight because on psychological aspect it’s not important just to tell them that something is better than the. But you need to prove your point and to actually, in the logical way, showcase how the future generation will be impacted with the choice that the current generation is making, the supermarket.
And when you do it in that way and you back it up with the data, the numbers then I think we can see better results.
Antoine Walter: You, You mentioned this main event of. Our round table, so happening before and after our round table. How important is this kind of event in putting these kind of topics at the center of people’s attention to, to break the hollow of, yeah. Ignorance is maybe a big word, but honestly if I take my own case, I would say ignorance.
Dubravka Skunca: . I think that’s really a great way how to raise the interest of the public especially because the pitching events are showcasing the passion SMEs are having towards their sustainably friendly issues in this case. Voting water scarcity.
And I would say that it’s really important. Public and to viewers of the event because it’s going to be an online event to see the pitching and to see how people are really fighting to help lower the environmental burden. I think that will have a positive influence on the broader audience that is going to follow this event.
On the other hand because I was previous. Judge and mentor regarding the similar events in the EIT community. I’m always saying to the startups and SMEs that during their pitch it’s always good to put the numbers regarding the pollution and to do the estimation because in this way, Not only the judges, but also the viewers and the public who are taking the interest in the event and watching it will have a better understanding of the importance of the solution.
When we have These sentences which are just relating to the lowering the burden, but not exactly how and it’s not measuring this lowering and it’s not measuring the comparison between for example, the certain startup and the competitors. Then we as a viewers can’t actually see the real influence of.
Exact startup. And this is something that I think is really important. So, as I mentioned, the event I think will have a positive effect on the viewers due to passion that they will see from the startups and the environmental results regarding water scarcity. Startups are pledging to achieve.
Antoine Walter: You mentioned how you have been and are still involved in in coaching es and helping them along the way. You mentioned how you’re a university professor, you’ve been working in policy as well, and on various levels of policies and decision makers. I’m wondering what would be. The best place , to have impact is there one?
Should you address all of them? It’s kind of a life cycle assessment again, but of the possible impact you can have.
Dubravka Skunca: Yes that’s a very interesting question. Yes. I would say that the entire ecosystem definitely has to be interconnected. And it’s, uh, sometimes a challenge because if you insert something into. Policy. Then it’s not necessarily that this policy is going to be achieved in all the levels and accepted.
So there are a lot of challenges. And I would say that I. Completely agree as a university professor, that not only on the state of the governments and the policies and on the other hand startups, but also in the level of universities all of this should be implemented. And the entire startup ecosystem should be connected with more universities around Europe because some of the universities.
Do have the startups in their ecosystem, especially in Germany. But in the majority of universities this is not the case. So I think this is the connection between the theory and practice. Should have more focus should be on this. And I agree that the situation is not perfect and all actors in the chain have to do their part and this interconnection.
So not only theory should be. Teach on university and not only, for example, this case studies and study visits should be implemented to universities, but exact support for entrepreneurs at much more universities than the, than they’re currently being involved in this process in the EU should be actually implemented.
Antoine Walter: 2050 is a distant target. And I was having a discussion that microphone with Kunal Shah from Anaergia and he was saying how energy has a rule to not work with people who have targets for 2040 or target for 2050.
They only work with people who have targets for 2023. And then what happened in 2024 and when and so far and so on, who really break it down because you usually eat an elephant piece by piece. By listening to you today, I was wondering if the, best way would be to have to break it down like in a, in concrete steps of an action plan, which ultimately builds towards a longer distance goal, but having intermediate to check if we are heading into the right direction, and to also have facts and figures for the impact. Is that an oversimplification or would that be your way to go?
Dubravka Skunca: Yes, I definitely agree. I would say that actually the checks should be more frequent and that yes, calculations of the exact environmental impact in different strategies should be showcased. And also what I would maybe mention here is, for example, in Denmark, you can’t, as a company just.
That That your product is sustainable. You have to have lifecycle assessment that backs it up. So I definitely agree with you on this one.
Antoine Walter: Which is an incredible way to, to push people to walk the talk. So I didn’t know that, that, that rule in Denmark sounds like a very clever one.
Dubravka Skunca: Yes, definitely.
Antoine Walter: To braca, it’s been a pleasure to spend that, that deep dive with you. And if I wasn’t concerned by wasting too much of your time, I would have many more questions here.
But to round it off, I propose you to switch to the rapid fire questions. So in that last section, I try to keep the question short. You’ll see that I’m, anyways, the one side tracking all the time. But if you go by the rule, you have to have short answers as well, if that’s fine for you,
Dubravka Skunca: Yes!
Rapid Fire Questions
Antoine Walter: So my first one would be, what is the most exciting project you’ve been working on and why?
Dubravka Skunca: The most exciting ones was the first one green because the entire ways of working in a new project was new for me. And it was something in which I have learned the most because I was just drawn in this big project. Then I had significant role. And this is something that was really important for the learning.
Antoine Walter: Is your presentation tour over about that project, or do people have a chance to see you presenting it again?
Dubravka Skunca: I keep presenting it very heavily . Yes. And there are many information about the project on the website. But yes people are very interested in the project in the green pretend project. And when they want me to speak about it, I. I I’m very glad to, to speak about the project again.
Antoine Walter: Can you name one thing that you’ve learned the hard way?
Dubravka Skunca: The hard way. I haven’t learned anything the hard way. I would just say that regarding research and development in general, it’s a process that it’s not easy. And it takes several years to make a system environmentally friendly. There many challenges in between, and for people who are not in research and development, it’s really hard to know how this experience feels like.
You have to be very psychologically strong to push it out, up, up until the.
Antoine Walter: Is there something you’re doing in your job today that you will not be doing in 10 years?
Dubravka Skunca: I would say that currently I am helping with lifecycle assessment analysis, and in , 10 years, I am sure that lifecycle assessment analysis would be more easier for SMEs and startups to do by themselves.
Antoine Walter: The next one, I’m really curious because you’re somewhat outside of the sector, so what would be. In your opinion, the trend to watch out for in the water sector?
Dubravka Skunca: I have already mentioned this Baam Tower in Netherlands, and I would say that definitely examples like this so treating waste water organically, for example, by the pond with a special kind of plants. This is something that. It’s very interesting and I would say that it’s going to be the trend in the future because Netherlands has the government, which is most sustainable.
And I would say that this is their most sustainable building. So I would say that this trend would be common more in the future in Europe.
Antoine Walter: The fact that you mentioned Netherlands makes for a smooth transition to my next question because we have this big water conference coming up in 2023 at the United Nations, the first in 50 years, and one of the two countries which are responsible for putting the agenda together are Tajikistan and the Netherlands.
So if you got one chance to put one point on that agenda, what would it.
Dubravka Skunca: I would say that regarding the conference I would put the emphasize on the practical part how to put the entire ecosystem into interconnection and also to showcase the impact what will happen if we don’t do so.
Antoine Walter: That’s brilliant. I would go to a conference which has that on the agenda.
Dubravka Skunca: great.
Antoine Walter: Would you have someone to recommend that? I should definitely invite on that microphone as soon as possible.
Dubravka Skunca: Yes, I have a colleague and I would definitely share his contact with you. He’s in the area of the environment but also the transport. And I will also, Have another colleague, which is strictly in the area of water, but you have maybe already interviewed him because he’s really important in this area, and his name is Francesco Fat.
Antoine Walter: I haven’t yet, so I guess I have to correct that mistake.
Dubravka Skunca: And maybe Fabio Massi because the two of them are really the leading experts in the water. But yes, you have seen that our white paper was written by many of us and all of my colleagues are really worth of your podcast.
Antoine Walter: Thanks a lot. Duka, it’s been an awesome experience to, to have that tip dive with you On a topic, which I’m certainly not an expert by any means. I remember some years ago in my engineering school doing once a lifecycle assessment, so maybe you’re right in 10 years it’s commonplace for me.
It’s not yet, but , it’ll be. But thanks a lot for sharing your insight
Dubravka Skunca: Thank you so much, Antoine.