The startup modeled for manufacturers a calculation method developed by the European Union that comprehensively analyzes the ecological footprint of products without being limited to the carbon footprint.
In 2015, Christophe Girardier, an entrepreneur specializing in strategy development and innovation consultancy, was asked by several manufacturers and distributors to think about developing a unique system to measure environmental impact. Extensive program! The proliferation of calculation methods that tend to take into account certain harmful effects and forget others, makes it difficult for companies to develop an ecological roadmap and implement actions, in addition to possible important distortions of competition. 🇧🇷 If we don’t know how to measure, we don’t do anything 🇧🇷 sums up the founder of Glimpact.
This observation is shared by the European Commission, which launched the Single Market for Green Products in the same year in an attempt to develop a universal method of measuring impact, in order to coordinate the actions of all actors on the continent. This initiative opens a gigantic project that will last more than five years, involving hundreds of scientists, representatives of the industrial world and NGOs.
Christophe Girardier, associated with the work, met Michael Ooms, a bioengineer specialized in environmental footprint and life cycle analysis techniques, who also participated in this intense brainstorming. 🇧🇷 We immediately had the intuition that the method we were developing was a great technological advance and that it would be approved.says Christophe Girardier. We founded Glimpact in 2017 with the aim of adapting this future repository to the needs of companies and consumers. 🇧🇷
Don’t just measure COtwo
The method developed by the European Commission is divided into two parts: PEF (Product Environmental Footprint) and OEF (Organisation Environmental Footprint). 🇧🇷 Part of a revolutionary principle, explains Christophe Girardier, which is not to reduce the environmental footprint to carbon emissions. 🇧🇷 The PEF actually retains sixteen impact categories, such as greenhouse gas emissions, of course, but also fine particulate emissions, environmental and human toxicity, eutrophication of rivers and oceans, resource use water or even soil acidification.
Each product submitted to PEF screening has its entire life cycle analyzed – from raw materials to end-of-life, through manufacturing or transport – with regard to these sixteen categories. Finally, the results obtained are weighted according to the specific environmental impact of each category, whose importance is calculated according to its economic and social effects and in relation to the nine major planetary frontiers: climate change, biodiversity erosion, ocean acidification … For example, the category including greenhouse gas emissions accounts for about a third of the final PEF score.
Glimpact’s success has been in shaping this complex repository to make it easily accessible to manufacturers and consumers alike. 🇧🇷 This allows companies to find levers to reduce their footprint, avoiding impact transfers, said Christophe Girardier. Sometimes companies deploy a strategy to deal with a single effect, such as CO2 emissions.twowhich ends up aggravating other environmental consequences of their activities. 🇧🇷 The calculation tool developed by the start-up, complemented by databases from the European Union, Ademe, Ecoinvent and the companies themselves, can be applied to all industrial sectors.
Lacoste, Mars and Decathlon as customers
In 2021, an important step is taken. Validating the relevance of the PEF method, the European Commission adopted an official recommendation calling on States, NGOs and companies to use only this one. The European Parliament currently has legislation imposing this calculation method on manufacturers.
Enough to convince many players to call Glimpact to set the stage. The 19-employee start-up counts SMEs among its customers, but also large groups such as Lacoste, Mars or Decathlon, who have been convinced by the methods of applying the PEF method developed by Christophe Girardier and his teams. 🇧🇷 For example, it took us a year and a half to test all Decathlon products. “, so reveals the president of Glimpact.
The young company therefore offers four subscription systems, the cost of which varies depending on the size and number of products evaluated, which allow manufacturers to measure their footprint, obtain strategic advice or even use their tool directly. Enough to earn 2 million euros this year, an amount that could more than double in 2023. To preserve its independence, Glimpact currently refuses to raise funds and is only financed with bank debt.
An app for consumers
Alongside its solution for manufacturers, the start-up launched the beta version of the Glimpact application. Currently reserved for the food sector and soon for the textile sector, it allows individuals to scan a product’s barcode to obtain its environmental footprint, thus facilitating their choice. In addition to the PEF score, the consumer can thus find out which is the most polluting phase of the article’s manufacture and which are its main impacts. These translate into actions that are simple to understand: equivalent in number of kilometers driven by car, showers taken or washing machine cycles… Where we learn, for example, that buying a kilo of a certain chocolate with almonds is equivalent to driving 93 kilometers in your vehicle.
Glimpact’s PEF repository thus allows dismantling some received ideas. 🇧🇷 Per For example, organic, while much better for human health, is not necessarily better for the environment than conventional farming.reveals Christophe Girardier. We also discovered that where the clothes were made didn’t matter, contrary to what advocates of local production say, as transport accounts for only 5% of its environmental impact. It is the raw material used that matters most. 🇧🇷
From 2023, Glimpact should be deployed across Europe, then in other countries such as the United States, China and India. But it is in France that his model may be the most contested. The PEF method implemented by the EU does not satisfy all sectors of activity and still does not seem demanding enough in the eyes of some NGOs. It may be, therefore, that a French method emerges, at the risk of further confusing cards with consumers.
🇧🇷 Ademe recently launched two competitions, in which we participated, to develop a method of calculating the environmental impact of textiles and food, enrages Christophe Girardier, although the tool developed by the EU is fully developed. It is a considerable waste of time, it would be necessary to generalize PEF everywhere. 🇧🇷 Between the European institutions and France, the battle for the ecological footprint has just begun.