Ecology or Economy? Why choose ?

Context

Crisis after crisis, the issues of biodiversity preservation and natural environment protection arise. Citizens and companies are wondering. “How can we reconcile the protection of our natural environments and our jobs? For many people, protecting the planet is synonymous with degrowth, reduced consumption and even more so with the end of entrepreneurship. Companies are reluctant to make this change, which seems costly and ideologically illusory. Ecolonomics” offers a way out of this discourse.

Definition

Ecolonomy is a neologism resulting from the contraction of two words: ecology and economy. It is a working method that allows to reduce its impact on the natural environment, while improving working conditions and gaining in productivity. In other words, ecolonomy is the art of undertaking without destroying.

History

This word appeared for the first time in the book Vivre Autrement by Corinne Lepage, published by Editions Grasset in 2009. The term was used again in 2010, with Corinne Lepage’s consent, by the Pochecop factory team to describe the company’s transition process.

The ecolonomy method is then the subject of two books:

Ecolonomie, entreprendre sans détruire by Emmanuel Druon published in 2016 by Editions Actes Sud.

Ecolonomy 2: the creative transformation by Emmanuel Druon, published in 2020 by Editions Actes Sud.

The case of Pocheco

Pocheco is a demonstrator of ecolonomy, a method developed and deployed 25 years ago.  The company first focused on its products and industrial processes, then on its buildings and site development.

Let’s take a few examples.

The raw material, with the paper

The raw material, with the paper

The paper used to make Pocheco’s envelopes comes from Finland, from sustainably managed forests. For each tree cut, between 4 and 10 trees are replanted. There is no clear-cutting – a method that consists of cutting down all the trees in a forest plot -. The diversification of the species planted allows us to maintain a robust environment that is resilient to pests and diseases. This approach has a cost, the paper is 10 to 15% more expensive than those of competitors. The paper from these forests is of high quality. It allows the machines to run at a speed of 1,000 envelopes per minute. This corresponds to 400 meters of paper being unwound every sixty seconds! The extra cost is thus offset by a higher production speed: better quality paper also means fewer non-conformities in the finished products and less machine downtime. Pocheco sums up its choices by saying “we are too poor to buy bad quality”. In other words, good raw material guarantees the quality of the finished product. For the teams, it is also a paper that is easier to work on.

The building, with the roof

The factory’s roofs have become solar-powered, planted, and let natural light into the production workshop. In 2020, Pocheco’s electricity bill was self-financed exclusively by its solar panels. The production of photovoltaic energy makes the roof a production tool. The windows bring in natural light, which benefits the production teams, while also reducing energy consumption for workshop lighting. The green roof insulates the factory thermally, improves air quality, buffers rainwater volumes and welcomes biodiversity. Unlike a conventional roof, an eco-roof is a production tool, which allows a return on investment.

The ecolonomic method is based on three criteria:

  1. Safe and healthy working conditions, prevention of work-related injuries and pathologies, reduction of the difficulty of working in the workplace.
  2. Reducing the impact on the environment, preventing pollution, protecting biodiversity and ecosystems.
  3. Improving the productivity of the activity and the industrial site.

5 action levers have been identified to achieve an eco-economic transition

1. the LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) of the product and the carbon balance of the activity 

The carbon impact study can be done through the life cycle analysis or the carbon footprint. These tools allow the company to identify the elements on which to work to reduce its ecological footprint.

2. The water cycle 

Water is certainly abundant, but its availability has changed and it is no longer where we expect it to be. It is important to analyze the uses of water in your company in order to save it and use it appropriately, without altering the natural cycle.

3. Mobility

In France, half of the kilometers driven by car are for work purposes. The company mobility plan is a study that aims to reduce the importance of the individual car in daily travel in favor of soft mobility.

4. Biodiversity corridors

An industrial site should not be a physical barrier to life. Biodiversity corridors allow for this integration in the workplace, and are also unifying projects for the teams.

5. Energy and sustainable building

The building sector is one of the most energy-intensive. Rethinking their materials and their uses in an eco-efficient way allows to limit their impact on the natural environment while ensuring the comfort of its users.

Conclusion

Pocheco’s experience has shown that another way of operating is still possible. We must not aim for more, but for better, and respond to real needs, those of companies, individuals, fauna and flora: create a range of products from renewable resources on a human timescale, renovate a building by reusing materials on site, make the soil permeable to give a predominant place to living species and improve productivity. The ecolonomic actions, planned and then deployed, allow for a return on investment in the short, medium and long term. The ecolonomy method is applicable everywhere, in all companies. The Open Office team supports creation and innovation and has already helped more than 300 companies worldwide.

Sources

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