Automatically translated from Basque, translation may contain errors. More information here. Elhuyarren itzultzaile automatikoaren logoa

"In the environment, too, small businesses must take our course"

  • Aiala Zubieta Bertiz is a member of the Isladak cooperative, dedicated to environmental and sustainability consulting. He has recently offered training to cooperatives and transformative economic projects organised by Beterri Saretuz at the Professional School of Usurbil to raise awareness of the importance of the environment in the sustainability of companies: “It is important to have an environmental policy as an enterprise or an organisation”, he told us.
Isladak kooperatibako kide da Aiala Zubieta: aholkularitza lana egin ohi dute, batez ere administrazioarentzat, baina baita enpresei bideratua ere. Argazkia: Dani Blanco / ARGIA
Isladak kooperatibako kide da Aiala Zubieta: aholkularitza lana egin ohi dute, batez ere administrazioarentzat, baina baita enpresei bideratua ere. Argazkia: Dani Blanco / ARGIA

We met Aiala Zubieta at Iturola Elkarlan Sorgunea from Hernani. There is the Islada cooperative, where he usually works daily with his colleagues Eider Larrañaga and Susana Torregaray. “Reflexes were born during the Susana and Eider pandemic, and then I entered. We were clear that we wanted to be a meeting place with other people, because we believe it is the path to a more sustainable society, and that is the philosophy of this cooperative.”

They provide advice, especially for the administration, but also for companies: “Many companies require environmental management systems or implementation of ISO standards. Many others have legal requirements and we help them.” But not only that, but they also allow us to reflect on other extraordinary measures that do not encompass the laws: “In companies, a lot can be done on a daily basis in relation to the environment. When they start talking to them a little bit, a lot of ideas come out.”

"We have to encourage changes in habits and that looks good with transportation: how do we go to work?"

In the training organized by Beterri Saretuz you would also get a lot of ideas. But what was the purpose of this sitting?

In recent years, such important issues as equality, Euskera or transparency in companies have been addressed, and it now seems that the environment is “fashionable”, totally linked to energy. But there is beyond energy that many other fields can be addressed, which we have talked about. We have tried above all to determine the contribution of ecosystems as businesses and people. Air quality, water pollution, loss of biodiversity, etc., we see it as if it were outside the workplace, but we suffer in the same way: they affect our health and environmental health. We have also, of course, talked about the energy transition and climate change, and the circular economy, which have become fashionable words, but which have always been worked on.

In many cases, these concepts are twisted and used to justify the current economic model.

Within this model, many things are opposed: it seems that this transition will not harm the environment, because we only see results, but if we see the whole process we will realize that the damage is still there. Words and concepts come back to us from Europe and everyone understands them in their own way; they are given a different meaning and are used according to each other’s interests. We have also tried to reflect on this in the training session.

When we talk about pollution, big companies come to mind.

We can talk about co-responsibility if we want, and that there the big ones, of course, have something to say, but the small ones can also do a lot of things. Imagine that the company is your home, because we who work in services have similar conditions at home and at work, what do we do? We should see how waste is managed, when and how the purchases are made, how the products we consume have been produced… There is the idea of “green buying”: maybe we alone, small, cannot influence suppliers to meet the environmental criteria, but the union of many small businesses can make us easier, and we can change our habits and incorporate this philosophy into the purchases we make.

Aiala Zubieta offered the members of the community projects of Beterri Saretuz a training session at the Professional School of Usurbil. In addition to reflecting on the importance of the environment in the sustainability of companies, each participant brought home work to their organization. Photo: Bira Produkzioak / Beterri Saretuz

And how do you know what is done throughout the life cycle of a product?

It is true that sometimes it is difficult, because there is a lack of information and knowledge. But what does help is a little bit of logic: buy products of more sustainable materials than plastic, for example; and if I work at Hernani, see if that product is made at Hernani. Suppliers have stamps to ensure product production and environmental safety. There are many certificates! Where the raw material comes from, if it is close, if you can buy it in bulk without packing it… As at home, you also have to account in the company.

If it is economically viable, so does anyone who is doing it.

Today, organic, local and sustainable products are no more expensive than co-industrial products. Some raw materials may have price differences, but many may not. For example, if you look at office material, whether it's recycled paper or not, there's no difference, and the same is true of recycled pens.

"As in many other areas, prevention is the first step to take"

We've been shocked by the fact that being organic or local has to be more expensive, based on old ideas, but today it doesn't have to be that way. It is also an investment in part, as such a product can last longer. Furthermore, when we talk about sustainability, we are not just talking about the environment… you pay more, but the person who created it will have more dignified conditions and will also strengthen the local economy.

Organizations are pushing renewables for the energy transition. But before you start generating energy, what steps should you take in a company?

As in many other areas, prevention is also the first step. Energy is always related to the light and heating of buildings, but it is important that every company sees where it consumes most, because spending energy is not just turning on a light bulb. When we have analyzed the energy consumption of the municipalities, we have seen that most of the consumption occurs in transport, if not a very industrial town; all these trips we make people often represent more than half the total energy consumption of a town.

Well, let's see what happens inside the company. Transport probably has a lot of weight, but you can consume a lot of energy with machinery, with computers, in lighting, as the building is isolated… You have to make efficient use of energy and you can take many steps before you start creating.

Erakide, a tool to promote good practice

The Eraikide tool, promoted by the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa, was born with the objective of disseminating and implementing social co-responsibility in companies. The Elhuyar Foundation, together with the consulting cooperatives Emun, Aztiker and Farapi, have made an environmental diagnosis in companies. “Some questions were asked about ecology, but they were very superficial, and we were asked to turn it around,” explains Aiala Zubieta.

“We have incorporated new questions to make companies think and bring new ideas. At the same time, we have formed these four entities so that they also know what and how to ask.” Examples of promoting “good practice” in companies in environmental matters are now being compiled, as in other areas.

In the organization of work, for example? Teleworking came to us with Pandemic.

There are also contradictions. Teleworking can reduce commuting in a company, but what is happening? There are days when lights, radiators and servers stay on all week in offices and homes all on. You have to find the balance: what is better to do a meeting telematically or go to that meeting by carpooling? And the same concern can arise with solar panels. Yes, they produce renewable energy, but within thirty years, what are we going to do with them? How do we manage them as waste?

But there are renewable energy communities that have emerged from an integral point of view, we are at Hernani and Hernani can be an example ...

Obviously, it is not the same thing that every house has its plate, that the photovoltaic installation made on the roof is used by an entire community. The purpose and key of this model is to extend this community to areas beyond energy, such as food or mobility.

We are talking about technological solutions, but should we also talk about comfort among workers?

We have to encourage changes in habits and that looks good with transport: how are we going to work? It is important to have an environmental policy as an organisation and to agree on objectives that once known facilitate the development of actions. Do we replace heating by 22 degrees to 19? This is easier to decide whether targets are agreed. In small businesses, we tend to go daily and it's hard.

"I think it's easier to bring nature to work. We have already done damage to nature and it is better to integrate it into urbanized areas". Photo: Dani Blanco / ARGIA

In Mercedes-Benz it would be easier to implement such measures...

I do not know more easily, but they will surely have more resources to carry out environmental actions. Small businesses, however, must also set our course on the environment.

We've been sold the digital transition as an option, but the "fog" is on supercomputers that consume a lot. Are we trapped?

The other day I read that the carbon footprint of a vitco-induced transaction was like making 1.65 million transactions with Visa and sending 64 emails about a kilometer by car. Because it's fictional, you don't touch it, you don't see it -- they're talking a lot about green digitalization now, but you have to think about it. Technology is fine, but in part.

Is inter-cooperation important in the transformative economy, cooperative cooperation can also serve to ensure environmental sustainability?

First of all, it can be used to learn for the following, and if the attachment does so more sustainably, to bring it. The energy communities mentioned above can be generated in the workplace, they can be saved much and economically more viable, or alliances for waste collection… This penetration always brings benefits.

"We're taking advantage of the roofs to put solar panels -- and why don't we make green roofs?"

The workplace is often in grey pavilions. Should the working world be brought closer to nature? Or the other way around?

I think it's easier to bring nature to work. We have already done damage to nature and it is better to include it in urbanized areas. Many solutions are being worked out in Europe. For example, we're leveraging roofs to put solar panels -- and why don't we make green roofs? Technically, it has difficulty in isolating the building, reducing consumption and creating green corridors.

On the other hand, in industrial sites there are green areas as we see, why not create more gardens? We're going to take care of all this to make work spaces more natural. The green of cement areas is also beneficial for connectivity, as we are often a barrier for many animal and plant species.

The climate emergency is associated with CO2 emissions, but it is clear that biodiversity loss is also important.

There are two variables to climate change. The first is mitigation, i.e. the adoption of measures to minimise greenhouse gas emissions, which they seek to do since the Kyoto protocol. And the other is to adapt. Climate change is here, and what are we going to do to adapt it? We should think about what we are going to do at work as well. The latter variable includes solutions based on nature. If we take care of biodiversity, we will also take care of our health.


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