How can businesses gain greater insight into the CO₂ impact of their products or services?
The idea behind Felyx came about at the end of 2015 as Quinten Selhorst and Maarten Poot were on their way to visit a friend in a shared car and were being overtaken by bikes and scooters while stuck in traffic. There had to be a better way. In 2017, they were ready to bring their product to market: the shared electric scooter, a new kind of public transport that allows you to traverse busy urban areas with the greatest of ease.
The concept was a success and for the last few years, shared e-scooters have been a permanent fixture on urban streets. A total of 8,000 dark-green Felyx scooters are currently in use in the Benelux and Germany. And it doesn't end there. To bid for a contract to be able to operate in Paris, Felyx asked EY to calculate the CO2 footprint for all life cycles of their service provision.
Roll-out of a sustainability strategy
Quinten Selhorst, CEO and Co-founder of Felyx: “At the time of the tendering procedure, we were already working on further developing our sustainability strategy and researching the bigger picture of our CO2 impact.” Daan Becker, Global Head of Strategic Projects & Sustainability at Felyx: “In the last year we have had our company’s impact calculated in scope 1, 2 and 3, in the course of which the life cycle assessment (LCA) provided us with crucial input. Felyx has a sustainable purpose, which means that it’s important to research how we can achieve an even greater reduction.”
Tom Emmelkamp, Associate Partner Climate Change & Sustainability Services at EY: “Until recently, businesses focused mainly on CO2 emissions from sources inside their own organizations, rather than the CO2 footprint of their products and services, whereas those tend to be the most detrimental to the environment. However, there is a growing expectation on the part of society for businesses to take their responsibility by reducing their environmental impact, including of their products and services.”
A life cycle assessment (LCA) provides insight into the environmental impact of the entire life cycle of a product or service.
Eelco Rietveld, Manager Climate Change & Sustainability Services at EY: “Transparent and reliable information is needed in order to help businesses become more sustainable. We therefore carried out a fast track life cycle analysis (LCA) of their service: the sharing of e-scooters. This involved calculating the greenhouse gas emissions at each of the life cycle phases – from cradle to grave – including the extraction of raw materials, production and assembly in China, transport to Europe, usage of the e-scooter including battery exchanges, maintenance, repairs and recycling.”
Thanks to the LCA, we have greater insight into our CO2 emissions. These insights will form the basis of our reduction plans for the coming years.
The LCA is not only a calculation of the greenhouse gas emissions at each of the life cycle phases, but also provides information about how businesses can keep innovating in order to eventually reduce the product’s CO2. Numerous factors play a role in this. In Felyx's case, they asked the Chinese supplier to provide information about the parts, weights and origin of the materials, and they considered way in which the steel and aluminum are recycled, how many people ride on a scooter, the average distance to exchange a battery, etc.
Going on facts as opposed to gut feeling
Eelco Rietveld: “I sometimes compare the LCA to an autopsy. It's a method that enables you to analyze the entire service. It is important to base your conclusions about the CO2 footprint of a product on facts, as opposed to our gut feeling. Most people think the transport from China has the biggest impact. That isn't the case. In many cases, the real impact does not come from the transport, but rather the production process and utilization phase, in particular the repairs. An LCA makes you look very differently at the product and provides targeted information about which areas need improvement.”
The LCA is about more than just being able to say to the outside world: this is our CO2 footprint. It's a starting point for us to further reduce our emissions.
Improvements in production and repairs
The life cycle analysis carried out by EY revealed that production and repairs accounted for most of the emissions, while the product's transport and day-to-day use had only a very small impact. Quinten Selhorst: “Based on the insights we had another look at our e-scooters. We saw that progress could be made in the maintenance and repair phase by replacing parts preventively in order to make them last longer. Within a week and half we had identified all these parts and knew how we could solve this.”
In addition to replacing parts with more sustainable alternatives, the analysis revealed that gains could be made in the area of recycling and with the suppliers. Quinten Selhorst: “We are carrying out research into how best to go about the recycling and which partners we might involve in the process. In addition, we are now better able to tell our suppliers what we take into consideration in the selection process and we can push harder for sustainable choices.”
The insights into the emissions produced by the Felyx service help support the sharing economy in its further development and the improvement of its sustainability.
Eelco Rietveld: “Sustainability must be given a central place in business strategies, in the process of which it is important to change your mindset. For many businesses, that means their business model and revenue model require radical change. We can only truly achieve something in the area of sustainability through system innovation. The further development of the sharing economy is one example of this.”
The LCA is used to figure out where the actual impact is being made by looking at the product’s life phases to then accelerate the process of improving sustainability through product innovation.
Turning point in the sharing economy
Quinten Selhorst: “At present, our e-scooters are used a lot in areas where there is less public transportation available. So our shared scooters are a supplement to the public transportation and an alternative to going by car. The insights offered by the LCA help municipalities and government authorities explain to their supporters why they are pursuing a particular transportation policy. The sharing economy is currently in its infancy in the Netherlands, but I suspect that in five or ten years, different forms of shared mobility will be much better connected.
Daan Becker: “The municipalities are already starting to discuss the designation of parking places for shared mobility, both for shared cars and shared scooters. In the future, people will therefore be less likely to buy a second car or their own scooter because the city’s network will be good enough to get you from point A to point B.”