This week on Nature of Business it was all about the 3D experience, in my conversation with Asheen Phansey, North America Sustainability Leader at Dassault Systemes. We talked about Asheen’s role at Dassault, how its software enables designers to understand the environmental impacts of their products through life-cycle assessment (LCA), biomimicry, and much more.
Dassault is headquartered in France with more than 100 offices and 10,000 employees worldwide. It helps customers design and manage products through its CAD and life-cycle management software for managing engineering data and marshalling products through the product development process without running physical tests. As Phansey highlights, Dassault's customer’s products run the gamut from airplanes to apparel to appliances — even Burton snowboards and Fender guitars.
So, what is a sustainability guy doing at a 3D software company? Asheen sums it up beautifully,
“We can actually influence a pretty significant part of the world’s carbon footprint by putting tools into our software that help designers understand the environmental impacts of those products and reduce those impacts from conception all the way through production. There’s millions or even of hundreds of millions of physical objects that we interact with everyday and if we can shave just a few percentage points off that carbon footprint we can really make an impact on the atmosphere. If we can increase efficiency, we’re talking about the ability to take entire power plants off line. It’s a pretty enormous lever for change to be able to help businesses do better for the environment.”
One example Asheen brings up is Cree Lighting, which makes municipal LED fixtures. Dassault partnered with an LCA firm, PE International, to create an integrated LCA dashboard by combining PE’s GaBi software with Dassault’s SolidWorks sustainability tool. This has enabled Cree's designers and engineers to see real-time updated data on their carbon footprint, the total life-cycle of energy of that project such as the effects of air and water, what materials are being used, where it is being sourced, and how bi-products are eventually thrown away or recycled. From this knowledge, priorities are made such as, in this case, focusing on energy efficiency more than materials input.
With regard to biomimicry, Asheen discussed its importance in the information and communications technology space as well as taking it a step further, moving it into business industrial ecology. That asking ourselves, for instance, how do we conduct business like a forest, where there is waste but no trash. Eco-industrial parks came to mind.
And if Phansey isn’t busy enough already, he also wears another hat that focuses on employee engagement. Dassault has created green teams on its Boston campus but also around the world. In fact, right after our interview, he got word that the Michigan green team went "online." It’s been incredibly successful in not only reducing waste and increasing employee awareness but also bringing together people from throughout the company who haven’t interacted before.
And a couple of weeks ago Phansey and Dassault received the Impact at Work Award from Net Impact. Yet another case of how important the integration of business and environment really is.