Career profile: Daan Elffers
What was your first job in this field?
I started the EMG Group 15 years ago at the age of 24. Having received my Master’s degree from the Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus, I was presented with the opportunity to work with a corporate client, an international B2B company whose core strategic objective involved sustainability. Through them, I not only became aware of the importance of the application of cradle-to-cradle strategies, but realised the rising global importance of sustainability principles and policies. At the same time, the team was working on a global NGO project involving environmental stewardship. Fundamentally impacted by seeing how much good could be done when ethical principles were integrated into business practice, I decided to make sustainability and CSR our core focus.
EMG completed a training course with the EPEA in Hamburg and subsequently became one of the world’s first Cradle to Cradle Certified consultants. We have since maintained close ties with Cradle to Cradle co-founder Prof. Dr Michael Braungart, who has recently become a member of our Advisory Board. I can unequivocally say that Cradle to Cradle ideas and the principles behind the circular economy shape how we do business.
How has your role changed/progressed over the past few years?
Ten years into our development, we increasingly began to focus on international work and diversified our client base. As a registered supplier to the United Nations and participating in international projects in the Middle East and Asia, we were often asked to implement sustainability practices/policies in a manner that was sensitive to Islamic values, especially in terms of reporting.
Initial research into more than 200 companies made us aware of the great potential of Islamic values in relation to implementing sustainability across a full quarter of the world’s countries. Eager to turn this potential into concrete practice, we donated more than 250,000 euros to create the world’s first reporting standard for sustainability that recognised the relevance of Islamic values to sustainability issues.
Now with members in more than 50 countries, the award-winning Islamic Reporting Initiative has become pivotal to EMG’s work.
Where would you like to be in five years’ time?
Always seeking ways to make a meaningful impact, I was presented a few years ago with another opportunity to realise this ambition. While living in Cambridge, I met a physicist from Kazakhstan, who had discovered a unique algorithm that handles data in a completely new way, with the potential to revolutionise data storage.
Data storage is a very hot issue, especially in terms of its climate impact. The growth of technology and data usage has led to a greater demand for data centres, and today they are responsible for 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, about the same amount as air travel. It is predicted that, within next 5 years, data centres could consume one fifth of the world’s electricity!
Maximising the potential of that algorithm has the capacity to significantly optimize energy consumption, and also to lower electromagnetic field radiation (for example from Wi-Fi, or 5G) by more than 2000 times. We’ve joined forces, and are now in the process of marketing this potentially ‘disruptive’ technology — turning it into a force for good.
What advice would you give to someone entering the profession?
“Panic. Our house is on fire.”
Learn everything you can about systems thinking until you see that one person can make a tremendous difference. Read Cradle to Cradle – Remaking The Way We Make Things. Brainstorm until you discover your life’s passion, a cause that will get you up early and keep you up late at night. Write down your long-term goals, break them down into short-term action points. Think big and aim high. Identify and connect with strategic partners. Take time to reflect, be open to change, but keep moving forward. Be the best you can be. There is no time to waste.