Interview with Alexander Hernandez Muñoz for SDG #9

Alexander Hernandez

Alexander Hernandez Muñoz

Head R&D Department

GLASST INNOVATION COMPAY

logo positivo GLASST

Alexander Hernandez Muñoz

Head R&D Department

Author Biography

Mag. Alexander Hernandez Muñoz, born 1973 in Medellin Colombia, mechanical engineer, with a Master in Science in Polymer Processing.

Has experience in rubber industry, Bi-Oriented Polypropylene, Coatings, Holograms, Clear Barrier films and consulting in the Rubber & Plastic Training and Research Institute in Colombia.

Has contributed with public policies in Colombia related with single used plastics, also plastics in electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) in projects sponsored by United Nations, Global Environmental Facility - GEF- among others.

Currently leading the R&D department at Glasst Innovation Company since 2021 developing new and sustainable materials.

Q1. What was your company’s unique approach in integrating technology to achieve UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)?

At GLASST, we want to leave a positive footprint on the environment, to give the earth a second chance through new materials and sustainable processes that transform industries and have a favorable impact on people and their environment.

Innovation and technological progress are key to discovering lasting solutions to economic and environmental challenges, such as increasing energy and resource efficiency. GLASST has found through its R&D team environmental solutions that mitigate major environmental impacts such as the use of single-use plastics in construction and the use of harmful irritants such as diesel through materials technology.

We design solutions that do more with less from renewable sources, following circular economy guidelines or “cradle to cradle”, products and processes that contribute to industry decarbonization, Glasst wants to replace or reduce significantly the use of non-renewable plastic, improving environmental footprint and impacts

 

Q2. What are some examples of SDG-focused projects that your company is currently working on?

SDG 3 – Health and Wellness

Within GLASST’s value proposition, our products must reduce the effect they have on people’s health when used. This is why our products target SDG 3.9, which says: “By 2030, to substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution”. Therefore, GLASST products must be ultra low or zero VOC, comply with regulatory guidelines such as California Proposition 65 and promote the replacement of products that have strong odors and toxic materials.

SDG 9 – Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

Innovation and technological progress are key to discovering lasting solutions to economic and environmental challenges, such as increasing energy and resource efficiency. GLASST has found through its R&D team environmental solutions that mitigate major environmental impacts such as the use of single-use plastics in construction and the use of harmful irritants such as diesel through materials technology.

One of the targets for this SDG is 9.4, which fits with our higher purpose of innovating in traditional industries and markets by thinking outside the box, generating sustainable solutions, developing technologies that accelerate the creation of materials efficiently.

SDG 11- Sustainable Cities and Communities

Our products enable construction processes to be safer for people and the environment, without compromising project quality and strength.

GLASST products’ disposal and closing cycle is ensured by their recycling or their capacity of being biodegraded without affecting the environment.

GLASST products comply with the most demanding indoor air quality standards, they are classified according to SCAQMD RULE 1113 with a value of 0 g/l VOC, which is below the maximum reference value of 100 g/l established by the standard.

Our products contribute to score points for sustainable building certifications like LEED, BREEAM and CASA, contributing to the construction of sustainable cities.

SDG 12 – Responsible production and consumption

From the very design of our products, we think about the impact they will have on people and the planet.
We identify raw materials from renewable sustainable sources, design low energy consumption processes in ICONTEC carbon neutral certified plants for a 500-mile (800 km) distribution radius from the production site, thus covering 100% of the territory where customers are located in Colombia.
GLASST’s business model seeks to have strategic partners for local manufacturing, avoiding transnational displacements and merchandise transportation, thus contributing to the reduction of fuel use and consequently the generation of greenhouse gases caused by transportation and distribution logistics.

SDG 13 – Climate action

We develop biodegradable and safe products that are environmentally friendly, resistant and efficient, and that after their use enter into a biodegradation process.

Our raw materials have a negative carbon balance, that is, they capture carbon from the atmosphere instead of releasing it, contributing to the decarbonization of the planet.

SDG 14 – Underwater Life

The construction industry is responsible for the generation of 23% of single-use plastic waste, with uncontrolled leakage into marine environments estimated to be around 8% to 10% of the total volume used. GLASST products replace these materials with products that are biodegradable.

SDG 15 – Land ecosystem life

At the end of their life cycle, GLASST products are biodegradable and do not affect land ecosystems. The raw materials they are made of are carefully selected to avoid negative interactions with the environment and the people who use the products.

 

Q3. What are the most difficult challenges your company and other companies face generally in the implementation/adoption of new sustainable technology?

Sustainability and technology have usually opposite implications, technology as is conceived in a traditional way implies new rare materials and production process that demands vast natural resources, which that affect directly the sustainability of the technology itself.

The real challenge is how to maximize the use of raw materials from natural and sustainable sources, with minimum but powerful changes that transform those materials, giving new properties and possibilities to replace traditional ones, develop those capabilities locally in strategic sites, reducing transport and logistics cost, developing or considering solutions to close the lifecycle of the product.

Having this in mind, the main challenges are: the difficulties in have local raw materials supply, the compromise of the whole value chain and actors trough lifecycle of the product, specially end users, and the alliances necessary to give the product or technology their own circularity.

 

Q4. Tell me about a time your sustainable tech helped another company realize their SDG goals.

Glasst technologies contribute to the achievement of the sustainable development goals of other companies, mainly focused on construction, replacing non-renewable plastic materials used during the construction process, improving the energy efficiency usage, and offering materials with clear end of life pathways. In specific a constructor who has seeking for a LEED certification in his building, the use of Glasst products give additional points that contributed to obtained a gold category.

 

Q5. What is the biggest challenge your company has handled while enabling your sustainable tech accessible to different communities?

Our biggest challenge was related with the resistance to change and the general tendency to make decisions based solely on price, almost every end user or client declare their interest and compromise to be more sustainable, but this compromise implies additional efforts, alliances, strategies, to effectively close the loop of the materials, it´s not as easy just to change the supplier, the raw material and keep doing the same things, unfortunately the sustainability and circularity demands real compromise and efforts from all of us.

 

Q6. Cost-effective sustainable tech can be lifesaving and planet-saving approach. What actions your company takes to make your sustainable tech economical and a fit for the large-scale adoption?

Our global scaling plans are focused on the development of local capacities with strategic locations that allow us to be rational with the impacts associated with transportation, with flexible production models protected by black box formulas

 

Q7. What do you believe will be a global, long-term, impact of your sustainable tech integration?

GLASST’s responsibility is to contribute to creating new technologies that generate a positive long-term effect on society. Our developments should be industry transformation tools that enable us to rationalize the management of the planet’s resources minimizing effects.

Our business model is based on decentralized production and collaborative economy as strong drivers of sustainability; reducing our developments’ carbon footprint, allowing us to maintain and improve living standards, and preventing the destruction of our inhabitable environment.

In Glasst we believe that our mix of sustainable oriented product design, our unique business model without facilities, will grant a long term impact wherever our products were used.

 

Q8. What’s your vision for the sustainable tech industry and your company’s role in it?

Sustainable technologies are in their infancy, it is a complex concept that for ordinary people it is very difficult to understand how to approach it and how to contribute. At present there is more intention than reality, and a lot of greenwashing, but eventually the awareness of individual, corporate and collective responsibility will reach a point in which the trend is reversed, and a noticeable change is truly achieved among all.

By that time, Glasst will be prepared and consolidated.

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Female Empowerment in the Digital Age

Dr. Laura Bechthold is a social scientist and innovation professional from Munich. As a postdoctoral researcher at the Friedrichshafen Institute for Family Entrepreneurship at Zeppelin University, she works on questions regarding responsibility and decision paradigms of family entrepreneurs. As the Director of Science Services at Philoneos GmbH, she supports family fi rms in establishing organizational structures for innovation. Laura holds a BA in Business Administration (Zeppelin University), a Master of Business Research (LMU Munich) and an MSc in Sustainability Science and Policy (Maastricht University). Her PhD research focused on unconscious biases in female entrepreneurship. Her fi eld experimental study on female entrepreneurial role models was awarded twice at international conferences. Laura’s passion lies in building bridges between science and practice to foster an open dialogue and co-create solutions for an inclusive, sustainable and prospering society. Therefore, she contributes to EUTECH by writing about entrepreneurial challenges and opportunities for contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals.

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