Meet Albert Kahlow, Airswift's Head of Sustainability
Albert Kahlow has worked in Duabi, Kazakhstan and The Netherlands with Airswift, a workforce solutions provider for energy, process and infrastructure industries. As Head of Sustainability, he’s learned a lot from each spot he’s landed in and some more this year through working from home.
Hi Albert! Being Head of Sustainability must have some high emotions - excitement, frustration and fear - how do you deal with this?
“Depends what day you catch me on! In the early stages it felt a little like swimming against the tide. People don’t know how to get started or think: Is there a danger in even starting? Starting now is better than not at all. My feeling is enthusiasm! There’s a long way to go, but we are going in the right direction now.”
You say you encourage continuous learning, why is this?
“We work in an industry that’s constantly evolving and embracing change, so it’s necessary. Plus, I enjoy the challenge of continuous learning.”
What has working internationally taught you?
“Lots really - it’s been amazing! I really appreciate and enjoy learning about the places where I have been, where you get to sample diverse things, celebrate the differences and learn new things.”
Not this year though! How does working from home suit you?
“I have the balance. Our office is not open, but we have been able to go in, in small numbers. I work two days a week in the office. It’s been amazing how quick people have adapted to working from home and interacting with our clients and contacts. I am pleased to say that it has not slowed our business down. We did not have to make cuts or anything, but we miss office banter and speaking to people. A lot of businesses have gotten comfortable with teams working from home. As soon as it is safe, we will go back with a balanced approach.”
Through the pandemic, what are you doing to support your employees?
“Everybody has had different challenges. We have included support and counselling services for our staff and our contacts. Should they need it, they will have help with specialists. It was very well received by everybody. We have also had cook-alongs with everybody in their kitchen and quizzes! People sharing drinks recipes too, from across the world! These were really positive, fun events. We have done a good job on that, despite the challenges.”
As Head of Sustainability, what does Earth Day mean to you?
“It’s about moving forward and taking steps in a sustainable direction. It’s an opportunity for us to make that really clear to as many people as we can. To raise awareness and move forward.”
How is Airswift helping to educate, promote and empower staff to really make an environmental difference?
“We have started a scheme to help our employees buy bicycles, so they can cycle to work. We are planning to redesign our buildings to be more environmentally friendly. Importantly, this is coming from the top-down.”
Is Earth Day useful, or is it just a PR opportunity?
“I feel it’s a very valuable thing, having been involved in our Earth Day. But for places where it is not promoted top-down, it’s different.”
What was the main takeaway from Earth Day 2021?
“That there are a growing number of people who take this seriously. Small actions let us get going!”
Head of Sustainability at Airswift, Albert Kahlow.
What is a circular economy?
Over the next few centuries, historians will be researching the impact of net-zero targets made during the Coronavirus pandemic. Teachers will be helping students to revise what happened on the day the last drop of oil was burned. Archaeologists will be wondering “How did we get into this mess?” as they dig through ancient 21st century landfill sites, where some of the single-use plastic used this week will be slowly rotting.
A circular economy is a model of production with a sustainable future in mind, where manufacturers are aware of the infinite and finite resources which they use. Let’s break down what a circular economy is - and what it is not.
The linear model of production
A wasteful model of production is ‘take, make, dispose’, with a clear beginning, middle and an ending.
Companies buy the resources needed to make their product at the lowest possible price. The company then sells as many of the product as they can at an affordable price tol make a profit. This profit goes back into buying more resources to make more products and expanding the company. For example:
Take: A manufacturer pays farmers for an ingredient and takes it to their factory.
Make: The ingredient is used to make the desired item and sold to the consumer.
Dispose: When the product is no longer needed by the consumer, it is thrown away. The product may end up in landfill or the sea.
Finite resources and space
Waste is sent to landfills and into the sea, locations which are not sources of infinite space. Some of the ingredients used to manufacture products are also finite..
If production remains at its current rate, the planet is expected to run out of many essential resources throughout the next century:
Fresh supplies of zinc, silver, copper and gold will also be finished, within the next decade.
The ocean is suspected to contain more plastic than fish by 2050. Maybe even earlier if the plastic inside of the fish is included. The world’s largest landfill site is the Ghazipur garbage dump in India, which at one point was taller than the Taj Mahal (73m).
A circular economy seeks to eliminate waste disposed of in the ocean and minimise the use of landfills.
The circular economy model of production
A circular economy respects the space restrictions of current methods of production and waste, as well as the limit of materials and the environment.
Make: Manufacturers create something, with its future in mind. For example,
Use: The consumer buys the item and uses it. When the item has served its purpose, the consumer can return the item to the manufacturer or take it to a dedicated location where it can be repurposed.
Recycle: The item is taken away to be recycled, reused or repaired and begins its journey again, in the circular economy.
Who is implementing a circular economy?
As reported by Sustainability, retailer H&M has started a new initiative, Looop, where customers can donate their old or unwanted clothes at their local branch. These items are sent off to be remade into new products and sold to a new consumer.
Water, our planet's most precious resource, is naturally recycled - we collect water, use it and then flush it away. It is believed that every water molecule has been drunk at least four times, including by dinosaurs. So it’s only natural for recycling to permeate every other aspect of our lives in the circular economy.