We are space enablers

[ITW] Aurélie Gallice provides insight on analysing ArianeGroup’s environmental impact 03-08-2021 |  6 minutes

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A commitment to developing sustainable solutions means learning how to assess and analyse the environmental impact of our products and sites.

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An environmental science and sustainability specialist, Aurélie Gallice joined ArianeGroup in 2017. Her goal: to focus on methods that would reduce the Group’s environmental footprint. A true eco-ambassador, her work at the company combines research, strategical thinking and operational applications.

Can you give us an overview of your job?

My job entails assessing and analysing the environmental impact of our products, processes and services, as well as the impact of the company as a whole. My work focuses on two complementary aspects: eco-design of products and processes, and reduction of the company’s greenhouse gas emissions.

What does eco-design at ArianeGroup entail?

Eco-design means integrating sustainability and eco-friendly principles when designing products, processes and services, in order to reduce their environmental impact throughout their life cycle (in other words, from extraction of raw materials to end-of-life disposal). It’s a holistic approach that goes beyond mitigating effects on climate change. It also takes into account the impact on natural ecosystems, resources, human health, etc.

My job is to analyse our impact on the environment – What causes it? At what life-cycle stages does it occur? Is it linked to our direct value chain? – but also to develop methodologies and indicators for the space industry, whether for civil or defence programs.

For example, as part of the Ariane 6 project, ArianeGroup conducted environmental life cycle assessments of the launcher while in operation.

Tests such as these are not yet widespread in the space industry, and yet they are key to establishing an eco-design roadmap for future launchers and to ensure further reduction of their environmental impact.

You are also working on a “Climate Plan” to reduce ArianeGroup’s effects on climate change. Is that right?

A carbon footprint is a measure of the amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) produced by human or an organization’s activity. In terms of a company, this takes into account direct and indirect emissions; for example, a site’s energy and fuel consumption, as well as waste production and disposal, business travel, work/home commuting, etc.

In July 2020, we calculated an initial carbon footprint for the Group. This first version is one factor, among others, that will help ArianeGroup to establish our Climate Plan, a roadmap towards a global effort to limit climate change.

Tell us about ArianeGroup’s strategy to reduce its environmental impact.

In 2020, ArianeGroup defined its Sustainability Commitments, one of which specifically addresses fighting climate change. The Climate Plan is one aspect of this strategy.

There are additional major challenges to address with regards to products and processes: possible reuse of upper stages, management of space debris, and propulsion choices. Forward-looking projects such as Prometheus (reusable engine) and Themis (reusable launcher stage demonstrator) are building blocks that will help reduce our impact. The ultimate goal is eco-design in order to reduce it even more!

There is increased environmental awareness in the industrial space sector. How does ArianeGroup fit into this landscape?

ArianeGroup is a pioneer when it comes to awareness and understanding of the space industry’s impact on the environment. The company began to use environmental impact assessment tools very early on. We also participate in many collaborative projects and work groups with the European Space Agency (ESA), the ArianeWorks acceleration platform (set up by ArianeGroup and the French space agency CNES), our subsidiary Arianespace, and, finally, industrial players, in order to create joint roadmaps for environmental issues pertaining to the space industry.

Is there anything you would like to add?

We live in a rapidly changing society that is now fully aware of our planet’s environmental and climate-related challenges, and which exhorts industries to take action. The European Commission has set forth ambitious goals and it aims to be carbon neutral by 2050. It is up to us, industrialists, to be prominent players and to base our eco-design and sustainability goals on quantifiable targets in keeping with the paths set forth by international organizations.