Please tell us what ecopartner does and in which countries the company is active?
ecopartner unites a small group of experts in waste management with a large international professional experience. We are focusing our services on developing and emerging economies in Latin-America presently Colombia, Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia and Costa Rica.
Can you give us some examples of projects and how these are having an impact on resource efficiency?
In Ecuador we are leading an international consortium which supports together with a local university a future operator of an electronic waste (e-waste) repair, refurbishment, and recycling plant in Cuenca. We want to demonstrate that e-waste is an extraordinary example on how waste more and more becomes our future resources. We must take care on how to bring these resources back into the economy. E-waste is the fastest growing waste stream and its embedded metals, particularly precious metals, have a high CO2-impact from primary mining, refining and the production of goods. Extending lifetime by giving these goods a second life and recycling them properly when they come to the end of their life contributes to a circular economy and helps in combating climate change. In addition, this project has a strong social component since it looked from the very beginning at how to integrate the informal sector into the whole system. In another project in Costa Rica, we advised together with two additional experts the operator of largest composting plant on how he can improve the quality of his compost, making it a valuable fertilizer which can replace industrial fertilizers and additionally reduce the CO2 impact by redirecting organic waste from landfills to a professional composting process.
As a Swiss company, how useful to you is the network of Swiss abroad (Swiss business hubs, embassies, Bilateral chambers of commerce)?
In all our projects - which in most cases are co-financed from the Swiss Government for example trough the Repic platform - we look for synergies with bilateral chambers of commerce and the embassy. This helps us to make the activities known to a larger group of interested parties which in turn provides us with valuable contacts and potential future clients being it for the operator of the e-waste plant in Ecuador or for our company.
How have support organisations like REPIC, S-GE been in the development of ecopartner’s business?
Repic has already a long standing and its support for renewable energy and resource efficiency projects is crucial. It allows us and our local partners which are willing to contribute a substantial co-financing to synergize national with international know-how and bring additional partners together. That results in a triple win situation: The local beneficiaries of the activities, the operator of well-adapted technologies and ecopartner with the different partners. Being small makes us flexible in putting together the necessary know-how and resources on a case-by-case basis.
Looking forward where do you see ecopartner developing its business?
ecopartner does not intend to grow substantially. We see our role more as an enabler and matchmaker. Expertise is key but it should be tailor-made to the challenges of a certain project. Being big has the disadvantage of requiring a large car going, whereas being small allows us the design the car size we need for a particular project.
What support can being in the CUBE platform and a network organisation like S-GE bring to you?
The most relevant support is that a platforms like CUBE or organizations like S-GE enable large networking possibilities and by that support joining efforts which go in a similar direction. An additional support could maybe be that thematically similarly oriented companies could be brought closer together and eventually form experience and expert groups that synergize their efforts more and better.
What are your thoughts on being the 600th cleantech exporter on the official Swiss platform?
I was surprised that so many companies have joined the CUBE platform and of course felt lucky to become number 600. Although it is just a number and being a micro enterprise, it is for us an honor and a pleasure the have the possibility to share our views through this interview.
Finally, what advice could you give to other small companies looking to build their business internationally?
It is important to provide a strong expertise and to build up a network with local stakeholders in a targeted country. Looking for solutions which are mutually developed and well adapted to the local social, environmental, and cultural context requires more than only technical know-how. Communication and knowledge of the local language is key as well as the readiness to meet each other on the same level respecting local knowledge and experience.
Thank you to Heinz Böni for sharing with us and congratulations to ecopartner!