”Innovation for sustainability is an amazing growth opportunity, for all of us”
On the future of living and what will take us there
February 22, 2022
With a background in sports apparel and marketing, Chevalley now heads up Electrolux Innovation Hub, a studio of researchers, designers, and strategists dedicated to sustainable living and how to make sustainable eating, clothing care, and home wellbeing effortless. A very interesting effect of the otherwise devastating pandemic, she tells, is the acceleration of new innovative solutions and heightened interest in both our own health and the health of our planet.
Which are your current favourite innovation projects, solutions, and phenomena?
— You might think a pandemic running like a wildfire across the globe would cause people to lose sight of the urgency of the climate change crisis. Through research, this has not only been proven wrong, but people are more concerned and more committed to changing their own behaviour to advance sustainability. This has led to amazing progress in not only medtech but also within sustainable eating and the overall wellbeing of the homes. One example close to my heart is the 50 Liter Home Coalition, a collaboration across industries, public, and civil society institutions addressing water security: how can we make 50 litres of daily water usage per person not only a reality but irresistible?
— Another really interesting shift within this commitment to change is the growing number of people trying to eat healthier and more sustainably, meaning they make an effort to eat more diverse, less meat, and minimize food waste. Not only do we see amazing innovation within foodtech and an explosion of more sustainable produce, but also an increased demand for kitchen products and services making it easier and more fun to cook plant-based. This drives innovation in everything from flavour enhancement technologies such as airfry and steam, to digital services thoughtfully designed to gently nudge you to more sustainable choices. There are some really interesting solutions coming, pushing our conventional thinking about what a kitchen really is and does, Chevalley shares, adding,
— In essence, how can we become more circular in everything we do and everything we create? This is also a promise to the next generation — to reduce our sustainability footprint to the extent possible across our value chain.
In your industry, what drives innovation?
— Right now we see innovations coming from all aspects and players in the home industry, driven by the fact that people have spent dramatically more time at home during the pandemic. This has created new needs in homes as work, exercise, and personal wellbeing all demand their place. Interesting in this new home space is that the innovations that really stick are the ones enabling value beyond its own product or service, creating a systemic value where multiple players — biggest players together with startups and science — collaborate. Examples of this are everything from automated resource management systems helping your whole home to be climate-friendly while minimizing cost with little to no effort, to multipurpose fresh food containers minimizing food waste, organizing the kitchen, and digitalizing the inventory. Or, in our case, setting up strong collaborations with key universities, a team dedicated to start up collaborations and a network of the larger players within fashion, food, and home wellbeing to work together onwards.
You also stand behind new property development project Greenhouse Sthlm in central Stockholm. What makes that so unique?
— It’s a way to manifest our commitment to better living in a broader perspective, aiming to provide a whole lifestyle concept within the street block. The coming residents will be offered a high degree of resource sharing, which we think is key to a more sustainable city, a broad service offering with wellbeing in focus as well as tangible solutions for a better and more sustainable living in general. This includes minimizing the block’s overall CO2 footprint, both in the building phase and after, and the project addresses all three major CO2 challenges in the country: building, eating, and living, Chevalley tells, continuing,
— Even before corona, our trend span was that we see a great value in building cities set up for living 24/7 and making local living easier. We know that neighbourhoods with mixed content, activated street levels, and broad service offerings are key elements in how to create attractive and safe city districts. To have everything you need in your daily life close makes for an attractive city district where it is possible to live more locally. And, needless to say, the local approach has so many different dimensions: sustainability, social, life, and work-life balance, to mention a few. We see a range of positive effects from less time spent on transporting ourselves, reducing traffic congestion and reducing CO2 from transport to creating arenas for social interaction and increased engagement and ownership of the immediate neighbourhood.
What other major general trends do you see now?
— One interesting trend is the changes in the smart home, where we can see a move from a tech-driven gadget focused story to one that is more reflecting. Culturally we are experiencing somewhat of a tech backlash where people increasingly demand privacy and integrity enabled solutions. A desire for smart home technology will not go away at all but the demand for thoughtful solutions respecting your space, data and home will be increasingly important, Chevalley tells, continuing,
— Another, more general, one that we see is shared offices close to the homes. Greener cities, as green elements in the areas we spend time in, has a positive effect on our well-being. We also see local cultivation and measures to become more self-sufficient in terms of energy production and water, partnerships and standards to reduce non-recyclable plastic material in packaging, and updated building standards to include the CO2 life cycle footprint, instead of, as today, to focus on purchased energy. Trade and industry are taking the lead in the necessary climate change.
For you and the team, what else do you have coming?
— We just wrapped up a research and collaboration program with young change-makers around the world where we not only asked almost 14,000 youth about their hopes, fears, and dreams about their future homes, we also invited eight of them into our team to work alongside us and jointly explore future solutions. The result of this new collaboration is now being finalized and has had a far greater effect and positive impact on our innovation portfolio than I could ever have dreamed of.
— We are often exposed to the gloom and doomsdays message of climate change in the media and all around us. A needed and important awareness message, but that has also led to anxiety and stress among people and a politicized and polarizing debate. We must continuously listen to science, let them guide us in which key challenges to focus on. Innovation for sustainability is an amazing growth opportunity, for all of us, Chevalley concludes.
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