Interview – at the intersection of research and consulting: BioVal & corsus
Since the beginning of 2022, Nico Mumm and Julian Quandt have been working on their doctorates at Bochum University of Applied Sciences, combining research and consulting in the BioVal project in parallel to their work at corsus.
What are you currently doing at corsus?
– Julian: At corsus, I am currently focusing on biodiversity impacts in the supply chain of various industries. Together with WWF Germany and Systain Consulting, we are developing tools to help small and medium-sized companies assess biodiversity impacts in their supply chains. This enables them to develop a “feel” for where biodiversity impacts are greatest in their supply chains. In addition, recommendations for action are developed on how to reduce negative impacts on biodiversity and achieve positive impacts. In this context, I am currently evaluating and calculating the biodiversity impacts of various metallic raw materials that play a role in electromobility. These are mainly battery raw materials, such as nickel, cobalt, lithium, but also copper and aluminum.
– Nico: At corsus, I mainly deal with environmental impacts of products and systems with a focus on food as well as consulting companies. This includes conducting life cycle assessments, but also strategic consulting. In addition, in the CLIF project (Climate Impacts of Food) I am working on which environmental impacts of food are significant and which differences also exist in the perception in different regions. The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment and Consumer Protection and we are running it together with WWF (World Wide Fund For Nature) and TMG Research gGmbH. The aim of the project is to develop a communication tool that informs users about the main environmental impacts of different food products. What is special is that we are developing the tool in such a way that it can be used in different regions of the world. Specifically, we are working with Germany, South Africa, Paraguay and Thailand. At the moment, we are setting up various workshops and preparing suitable case studies. I am responsible for the target region Thailand. What excites me most about the project is building the life cycle assessment backbone of the communication tool and how these complex calculations ultimately become information that is actually used in purchasing decisions. This step is especially crucial in the food sector, as agriculture is the main culprit for exceeding some planetary impact limits, especially the loss of biodiversity, and we need a timely food turnaround here accordingly.
– Julian: I am also involved in the CLIF project, conducting the case studies in Germany and am integrated in the development of the communication tool. I am also responsible for the organization of the workshop here with non-governmental organizations.
What is the research at Bochum University of Applied Sciences about?
– Nico: At the Bochum University of Applied Sciences, we work at the chair “Sustainability in Engineering” of Prof. Dr. Jan Paul Lindner. He has taken the lead in developing a life cycle assessment method for impact assessment on terrestrial biodiversity. This method is now to be further developed within the framework of the Biodiversity Valuing & Valuation (BioVal) research project. The aim is to identify and reduce negative impacts of food production and consumption on biodiversity and ultimately to convert them into positive impacts. For practical application, we are cooperating in the joint project with companies from the food industry in living labs. These are . The living labs help to test the practicality of the method.
– Julian: The second important point is to complement the impact assessment method terrestrial biodiversity – i.e. biodiversity on land – with methods on aquatic biodiversity – i.e. biodiversity in the sea and in freshwater. In addition, the method is to be extended to include the assessment of diffuse effects. This is important, for example, in the use of pesticides, which not only have a direct effect on the area where they are applied, but also have a negative impact on biodiversity beyond the area. While Nico is mainly concerned with marine biodiversity, I am concerned with the integration of such diffuse effects.
Julian, you’re doing research on the integration of diffuse effects. What is that exactly?
– Julian: Diffuse effects can be explained quite well using the example of a road. The area occupied and sealed by a road can be determined well. The direct effect due to land sealing can be calculated well and included in the biodiversity impact assessment. However, there are other biodiversity impacts that do not occur directly on the surface. A busy road forms an insurmountable obstacle for many animals and plants. Potential habitats are fragmented and entire ecosystems are fragmented or at least disturbed. Natural migration is massively impaired. The indirect effect of roads on biodiversity is probably far greater than the mere sealing of the area. In this respect, it is important for the biodiversity impact assessment to also include such effects. Diffuse effects are not only found in roads, but also in the use of pesticides, in the structuring of landscapes, through light and noise pollution, or through the shifting of climate zones due to global warming. What is particularly exciting is that by integrating diffuse effects into the biodiversity impact assessment, the areas under consideration are no longer considered in isolation from their surroundings. This is because it makes a difference in which context an area is integrated. This gets a lot closer to the essence and structure of biodiversity by understanding the area under consideration as part of its environment.
Nico, your topic in BioVal is marine biodiversity. What attracts you to this topic?
– Nico: Marine ecosystems are a key element of the biosphere and, just like terrestrial ecosystems, are under enormous anthropogenic pressure. This leads to marine ecosystems degenerating, habitats disappearing and species becoming extinct. At the same time, the ecosystem services that marine ecosystems provide are essential. For example, the ocean stores over one-third of emitted greenhouse gases, and the net primary production of the oceans is comparable to that of terrestrial ecosystems. However, the main causes of marine biodiversity loss are not always directly identifiable. Analyzing these effects and being able to quantify them in an impact assessment in LCA is my research area. After all, only if the impacts caused can be quantified can they ultimately be managed.
How can you bring your research experience to corsus? And how do you incorporate your consulting experience into the research?
– Julian: BioVal is a transdisciplinary research project, which means we generate new knowledge with and for practice. Our experience from consulting is very helpful here. We already have a practical perspective.
– Nico: At the same time, we at corsus always work at the interface between science and practice in our consulting. That means we always incorporate the latest scientific findings. That’s why both jobs can be combined very well and both activities benefit from each other.