This portrait has originally been published by myclimate.
Liip is one of the leading Swiss companies in the implementation of individual web and mobile applications. Almost 160 employees in Zurich, Freiburg, Lausanne, St.Gallen and Bern develop customised digital solutions for companies such as Migros and Raiffeisen, and the federal authorities. By employing a wide range of measures, starting with the choice of location, and with employees heavily involved, Liip always keeps its own carbon footprint as small as possible. In an interview with myclimate, Gerhard Andrey, co-founder of Liip, sees enormous untapped potential in Swiss companies.
Mr Andrey, what does the name «Liip» mean?
Liip comes from Old High German and means «life». When spoken, the name sounds like the English word «leap», which also means «jump» or «spring». Both of these suit us perfectly, as we see ourselves as a lively organisation, committed to a progressive, sustainable world.
As a provider of web solutions, how have you come to be so heavily involved in sustainability?
Since the start of our business, it was clear to us founders that we as a company also have a social responsibility and want to actively embrace it. For this reason, we have always tried to reconcile the three aspects of sustainability: social, ecological and economic concerns.
You have already consistently implemented environmentally aware and climate-friendly measures in many areas within your company. What areas are currently causing you the most anguish?
As we rent our offices, we are dependent on the regional property markets. In some locations we simply have no other choice but to use buildings that do not have state-of-the-art technology and sometimes even have to be heated with oil. That is frustrating. We could of course move away from the poorly maintained city centre, into modern buildings in zones outside the city. But that would thwart our efforts in terms of mobility.
I wish that politicians would offer incentives to reduce urban sprawl and motivate the improvement of city centres. We will not get very far by simply «encouraging» the owners. These emissions, which we cannot really influence, are exactly why we are happy to have myclimate. Without the possibility of carbon offsetting, our hands would be tied in these cases and we would be able to do nothing.
In comparison, where do you see potential for more environmental and climate consciousness in companies in Switzerland?
There is enormous potential in terms of mobility. I am always amazed at how traditionally most companies act when it comes to the commute. For many organisations and employees it appears to still be completely normal to drive to work in a car and find a parking space. This has enormous consequences for land use and generates large quantities of harmful emissions.
We are addressing this issue very consistently. Liip does not offer any car parking spaces, but it does subsidise bikes and public transport with half-fare travel cards or sometimes even general travel cards. So, according to a recent survey, around 95 per cent of all of our employees' commutes are currently on foot, by bicycle or using public transport. With almost 160 employees that really makes a difference.
As for mobility for our work, we have invested in top-quality infrastructure for video conferences. This enables us to avoid many journeys, and we can hold meetings across sites or even from the comfort of home. This is not only advantageous from an ecological point of view but also economically. We avoid air travel completely. Our business activities are limited to the Swiss market. Our people mainly only go abroad for training or conferences. The rule here is simple: flight costs are not covered, but the usually more expensive costs of train travel are covered by the company.
To what extent is your focus on social and ecological sustainability also appreciated by your customers? Does it have any effect on the awarding of contracts?
There are customers who come to us specifically for that reason. I am convinced that this issue will become more important in future when it comes to selecting suppliers. We are maintaining our efforts to increase sustainability. After all, we are convinced that we will be able to harvest the fruits of our labour in the long term, be it directly as a company or most certainly as individuals in society.
In 2013 Liip received the Zurich Cantonal Bank (ZKB) sustainability prize for its commitment to its employees, their families and, not least, the climate. Since it was founded in 2007, Liip has been offsetting its own company emissions with myclimate.