WISER: A digital ecosystem for greenhouse gas information

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A powerful tool to help organizations evaluate their carbon footprint

Knowledge source and gateway to collaborations: the WISER website. Image: WISER
Knowledge source and gateway to collaborations: the WISER website. Image: WISER
A new online digital ecosystem, currently developed under the leadership of Empa and digitalswitzerland, will connect valuable knowledge about greenhouse gas emissions, assessment standards and calculation tools with the help of various web services. The WISER ecosystem also aims at making this expert knowledge available in a user-friendly way - for product manufacturers, public authorities and other interested organizations. Funded by Innosuisse as one of the first 15 Flagship projects, the WISER project is now ready to share its development strategy with the release of its website.

In many industries around the world, manufacturers are now striving to make their organizations and their products more climate-friendly, often with ambitious net zero targets. But goodwill can quickly reach its limits in practice since most organizations and products are linked to complex international value chains. It is therefore necessary but difficult to consistently combine the knowledge of various organizations to find the greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction pathways that consider the global nature of the problem. This is, at least in part, due to the many existing assessment standards and data sources that are used in different regions of the world, but are often not comparable to one another.

Organizations thus struggle to include GHG evaluations of their suppliers in the global assessment of their activities. For example, a Swiss city might find it difficult to evaluate the carbon footprint of its buildings if the GHG emissions that are linked to their building materials are described in documents that follow a European standard. Indeed, such values will not follow the same assessment rules as the Swiss regulations, which greatly reduce their usefulness in the Swiss context.

To tackle this issue, the WISER Flagship project (Web of Interoperable Digital Services for Knowledge on Decarbonization Pathways), funded by the Swiss innovation agency Innosuisse, was initiated by Empa’s Technology and Society laboratory and digitalswitzerland in 2022. This project is carried out by a large-scale consortium of Swiss industries, governmental organizations and research experts (see info box). With the release of its website, the project is now sharing its vision with information on the project’s goals and the concrete strategy to create a digital ecosystem.

The goal: a powerful tool to inform on the carbon footprint

The general aim of WISER is to facilitate consistent exchanges of information between all organizations along international value chains to get more trustworthy assessments of carbon footprints (i.e. aggregated GHG emissions). In other words: to provide simpler access to GHG knowledge that is currently available primarily to experts. With the support of the Swiss government, WISER thus intend to help businesses, governmental institutions, and organizations in their journey to evaluate and reduce their carbon footprints. More specifically, WISER will inform on the relevance of certain carbon information in various contexts with a focus on the so-called scope-3 data. WISER will also provide an automated translation service between the many different data sources, climate standards and assessment frameworks.

Great effort for a clear goal. As Didier Beloin-Saint-Pierre, WISER coordinator at Empa, explains: "We need to find simpler ways to manage the many different options of GHG analysis methods that currently prevent organizations from offering a trustworthy picture of the GHG emissions along their value chains. WISER is there to address this challenge with the help of the digital sector." And Martin Kathriner, WISER CCO and sustainability strategist from lead partner digitalswitzerland, adds, "WISER is an ambitious undertaking that requires increased collaboration between many different stakeholders in society. For the project to be successful, it needs to become a large hub that fosters contacts between organizations."

The WISER project is an Innosuisse Flagship project that will run until 2026. It brings together five academic partners: Empa, University of St. Gallen, University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland - Valais, Zurich University of Applied Sciences and the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI). Ten business partners support the practical implementation: digitalswitzerland, ecoinvent, the City of Lausanne, ABB, EY, Microsoft, the Swiss Datacenter Efficiency Association, SWICO, the City of Schaffhausen and the City of Winterthur. This consortium thus enables interdisciplinary efforts and cross-innovation to support the next stages of digital tools for GHG assessment.