Study inspires students to create ecoPortal management system

Founders combine engineering doctorates with running new company

A research project focusing on implementing environmental management systems has inspired three mechanical engineering students to start their own business.

University of Auckland PhD students Logan Wait, Manuel Seidel and Richard Cross took the plunge into entrepreneurship when they launched ecoPortal at the recent Bizzone Business Expo in Auckland. EcoPortal is a web-based environmental management system that aims to help companies become more sustainable and ultimately reach the international standard of environmental management, ISO 14001, says Logan Wait.

“It aims to simplify everything a company needs to know about improving its environmental credentials and sets a roadmap for how to get there,” he says.

At the core is helping local businesses drive cost out of the business. The software gives organisations the tools to measure current costs and put solutions in place to save money. Taking a strategic approach to sorting out increasing costs of waste, power, travel and transport can help save significant amounts of money, he says. Auckland-based Autex, a supplier of textiles and advanced fibre technology, has cut its manufacturing energy usage by 35 percent with the help of ecoPortal, Wait says. Another example is design and furniture company Criterion, which is now saving $75,000 per year by being more efficient with its packaging material. As more local companies strive to compete on the world market, there is a growing need to comply with international standards. But the world’s most widely accepted standard for environmental management, ISO 14001, can be difficult to achieve, says Wait. It requires quite a lot of expertise to set up an environmental management system with which an organisation can secure ISO accreditation.

All of the required expertise has been built into ecoPortal and works within existing business processes and workflows, he says. EcoPortal provides a simple step-by-step approach to keep improving and eventually reach the ISO standard, he says.

The online system also encourages team-work, he says. It provides for documentation control and compliance, but is focused on people and giving them recognition for what they do, says Wait. “The software is based on social interaction. You might say it is the Facebook of environmental management systems,” he says.

Being environmentally aware and ISO-compliant is also good for business, according to Wait. Increasingly, consumers, retailers, manufacturers and government agencies worldwide are favouring products and services from environmentally responsible companies, he says.

The trio developed the software in-house.

The trio behind the ecoPortal company, which was recently admitted into the Accelerator Programme at Auckland-based business incubator The Icehouse, are now combining their studies with running the business.

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