10 Years of Aether

23 March 2018

In a recent interview in honour of Aether's 10 year anniversary, Director Chris Dore spoke to the Oxford Trust about the scope of the business, future challenges and how the founding directors have built a sustainable and carbon neutral business.

"Aether is an air quality and climate change consultancy. The majority of the company’s work is helping governments and international agencies, like the UN and European Commission, with air pollution and climate change challenges. Its projects take the staff all over the world – this year they are working in Canada, South Africa, Tanzania, United Arab Emirates, the Caribbean (a favourite with staff!) and all across Europe.

Aether helps its clients estimate emissions of local air pollutants and greenhouse gases, which are then officially submitted to international conventions. “For developing countries”, Chris says, “the main challenge is collating the right data for estimating and then reporting emissions. Whereas with developed countries, the focus is much more on using the data to help governments with their policy decisions”. It is their in-depth understanding of the data, coupled with innovative analysis, that means the team is able to help governments improve their environmental performance. Aether also works at the local scale, providing air quality assessments (a planning requirement associated with property development), and recently developed a set of sustainability indicators for Oxford City Council.

Although it operates all over the world, Aether’s biggest client is the European Commission, and one of its biggest projects is checking that emissions data submitted from individual European countries is correct. “We have to review emissions estimates for everything – power stations, industry, houses, transport, agriculture, waste…” explains Chris. “… and being able to offer a comprehensive team of internationally recognised experts is key in allowing us to stand out from the crowd.” But does Brexit brings some uncertainty about working for the European Commission? “We have had to develop plans to handle numerous Brexit scenarios.” he explains.

After doing a PhD in climate change, Chris spent a year as a professional circus performer before settling down to a “proper job” at the government research institute, AEA Technology, based at Culham. Soon after joining, the institute was privatised and he learned about managing a business in the real world. After a thirteen-year stint, Chris left and set up Aether in 2008 with three other experts in the field – Justin Goodwin, Melanie Hobson and Katie King. Aether now has a team of over twenty and is celebrating their tenth anniversary. A long weekend in Wales is planned for the whole team to celebrate!

Working in the environmental field, the founding directors have thought quite carefully about sustainability, and Aether operates as a carbon neutral business. The company reduces emissions as far as they can, and then offsets the remainder through accredited schemes. Previously based at Milton Park, the relocation to the OCFI has helped its emissions reduction hugely as most staff can now commute by bicycle or public transport. Chris says: “We give our staff a financial incentive to travel sustainably for both business and commuting. So, I effectively get paid to cycle to work.”. The company also has links with the Earth Trust and BBOWT and staff regularly volunteer on environmental projects throughout the year. In fact, Aether give staff extra leave to do environmental volunteering work. How brilliant is that!

You would have thought that working in the climate change sector would make you a pessimist, but Chris says he’s an eternal optimist. “I don’t think there has ever been so much public awareness of climate change and air pollution issues – we are making progress.”

 

Thanks to The Oxford Trust.

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Testimonial

Don't just take our word for it...

“The professional service provided by your company was of very high quality and completed within agreed timelines.”

Matthew Dudley, UNFCCC Secretariat

“Aether was a great asset in involving/engaging with Member States experts on highly technical subjects regarding GHG reporting. Very clear communication of issues and results.”

Andreas Pilzecker, DG CLIMA

“Aether's approach to couple innovative visualisation with high expertise manpower delivered valuable insights for our inventory work.”

Umweltbundesamt (Germany)

“Saint Lucia embraces the professional approach with which this project was undertaken by Aether, particularly their ability to develop mentorship relations with local government experts. This provides a basis for ensuring that the pool of local experts remain engaged and recognized over successive processes.”

Annette Rattigan-Leo, Chief Sustainable Development and Environment Officer

“If we have a need for any more reports in the future Aether will be first on my list.”

Alan Hardy, Kyson Design

“The Aether team were a joy to work with and I would recommend the consultancy - the service provided throughout the process was exceptional. Where there were problems, they provided solutions. The team were working to very short time scales but were able to deliver a high quality piece of work within the specified time frame.”

Sefton Council - for the Merseyside Atmospheric Emissions Inventory

“Chris was excellent to work with and always very pro active in making suggestions, taking work forward and applying his considerable technical knowledge in effective ways.”

Robert Vaughan, Defra Air Quality Team

“It is always an absolute pleasure working with Aether. I always know what is expected of me. Their work ethic is of a very high standard and projects are always handled in a very professional manner. I have learnt many skills in terms of project management, quality control and workshop training styles from Aether and I hope to carry these principles forward in my own work. I look forward to collaborating with Aether more in the future.”

Luanne Stevens, Gondwana

“The Aether team were a joy to work with and I would recommend the consultancy - the service provided throughout the process was exceptional.”

Clare Bayley, Defra

“Aether delivered training workshops and generated learning materials for our SSN members, providing technical content in a manageable and comprehendible format. We particularly benefitted from their extensive knowledge and ability to interpret the needs of our members into the training materials.”

Jennifer Anderson, Sustainable Scotland Network

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