Seville, Spain, July 11th 2016: Solar Impulse is flying over the Torresol Energy’s Gemasolar Thermosolar Plant. Photo: Solar Impulse/Jean Revillard/

«When it comes to tack­ling climate change, I believe there can only be collaboration»

Serial-explorer and Solar Impulse Founder Bertrand Piccard dedicates his life to demonstrate the opportunities lying in sustainable development. His goal: bridge the gap between economy and ecology.

The Philanthropist: You have compi­led 1000 solu­ti­ons that contri­bute effi­ci­ently and profi­ta­bly to slowing global warming. What was the biggest chal­lenge: That the solu­tion is profi­ta­ble or that it makes an effi­ci­ent contri­bu­tion against global warming?
Betrand Piccard: We didn’t have too much diffi­culty in finding solu­ti­ons that have a clear bene­fit for the envi­ron­ment and are finan­cially profi­ta­ble. The diffi­cult part, howe­ver, was to find tech­no­lo­gies that are avail­able right now. That is a crucial aspect of my mission: to promote solu­ti­ons that can be imple­men­ted immedia­tely, rather than futu­ri­stic proto­ty­pes that might work in a decade or in half a century. Because it will be too late, already.

TP: How can the solu­ti­ons be imple­men­ted across the board?
BP: I am a firm belie­ver that strong poli­cies are needed to make a leap forward in fight­ing the climate crisis. Of course, tech­no­lo­gi­cal solu­ti­ons are important. But to succeed and imple­ment them at the speed and scale which are requi­red, we need to make sure that envi­ron­men­tal laws, regu­la­ti­ons and incen­ti­ves pull these inno­va­tions to the market. We cannot afford to wait for these solu­ti­ons to enter our daily lives, but rather ask governments and inter­na­tio­nal orga­niz­a­ti­ons to make things happen faster, and on a much larger scale.

Betrand Piccard, Photo: 

TP: How did you reach the small and large compa­nies so that they could take part in the campaign?
BP: We have a devo­ted team in charge of reaching out to solu­ti­ons all over the world. We also part­ner with many orga­niz­a­ti­ons in the sustaina­bi­lity sector, such as incu­ba­tors, acce­le­ra­tors, and inno­va­tion networks, such as the Inter­na­tio­nal Clean­tech Network, Clean­tech Group and others, or the Hori­zon 2020 programme from the Euro­pean Commis­sion. They helped us in sprea­ding awareness about the Label. Besi­des, the round-the-world solar flight brought Solar Impulse into the spot­light as it was follo­wed by milli­ons of people, so many compa­nies came to us directly to be part of this new mission.

TP: What are the next steps you are taking with the Foun­da­tion?
BP: With the Foun­da­tion, we are focu­sed on scaling the adop­tion of these clean tech­no­lo­gies. To do so, we are working on multi­ple projects. First, we are deve­lo­ping the Solu­ti­ons’ Guide, a search tool which will allow anyone to find envi­ron­men­tal solu­ti­ons tailo­red to their speci­fic needs. We are also working on Clean­prints, which are in-depth reports for a given indu­stry, sector, city, region or coun­try with recom­men­da­ti­ons for appli­ca­ble solu­ti­ons , as well as an indi­ca­tion of where regu­la­ti­ons can be moder­ni­zed to allow for a more ambi­tious deploy­ment of the solu­ti­ons. Finally, we aim to support solu­ti­ons in finding invest­ment oppor­tu­nities by matching them with the right investors.

That is a crucial aspect of my mission: to promote solu­ti­ons that can be imple­men­ted immediately.

Betrand Piccard

TP: There are more and more orga­niz­a­ti­ons, compa­nies and foun­da­ti­ons that deal with the topic of sustaina­bi­lity. Does that make the work of your foun­da­tion easier or is it more of a compe­ti­tive situa­tion?
BP: The fact is that our Label is the only evalua­tion avail­able today which certi­fies the profi­ta­bi­lity of tech­no­lo­gies that protect the envi­ron­ment. So, strictly spea­king, we don’t have much compe­ti­tion. But when it comes to tack­ling climate change, I believe there can only be colla­bo­ra­tion, as we share the same goal. Of course, we want our message to be heard, but we are convin­ced that what other orga­niz­a­ti­ons do is comple­men­tary with what we do. We will not win this on our own, that’s for sure.

TP: You inspire people with your pionee­ring work. How important is it to reach people on an emotio­nal level when it comes to a topic like climate protec­tion?
BP: As a psych­ia­trist, I know how crucial it is to talk to people’s hearts and minds. Because climate change isn’t just about 1, 2 or even 5°C that we will add to our ther­mo­me­ters. It’s about what we, the human species, are capa­ble of buil­ding toge­ther: a better system that works for ever­yone rather than the few, where people can thrive, living in harmony with their envi­ron­ment while being able to live a comfor­ta­ble life, a system in which we don’t accept that there are so many people and animals suffe­ring. While it is important for people to know what’s happe­ning, it is much more effec­tive to moti­vate them through solu­ti­ons and a prospect to look forward to — this can moti­vate them to become actors of change.

April 23th 2016. Solar Impulse 2 flying over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

Photo: Solar Impulse/Jean Revillard/

March 1st 1999. Breit­ling Orbi­ter 3 flying over the Swiss Alps.

Photo: Piccard Family

June 11th 2016. Solar Impulse 2 flying over the Statue of Liberty.

Photo: Solar Impulse/Jean Revillard/

TP: Your father campai­gned for the protec­tion of seas and lakes by explo­ring the deep sea. What role does know­ledge play in moti­vat­ing people to behave in a more climate-friendly manner?
BP: Know­ledge was indeed crucial in both my father’s explo­ra­tion, when he disco­ve­red life in the deep sea and preven­ted nuclear waste from being dumped into the ocean, as well as in my grand­f­a­ther’s expe­di­tion, when he became the first man to enter the stra­to­s­phere and inven­ted the pres­su­ri­zed cabin. They both taught me the import­ance of lear­ning and expe­ri­en­cing. In fact, my mission with the Solar Impulse Foun­da­tion and the 1000 Solu­ti­ons Chal­lenge is also deeply connec­ted to know­ledge, as I am not the one who inven­ted these 1000 solu­ti­ons, but I am trying to make them more known to the people who should be using them.

TP: The Solar Impulse project was at the origin of the foun­da­tion. How did the idea for this come about?
BP: Actually, I can remem­ber very precisely the moment where I deci­ded to focus on the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of tech­no­lo­gi­cal solu­ti­ons. While I was flying in Solar Impulse, I was looking at the sun that was running my four elec­tric motors with huge propel­lers, there was no noise, no pollu­tion, no fuel, and I could fly fore­ver. This expe­ri­ence seemed futu­ri­stic. But soon, I reali­sed that I was not in the future; on the contrary, I was in the present, using what today’s tech­no­lo­gies could offer. This is when I under­s­tood that the rest of the world is in the past; in old pollu­ting and inef­fi­ci­ent systems, such as inter­nal combu­stion engi­nes, badly insu­la­ted houses, outda­ted systems of heating and cooling and inef­fi­ci­ent grids. So, I deci­ded to focus on promo­ting the clean and effi­ci­ent tech­no­lo­gies that are avail­able today. And that’s how the idea for the #1000Solutions Chal­lenge came about.

Read more:

Number: 1000

Solar Impulse Foun­da­tion: Explo­ring Effi­ci­ent Solutions

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