Insights Blog

World Environment Day – Exasol’s CTO and his sustainability journey

This blog is part of a new series we’re calling ‘I am Change’, in which we feature members of the Exasol team making conscious decisions to change their behaviors and live more sustainably. First up, on the week of World Environment Day, Chief Technology Officer, Mathias Golombek.  

Sustainability is more important than ever. The mountain of data and irrefutable scientific evidence now paints a bleak picture of the impact we’ve collectively made on Earth. We need a global effort to change how we live.

But starting can often seem overwhelming. If global leaders can’t agree on the best course of action, what hope do we individuals and private enterprises have? 

Mathias Golombek, CTO of Exasol believes the key is to begin with small steps. “Incrementally,” he says. “That’s how you should start. I don’t believe people can completely change their lives all at once.”

It’s a philosophy which has taken him on a personal journey of tweaking his life to be more environmentally sustainable, bit by bit.

Taking the first step

Mathias’ first step was simple enough. In around 2010 he decided to switch his energy supplier to one with better green credentials. Then, a couple of years later, he changed his gas contract from one based on fossil fuel to biogas.

Once he saw how easy it was to make these steps without having to radically alter his life he kept going.

“My latest toy is my solar panel on the roof of my house connected to a Tesla battery in my cellar. Since February, my power consumption has been completely self-sufficient,” he says. “With the app I can see how much solar energy I’ve created and how much I’ve sent back to the grid. In Germany you get money back for that – and I’m now a clean power supplier, rather than just a consumer. That’s such a great feeling.”

Mathias is keen to point out that there are even simpler things you can do to start. 

“We’re buying soap and shower gel which isn’t in plastic bottles,” he says. “It’s not as fancy. But it lasts for weeks and you don’t have any garbage at the end.”

Other small steps people can take include increasing the tyre pressure in their car tires to make it more efficient thanks to lower rolling resistance. Or cutting meat and fish out of their diets a day or two a week – or even completely.

Fatherhood and changing perspectives

As CTO of Exasol, a tech company that employs 300 people, Mathias reckons he can make more of an impact now than he could at aged 20, for example. But the key motivation for all his efforts was fatherhood. 

“I became a father at 25 and that really changed my perspective,” says Mathias, “You become more selfless and naturally start thinking about sustainability and the future of the Earth. Your motivations change.”

Applying a sustainable philosophy to work

Mathias has taken the approach into his work. Exasol, like many organizations, is on its own sustainability journey. But he’s keen to point out that far from being a top-down project, the business is seeing a culture of environmentally minded people emerge who are interested in affecting grassroots change.

“We have built what we call the Green Team, which consists of environmentally-motivated people. It’s voluntary. Everybody can join for free and contribute as little or as much as they want.”

So how does that work?

“We meet once a month, where everyone exchanges ideas and create subgroups to solve challenges,” says Mathias. “There’s one working on how to reduce food waste. And one is looking at optimizing travel between the offices. For instance, we now have a company-wide rule that if the travel is less than 500 kilometres, if possible we should not fly it.”

Offsetting CO2 and supporting rainforests

Exasol has also started a collaboration with Planetly on the CO2 Offsetting Project. As a data analytics company with the world’s fastest database the goal is to combine Exasol’s tech with Planetly’s mission.

“So far we’ve covered 2019 by collecting all sorts of data to calculate our carbon footprint,” says Mathias. “At both a micro and macro level, we amassed data on everything which was having an impact. Then with Planetly we offset it by funding certified carbon reduction rainforest protection projects in places like Peru – where it’s used to plant trees and take positive action.”

Leading by example

Much like the small steps Mathias has taken in his personal life, the goal for Exasol is to begin with incremental changes and eventually create bigger ripples across the entire industry.

“Our mission is to influence others. So leading by example and even just talking about it is super important. Big cloud vendors like AWS are investing heavily in green energy as well. We’re not the only ones. But I think there’s a big trend in the market. And when you take the initiative and get things moving, everybody jumps on the train – a positive thing.”