From an EMBA project to a responsible multinational initiative

Emile Scheepers, a 2014 EPFL EMBA Alumnus and Vale employee had an innovative idea, to use mining tailings to replace natural quartz in the production of Quartz Surfaces (an alternative to marble and granite). During the EMBA months, he and his team (Marcus Carvalho, Thomas Gisler, Valentin Murariu, Eleftherios Zografos) matured the idea and transform it into a promising project, the “Vale Quartz Project” that Emile and his company Vale presented on 7 June 2018. Learn more about Emile’s journey, his motivations behind his idea and how the EMBA helped him developed a clear business plan.

Founded in Brazil in 1942, Vale is today the world leader in the production and mining of iron ore and nickel, employing around 100,000 people worldwide. Based on its mission to transform natural resources into prosperity and sustainable development, Vale is one of those players that integrate sustainable development into its activities; investing time, money, and effort toward sustainable and responsible projects with an entrepreneurial vision like the one Emile presented.

Canaã dos Carajás, Pará (PA), Brasil, 14/06/2017 - Vista aérea do Complexo S11D Eliezer Batista. Pátio de estocagem. Foto: Ricardo Teles

We are all aware of the importance of water in our lives, so no surprise to learn that it’s the most consumed natural resource. But do you know who takes the second place? This comes with a real surprise, as the second place is today occupied by SAND. The exponential demand for housing and infrastructure is the main reason. The UN Environment Programme’s 2014 Global Alerts paper “Sand, rarer than one thinks” comes with an alarming analysis: with this high demand the extractions are also accelerating at a rate that dangerously endangers marine and river biodiversity.

The Vale Project has piloted with the Quartz Surface industry to help create an ecosystem that could supply a sustainable alternative to natural quartz in the production of Quartz Surfaces countertops. The pilot aims to become a blueprint for supplying other industries, such as perhaps industries that produces concrete products (e.g. railway sleepers), uses plaster sand (e.g. for brick laying) and perhaps even in the sports field, on golf courses and beach volleyball courts.

At the heart of my thinking behind this project was a desire to help create a ‘virtuous circle’, to help Vale transform residues into a resource, thus creating a product that could be used for other businesses.

Emile Scheepers, founder of the Vale Quartz Project & EPFL EMBA Alumnus