Interviews with our businesses

Five minutes with Dr Chris Dore at Aether

March 19, 2018

It’s OCFI resident Aether’s tenth birthday this year. We met Founding Director Dr Chris Dore to find out more about what the business does.

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.”.

If you want to find out more about Aether, go here.

If you’d like to be interviewed for our head-to-head series, email Georgina Matthews on [email protected]


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