IVL, the Swedish Environmental Research Institute, arranged a seminar yesterday to discuss trends and future research needs to secure a Sustainable Development. Björn Stigson, from WBCSD (the World Business Council for Sustainable Development) was the first speaker, and he talked about the global trends. And I have to admit that it is always impressing to listen to Björn. Not only because he himself has a lot of knowledge and skills, but also because he represents an organization where the value of the member companies is around 7000 billion dollars, and these companies reach roughly half the planet's population every single day with services and products.
Björn talked about the rapid population increase, and pointed out that in year 2050, 85% of the world's population will be living in developing countries. There will be tough battles against income poverty, energy poverty, mobility poverty, and water poverty. He also talked about the demografic shift, i.e. people living longer. All of this will lead to a resoursce and carbon constrained world, where the equity-issue, i.e. who has the right to the scarce resources, will be very challeging. Björn shared some very interesting thoughts with us regarding the "embedded carbon dioxide releases" in the products that US and Europe buy from China. Since we consume the products, shouldn't the releases be allocated to us rather than to China? More than half of the products Germany imports from China are manufactured in German owned factories in China... Who is responsble for the releases?
I was happy to see that Björn used the "sustainable quadrant diagram" from their Vision 2050 report. If you have followed my blog previosuly, you know that I am a big fan of this diagram (I first saw it in a presentation by Stina Billinger from SPP).
If we like to accomplish the huge challenge of moving countries and people all around the globe to that sustainable quadrant, then changes are badly needed! Björn ponted out that the "green race" already has begun. Who (meaning countries as well as companies) will be the leader on sustainable solutions? EU has a pretty strong position today, but is challenged by the very innovative US. However, both these "old economies" will probably be beaten by the strong (and very devoted to green innovations) new economies, e.g. China and Korea. Björn said that he believed that "the green race" will be a much stronger driver for change than e.g. UN Climate Change Conference and similar international forums. Bearing in mind the extremely low expectations for the COP16 meeting, it is easy to agree with Björn... Björn's clear message to all of us was that in this "green race", companies has an ability to play an important role as the "solution providers".
After the "global perspective" from Björn, Anders Ehrling (CEO at Scandic Hotels and previosuly an executive at SAS) brought us down from the macro perspective to the micro perspective. What can be done in the different companies, on a day-to-day basis? A lot of the initaitives that are undertaken is "no rocket science". Anders told us about the things they are doing in the hotels and the restaurants. From the re-use of towels in the hotels rooms, chosing the right energy sources, waste recycling in the kitchen etc. But it is very clear that also the smaller initiatives really pay off. See Scandic Sustainability Live Report - they are good today, and even better tomorrow!
One really interesting thing Anders told us, with his experiences both from the aviation industry and the hotel business, is that "green" has not really become the issue which steers customer's choice. In the avaiation industry what really matters is "your time-table and the price". In the hotel business what really matters is "location and price". Anders wanted to see a discussion on potential "green incentives". To really see a rapid growth of green solutions for the future there must be positive incentives going in the green direction. I couldn't agree more. In the pharmaceutical sector we have the similar type of situation. It seems like the only thing that matters is "therapeutic effect and price". Our customers do not seem to value aspects such as "greenness" either. I have written about this several times before here at the blog in relation to discharges from manufacturing of generics in e.g. India.
Some of IVL's scientists then gave short examples of on-going research projects within IVL. One of the projects that was presented was the environmental classification of pharmaceutical substances on fass.se which is run by IVL in collaboration with LIF (the Swedish Association of the Pharmaceutical Industry).
The seminar closed with a brainstorming session where all the participants were asked to mention three areas where they saw research and/or development needs. My contribution to the session was the following:
- Green incentives (see the discussion above)
- How to visulize and communicate the value of the small environmental initiatives, delivered on a daily basis? How to we manage to make everyone of us a "green champion"?
- How to reach economic growth without an increase in resource utilization? The decoupling issue...
It will be interesting to see how IVL manages to create a structure in all these proposals and ideas. How do they find the solutions for a sustainable development?