Within 18 months, we will open a new Innovation Campus that will be built with 80 partners from different sectors. Among them, we have many construction partners whose innovations demonstrate a variety of solutions in terms of sustainability. The common factor: a long term approach which has a direct impact on the problems we face as society. These companies are fulfilling their role as role models, so we are particularly proud that they are involved in our project.

A climate virus waiting for a vaccine

Since the 70s, we have been aware of the impact we can have on global natural systems, which used to seem invulnerable. At that time, the hole in the ozone layer was discovered and science stated that it was caused by the use of chemicals.

The understanding of the impact of these and other human activities on the climate, has only increased since then. And yet the urgency has still not trickled down to the individuals and institutions that can have the greatest impact.

How different from the corona pandemic. Relative to the 50 years that we know that there is a climate virus, it has only taken 1 year before a vaccine was developed against the coronavirus. Why do we keep waiting for the miraculous climate vaccine to fall from the sky anyway?

There are several reasons for this, two of which I would like to explore further.

  1. First, the climate problem is a latent cancer that we don't know is making us sick. We don't feel it. Or at least not all the time. By comparison, the coronavirus has an incubation period of 5 days after which one gets terribly sick and tired and the chance of dying is 3%. In one year there have been more than 3,000,000 deaths worldwide. However, global warming carries the risk of up to 160 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in the most affected locations.
    But we don't notice that now, maybe we will never notice it.
  2. Another reason is that economic interests are working against solving the problem. In the case of the coronapandemic, they work rather in favor of the problem. The pharma industry does get paid for their fast work, which makes sense. It would be perceived as very illogical to start compensating the coal industry for the effects of the 2016 Paris climate agreement. Fortunately for them, they and the other fossil fuel giants have a well-stocked portfolio for lobbying. This week, the UK announced a tightening of its climate targets at the online Climate Summit. They calculated that an additional investment of up to £651 billion in the green economy will net them £250 billion over 30 years. That's still not a 7-year payback, which people sometimes dwell on, but can certainly count as an example of leadership in the climate debate. It is also a rare occasion when an investment in the climate is described as profitable.

Companies are the catalyst for society

It's no surprise that it's a government that is taking this step in a quantum way. Corporations are generally more cautious, due to the risk they take if they turn out to be wrong. On the other hand, their potential gains if they turn out to be right seem proportionately greater.

And it are companies that need to start showing leadership, because time is running out and their impact is huge. Companies are catalysts. Especially in a world where a small start-up with a good idea can gain global traction in a short period of time. If you can develop a product that many people will use, and importantly, if you make sure people can't use it wrong, you can make a big impact much faster. And that immediate large-scale impact is much needed.

Every year, 51 billion tons of CO2 equivalents are pushed into our atmosphere. Of those trillions of tons, 27% comes from the production of electricity. Even though we should all be encouraging the electrification of mobility, there is a long way to go to reduce CO2 emissions with electric cars. In short: one can say that it would only work in the short term if an electric car only starts when it is "full" of green electricity. Only then does the product as a solution have a direct impact on the problem.

The answer? Holistically designed products

With regard to global CO2 emissions, 31% come from making things, such as steel, plastic and concrete. So producing and using carbon neutral concrete is a choice with direct impact. CO2 neutral concrete is not designed with an individual model customer in mind. No one "needs" CO2-neutral concrete, but everyone needs CO2-neutral concrete. The product has the entire planet in mind as a customer.

The same applies to circular building principles, producing and breaking down products again and again requires energy and raw materials. Things that are not infinite on this planet, so it benefits greatly from circular ideas. But in itself, the individual customer benefits very little.

This way of thinking and designing holistically, for people and planet at the same time, seems to lead to solutions with immediate impact that work in the long term as well.

Our partners are doing this and will be the frontrunners in their market. They will be prepared for changing times. In this way, they will be more quickly competitive in new markets, which are now distant but will soon be mainstream.

This attitude of being a forerunner is something that Living Tomorrow has been encouraging in the companies, which work with us, for 25 years. Because we see that in the long run it pays to be forward looking and progressive.

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