Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Venlo - Green City: Profitability and Sustainability are not mutually exclusive, not anymore!

We saw, in the Herman Miller case, the idea of incorporating the concept of Cradle to Cradle in the design process. Clearly ignoring waste is not a choice anymore since we are at a threshold where gaining competitive advantage in terms of cost by using waste as raw material is a necessity. Primarily because with high levels of consumption and falling reserves of raw materials in the developed and developing nations, we are on the verge of ending up with a  pile of waste[1].

There are companies such as Climatex (textile) and Steelcase (office furniture) that have done that since 1970.  Rohner is one such chemical company based in Windua, Switzerland. It was forced by the government to either cut down on its waste emission or move to another location. The areas of concern were the toxic dyes used in coloring the fabric and the management of waste. Michael Braungart - a German chemist and an active Green Peace environmentalist, worked closely along with another company to design 16 primary dyes that can be used to produce any other color that Rohner would need. The Company, with the factory wastes, makes and sells completely biodegradable sheets that are used to cover local strawberry fields in winter. This sort of co-operation in accepting and solving issues for the benefit of the society has proved fruitful than pin pointing and closing businesses.

Inspiration drawn from this success of Michael Braunghat’s led to the development of C2C concept to protect the environment. We know a few companies that have incorporated this idea as a part of their design principal but have you ever heard of a Cradle to Cradle region? Yes you read it right ‘a C2C region’ - Venlo the city council has decided to make the whole region Cradle to Cradle. Historically, Venlo’s youth would leave the city in search of work. Now the city has managed to attract the leading businesses in Cradle to Cradle and has become an incubator for sustainable innovation.

Roy Vercoulen, the Managing Director of Venlo’s Cradle to Cradle Exposition Centre, explained that the city’s procurement criteria stimulates innovation by stating intentions such as a building that produces oxygen, sequesters carbon, purifies water, improves the health of its occupants and promotes local biodiversity – whilst allowing as much room for creativity within that as possible.[2]

Would such Green City incubators facilitate the much expected co-operation between the environmentalists and business makers?
After all, sustainability is not just about being environment friendly but about being lean and efficient by transforming net waste of the business into usable raw material. Prospects of reducing cost by recycling waste would re-invent the way products and supply chains are designed because waste is not a business proposition.

[1] - Cradle To Cradle. "Cradle To Cradle Products Innovation Institute." Cradle To Cradle Products Innovation Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2013. <http://www.c2ccertified.org/innovation_hub/tools_resources>
[2] - The Hubble. "Cradle to Cradle | The Hubble." The Hubble | with members & friends of The Hub Community giving people better ways to work and new ways to play. N.p., 13 Oct. 2011. Web. 28 Jan. 2013. <http://www.thehubble.net/2011/10/13/cradle-to-cradle/>.

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