Saturday, October 17, 2015

Sustainability as a business opportunity - seminar summary report

Posted by Amanda Villaruel |
This week I attended the Norwegian Energy Days that is held annually in October. Most of the lectures were interesting, but there was particularly one session (three lectures) I wanted to share with you which was - sustainability as a business opportunity.
Wind turbines in Norway. Sustainability as a business opportunity.
Wind turbines in Norway. Copyright: hramovnick / 123RF Stock Photo

The first lecturer was Anne Jorun Aas from the company Sigla. She opened her presentation with the following quote by Buckminster Fuller, which instantly caught my attention (genius quote):
Fantastic quote by Buckminster Fuller
Fantastic quote by Buckminster Fuller

How can sustainability be operationalized? And how to make sustainability profitable? These were the main questions aired by the talented speaker from Sigla.

We're facing climate change challenges, there's no doubt about that. Some newspapers, scientists and politicians make it sound that climate change only equals "dooms day". But with "dooms day", there is also an abundance of business opportunities rooted in sustainability which in the long run, will maybe help us reduce our gas house emissions.

And we need to look into sustainability because it drives innovation and value creation, was her message. And plenty of companies have already done so.

She brought up examples of companies where sustainability plays a significant role. She mentioned the American invention Tesla - an electric car that looks like an ordinary car, but that is supposed to be more environmentally friendly.

Read: How green is a Tesla, really?

Another examples were the companies SolarCity and Mud Jeans.

SolarCity is America's solar provider and offers a way for consumers to lease solar panels. Mud Jeans - a Dutch denim brand - offers consumers the opportunity to lease jeans. This concept is rooted in turning fashion circular. If they like the jeans, they can buy them. And if the consumers get tired of them, they can return the jeans to the store.

The fourth business case that was brought up was the opportunity to borrow your "neighbor's" car. You have services like (Norwegian site) that allows you to either borrow a car or you lend someone your car (and earn money). In the UK, you'll find similar services at easyCar Club and Zipcar.

The next lecture I want to share with you, is the sustainability efforts of IKEA. Yeah, you read this right.
Solar panels installed on the rooftop of IKEA warehouse
Solar panels installed on the rooftop of IKEA warehouse.
Photo courtesy of IKEA.

Before you continue reading, you should know that I worked at IKEA for six years in a part-time position until 2008 while I was studying law. I might be biased when writing about them.

Frankly, IKEA is not the store I instinctively associate sustainability with.

During those six years I worked for them - waste sorting was a big deal which was good. But other than that... yeah. You can imagine my surprise when Yngvill Ofstad - the representative of IKEA talked about solar panels, investing in LED and so on.

It's worth mentioning that one year after I quit my job at IKEA, in 2009, they released their first sustainability report.

Anyway, according to the representative of IKEA, the brand worth 75 billion SEK (11,2 billion in US dollars),1 has invested billions in wind and solar power. They own wind turbine farms in for instance Germany and Poland.

As part of their effort of using renewable energy, they've installed solar panels on the rooftop of some warehouses. The consumer can also purchase solar panels at IKEA's stores in UK, Netherlands and Switzerland. IKEA has also gone all-in with LED which uses 85% less energy than ordinary halogen bulbs.
Sustainable products. Photo courtesy of IKEA.
Sustainable products. Photo
courtesy of IKEA.

They've also been preoccupied with upgrading older products, and introducing new products that are supposed to be sustainable, for instance she mentioned the GRANSKAR bathroom faucet (tap). It has a cold water function to reduce the unnecessary use of hot water and this will supposedly save up to 30% energy. When you lift the lever straight up it starts instantly with cold water.

Other sustainable products she mentioned were MASTERBY - a step stool made from recycled PP plastic, and the TJENA-series made from 80% recycled paper.

IKEA has also made an effort when it comes to textiles. Together with WWF, they started the "Better Cotton Initiative" (BCI). The Swedish company has also started looking into lyocell as an alternative to conventional cotton.

Click here to read more about the Better Cotton Initiative.

These are only some of the things the lecturer talked about. IKEA has made a sustainable effort in other areas as well. You can read more about it here.

IKEA was pretty straight about why they've incorporated sustainability into their business model. Their renowned vision is to give most people the chance to purchase furniture, including the sustainable versions. Who hasn't bought something at IKEA?

Obviously, they're dependent on for instance wood was a raw material. Without the forest (due to the climate change), their profit will decrease in the future. Less products, less customers, less profit. So, according to them it's in the company's interest to invest in sustainability.

A third lecture by Nel Hydrogen was about hydrogen cars as an alternative to electric cars. If you're into cars, Toyota Mirai should ring a bell.

Bjorn Simonsen who held this lecture had a great deal of knowledge and he knew what he was talking about. But unfortunately, when people in general talk about cars I kind of lose track. And so I did during this lecture.

I'm afraid I don't have any in-depth summary from this lecture about hydrogen cars.

Are you considering or running a sustainability business? Share your thoughts below :-)

Also read:
Summary of a seminar: re-designing clothes.

Guide: How to recycle candle jars the easy way. 


Have your say about what you just read :)

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