June 23. 2024. 7:14

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The Environment of Business: How Sustainability Fosters Growth

“Industries that have an objective to grow their markets, grow their market share and reinforce their licence to operate need to look beyond business-as-usual,” Jan te Bos, Director-General of Eurima told an expert audience in Brussels. Industry and policy experts were speaking at an event to launch a new roadmap report on decarbonisation.

This means “taking our own responsibilities and working closely with partners, allies and authorities to create our future sustainable business environment.” Mr te Bos told Eurima’s Carbon Neutrality 2050 event (Watch full event online here).

Speaking soon after the event, he added “This is why it is crucial that all businesses that are enabling the Climate & Energy Transition, such as the insulation industry, are embedded in a conducive regulatory environment and included in and supported by policies such as the Green Deal Industrial Plan and the Net Zero Industry Act.”

The Director-General of the European Commission climate department DG CLIMA, Kurt Vandenberghe, welcomed Eurima’s roadmap as “a timely contribution,” and agreed that there was a need for “systemic innovation.“ It’s roadmaps like this one that keep me and my colleagues young.” (Read full roadmap here).

He agreed with Mr te Bos on the need in which sectors work together to make renovations “faster, easier and deeper.” For this to be possible, “Eurima and its companies [should] seek partnerships with other sectors like finance, and the public sector, but also with the heating sector, to develop quality-assured renovation strategies.”

Mr Vandenberghe said the EU “puts in place the enabling policy” for sustainable business, in which all sectors work together. For instance, in line with a key ask of the Eurima roadmap, the commission is now working “on the reduction of whole-life carbon of buildings that will support the transition to a real circular economy.”

Emmanuel Normant, a Eurima board member and Vice President for Sustainable Development at Saint-Gobain agreed that “We are talking about a systemic transformation. Clearly the industry alone cannot act to achieve this decarbonisation, especially as the decarbonisation of industry is only understandable as part of the decarbonisation of buildings and construction.”

For a systemic, sustainable business environment to be possible, he said “the availability of competitive, abundant, green energy” is “absolutely essential. A number of technologies that the industry is ready to put in place will only be put in place at scale if we have the energy.”

A second key criteria was circularity, Mr Normant added. “On circularity we have the chance in our industry to have products that are infinitely recyclable. We should prohibit that recyclable material goes into landfill. We should make sure that the cost of landfilling is prohibitive.”

“I really ask for ambitious economy action plan for building and construction, making sure that all buildings across Europe are a material bank for our industry,” he said.

Katherine Richardson, Professor and Vice-Dean at Copenhagen University welcomed the Eurima report. “I did hear very good things,” she explained during the event. “The deep renovation of existing buildings is a no brainer. What becomes worrying is the new building, the new building that we’re going to have – just reducing carbon intensity isn’t going to solve that problem.”

Like Mr te Bos, she said this means moving away from business as usual. “Every company, including the companies involved in Eurima, wants to continue to grow a larger market, wants to build more, wants to use more. The question is how compatible that is with reducing our release of C02 to the atmosphere.”

A sustainable business environment should also mean protecting the natural environment, she warned. “This means we need to stop talking as if we think we’re placed above nature. I think it’s much more important that we accept the fact that we are part of a system, a complex adaptive system, and that the interactions we have with that system need to be managed in this particular case.”

This means “making sure that the value we get out of using the Earth’s resources comes with an absolute minimum of environmental and social damage,” she said.

She warned that the global emissions trend is not going in the right direction. “The year with the greatest global emission from human activities was 2022, and the greatest year before that was 2021.”

“I hope we can begin to recognise this as an existential crisis that really does need to be solved if we want our society to continue to develop.”

Anthony Abbots, Director for Public Affairs & Sustainability at Rockwool Group and a Eurima board member, agreed with both Ms Richardson and Mr te Bos that “this is an existential crisis we’re in and therefore we cannot, as industry, continue as business as usual.”

He added however that “irrespective of how ambitious we are about our goals, we as companies operate within an ecosystem which is dependent on, amongst other things, conducive regulatory conditions,” Mr Abbots explained to the event audience.

He gave the example of grid connections for companies working to cut emissions through electrification. “If we go to the plants, they are basically telling us that grid connection is first come first served, so there are long queues. This means you can wait 5 or 6 years before you can get that connection and actually electrify. As a company we are dependent on that infrastructure readiness.”

The Commission’s Mr Vandenberghe reminded EU participants of the need to be optimistic, saying that Europe had already begun to show the world how a sustainable business environment works.

Despite growing global emissions, “since 1990 Europe has seen in a decrease of emissions of more than 2%. At the same time, our economy has been growing by more than 60% in GDP terms,” he told the event. “I think it’s important to say and show that with sufficient leadership we can make this work.