I am lucky to be based in the Netherlands at the moment, in my opinion one of the most sustainable countries in the world. I am researching what is happening here in terms of sustainability, and I came across this wonderfully laid out and well written piece on the Dutch government’s web site.
Dutch have strong 2020, 2030 and 2050 economic plans, and they are not worried about the financial turmoil of the last couple of years, because they know they have laid solid foundation for growth and continue doing so. Their target is to become one of the top 5 competitive countries in the world, but it’s how they plan to do it that is fascinating – the big chunk of the strategy relies on sustainability. And there is massive investment – in the area of EUR 500m – being made to make sure the plans don’t just remain plans and become the reality. This quote really says it all:
‘We will pursue a realistic and ambitious green growth strategy, with due focus on space and guarantees for the future. The Netherlands has everything we need to make a significant contribution to the rapid development of new sources of energy, such as solar power, wind power, biomass and geothermal energy: a high-calibre chemicals industry, an innovative agricultural sector, large ports and a strong energy sector. This is a necessary development from the point of view of climate change and in view of the finite nature of raw materials, and at the same time offers a challenge to innovative companies. A large number of promising bio-based initiatives have already been launched in recent years. This bio-based economy can become one of the pillars supporting green growth. It is our intention to set out a stable and ambitious policy for the long term that enjoys broad support in parliament and society at large. At international level, the involvement of as many countries as possible will be sought, in order to increase opportunities for Dutch businesses.’
Compare that to other leading nations. China, where millions of people die from air pollution, with its child labour, environment pollution and other unsustainable practices, or largely gas guzzling, heavy on resource consumption US, or indecisive UK where politics are angling towards the industrial lobby and environment has been left off the political agenda, and you start getting the perspective. I believe there is something to learn from the Dutch.
According to Hunter Lovins, author and founder of Natural Capitalism Solutions, our global economy is so inefficient that less than 1% of all the resources we extract are actually used in products and are still there six months after sale. It’s indeed ‘the cowboy economy’, as the US economist Kenneth Boulding called it in the 60s. He called for a shift away from economy where there are no limits on resource consumption or waste disposal, to “a spaceship economy”, where everything is engineered to be constantly recycled (think Star Trek’s Enterprise). And this is what Dutch are striving to build – the first in the world circular economy, where resources are consumed and then reused, with waste as close to zero as possible. It’s not about using less, it’s about finding a cycle that works.
I’d bet my money that Netherlands have got it on the money strategy wise, in fact, I am here because I believe this is the case and I want to be a part of it. Future growth will come from sustainability and innovation. As simple as that. Are you, your company and your nation a part of it – is a good question.