C2C Congress: ‘Venlo keeps moving’
For some time now, Venlo is known as the Cradle to Cradle capital of the world. When its latest addition, Venlo's city hall, was constructed, camera crews from all over the world came to have a look. The message the municipality of Venlo had during the three-day C2C-Congress was simple: “we keep moving and stay innovative.”
Sharing knowledge about Cradle to Cradle and how to apply it were the main themes on the In Practice Congress of the C2C Congress in Venlo. 'Leaders in C2C', led by chairman Tom van ’t Hek, spoke during the day about achievements, challenges and the future of the Cradle to Cradle method.
Antoin Scholten, the mayor of Venlo, voiced his ambitions for the future. “We wish to be an innovative region. That means we are only at the beginning of forging a new economic order, and we shall have to deal with a huge scarcity of raw materials. That means that we'll have to kick-start the Cradle to Cradle economy.” He says we have to do that together. “It's about finding solutions and seizing opportunities together.”
Battle for our planet
The 'Planet' component in 'People, Planet, Profit' was subsequently explained by André Kuipers. The fragility of our planet has yet to become clear to a large portion of the world's population. "We have but one planet, but not everybody seems to realise that", Kuipers said. The destruction of the earth is well underway, which forces us to make great leaps to repair it. "We know much about the damage we cause our planet. For instance, the past decades we have perceived a steep increase in carbon dioxide emissions."
In the Netherlands, the problem is also significant. Kuipers points at a large red stain. “This stain represents the carbon dioxide emissions we cause together. That information about the planet's pollution is very important, in order to make it clear that everyone needs to take action.”
He concludes that there is sufficient evidence to support action. "That is why we must act while we still can. Complete habitats and biodiversities are vanishing from our planet, and they don't return. Our forests are in danger and we don't give our planet the chance to heal." Cradle to Cradle can contribute to restoring the balance and making the planet greener again. “Not all ideas within this mindset bear fruit. But if just 1 out of 10 ideas is allowed to grow, then we might be in time to save the earth."
The urgency to act now was also present in the following presentations. C2C pioneer Michael Braungart was convinced that the construction and real estate industries have no time to lose in order to repair the damage. "However, we have to start doing the right things and not fool ourselves."
Maintain precious elements
Braungart voiced a critical opinion on Cradle to Cradle solutions that should not be seen as Cradle to Cradle. "The circular economy should not become a linear economy which we hem in. Cradle to Cradle is about true innovation, retaining precious elements and up-cycling, not down-cycling."
He called upon Venlo to further build upon its Cradle to Cradle position. "Expand this into a Cradle to Cradle region or even province. Then challenge neighbouring regions and countries to become part of a fully circular environment."
Buildings that function as trees in a green city could help fight the problems which Kuipers described earlier. "And buildings such as the Venlo city hall can truly make a difference. I commend the impact the municipality makes with such projects and the communication involved.”
Learn (and) communicate
The importance of communication was also discussed, during a panel debate between six C2C leaders. "The important thing is that we tell stories and share knowledge about what C2C can bring us in the widest sense", said director Lewis Perkins of the Cradle to Cradle Product Innovations Institute.
Michel Weijers of the municipality of Venlo concurred. "It's about awareness. Most people are not aware of indoor air quality." Kraaijvanger architect Hans Goverde added the element of education to this. "Ideally, we should also bring our good examples to the attention of young people, and educate them in sustainability."
The internal communication should also be in good order. "This is often forgotten, but people should be in agreement in order to successfully build circular business cases", developer Owen Zachariasse of Delta Development Group felt. CSR manager Rob Kragt of carpet manufacturer Desso concurred. "Your company already has the knowledge. External advisors may contribute, but in the end the most important input comes from your own employees."
Parties agreed that the backlog Kuipers described can be overcome. "Provided we properly work together on good initiatives", Weijers said. "Inspire young people, teach them about the C2C principles. Then see how you can start up cross-border cooperations and work on a new future together", says Braungart.
Around noon, lunch was ready for the attendees and there was sufficient time to network and share knowledge. Whilst enjoying lovely sandwiches, salads from the salad bar and coffee or tea, attendees shared experiences and created new business cases within sustainability and Cradle to Cradle.
After lunch, it was time for the attendees to practice what they had learned during the two workshop sessions. An example was the 'Venlo Regionomics' workshop, in which the municipality of Venlo, C2C ExpoLAB and the Blue Innovation Centre called for sustainable solutions to regional problems.
Here, the attendees' knowledge about the various present elements and characteristics of Venlo were tested. All of this served to put in the wider, regional context. "What do we have in Venlo which we can use?", Desiree Driesenaar and Bart Verlegh asked. "Market leaders in the industry and in niches", one of the attendees says. "A large number of Cradle to Cradle businesses" and "Motivated people who passionately work on projects", others say.
The goal here was to create new opportunities to make the region more sustainable. Making the countless distribution centres future-proof and developing new innovative products with international cooperation partners, were two challenges which were seen as interesting business cases.
New way of life
After the workshops, the winning team of the Venlo Circular Challenge was on stage. Within the framework of this challenge, 48 highly educated students were asked to work together and think of a creative solution for organisations such as Océ, Office Depot and Sun. The winning team investigated the challenge regarding Océ, and devised a new communication strategy to break prejudices regarding re-manufacturing.
A Cradle to Cradle award ceremony also took place. No less than two certificates were handed out to Faay by Geoffrey van Elderen, of assessment organisation Tebodin. Director Mark Faay received the awards for Flax Board – Gypsum Drywall and Flax Board – Fibre Drywall: "We have won these awards in two to three months. We actually already followed the Cradle to Cradle principles. We found out after we did a quick scan."
Positive impact of innovations
Lewis Perkins of the Cradle to Cradle Product Innovations Institute provided the concluding keynote speech. "With Cradle to Cradle we can have a positive impact on the world. One critical note is that many solutions focus on reduction. That contradicts the way people want to work. We wish to innovate and are creative souls."
The innovations which are most successful in our society are those that mean a new way of life. BuiltPositive is an initiative which contributes to such novelties. "We do this together with Desso, Google and other parties. We collectively wondered if buildings are not just material depots which serve to build the next cycle."
The movement should lead to innovations which positively impact the constructed environment and the people in it. "To help doing that, we should explain and defend the perspective. We as a consortium should be convinced that this is the only right way. And actively advertise it."
The list of attendees at the In Practice Congress can be downloaded here.