There is a lot of written and unwritten examples of defining sustainability. The following definition is given by Mirriam Webster: “a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged”. There are a lot of opinions on what’s sustainable. So what’s to know about this subject?
Some views on sustainability going forward
One important topic in sustainability is reducing the greenhouse gas emissions. We see clear indications that the temperature on the planet Earth is increasing, and has done so steadily since the birth of the industrial revolution in the 1880s. NASA´s Goddard Institute for Space Studies says that the increase has been around 0.8 ⁰C since 1880. The Paris agreement stated that the aim is to keep the increase well below 2 ⁰C. To achieve that, the CO2 emissions need to be drastically cut which can limit the production opportunities. Another demand related to sustainable products is to reduce pollution of the environment, for example by using more natural raw materials. So what can we as industrial producers of either raw materials, additives, or finished products do in order to improve the situation? And how can we create prosperous business at the same time?
#1: Creating pull in the market place is actually giving consumers the option to choose
There are some key attributes to new products. They need to be available they need to be affordable and they need to have wanted attributes related to them. A good example here are electrical cars as a mean of transportation. Since the mid-2000s the electric cars are increasingly becoming available, driving cost of production down and sales volume up. The availability, attractive prices (as a result of volume) and increasingly improved looks have made the electric car sales go up. This in turn has increased the demand for high performance battery packages. The producers of batteries that can quickly turn around and improve the performance from lithium ion batteries may quickly thrive business on this.
Tesla has understood this in my opinion, not being a car manufacturer but actually a technology provider (looking to its customer prospects and trying to identify their total consumption patterns); their battery packages for homes, roof tiles with incorporated solar cell panels, and electrical cars. They provide you with the opportunity to purchase a technology, not only a car. By doing this, they put pressure on the suppliers of technologies and products like battery producers, coating and adhesive producers, foam producers etc.
#2: Shifts are opportunities, not threats: mega trends pulling toward more natural products
Shifts are always fascinating. They tend to set the pace for development, increase initiatives and give opportunities for new business ideas. There is a clear shift toward consumers wanting more natural products. From the field of personal care products, it was reported back in 2015 that the UK saw a 20% increase in sales of “organic” products. We can see this effect increasingly taking place also in other market segments, like home care products, home construction products, paints and coatings, and food. In these products surrounding us, there are a lot of building blocks. The key for producers of the building blocks is to be able to follow the mega trends and taking part of the opportunity they create but also improve the products features and environmental footprint. A good example from Norway is the Sens paint series with zero VOC. This is a product attracting a clear target group with its improved sustainable formulation.
The Microfibrillated Cellulose (MFC) is a product designed to give the opportunity for producers of intermediate or end products to improve the sustainability profile of their products. The key for high performance additives like this going forward is its ability to deliver that performance with close to no negative footprint on the environment. By also adding additional functionalities, new materials like this can play important roles in innovations and actually improve business advantages.
How to focus?
Spend time on sustainability and its impact on your business not only from a regulative perspective, but as a technology opportunity. If we stay sharp focus on solving our global challenges on pollution and increase in temperature we can at the same time make business thrive. Make sure to put complementary people together in teams, and thrive on their cooperation. I am sure that this dual focus is the key element of bringing us towards a more sustainable and business thriving solutions for the future.