The 'decade of disruption' starts NOW: an edie Live primer
As thousands of sustainability professionals, energy managers and resource efficiency experts prepare to descend upon the NEC Birmingham for edie Live 2016, it's worth reminding ourselves of the big pledges, initiatives, collaborations and innovations that have together ignited a green industrial revolution at just the right time.
The Paris climate talks fired the starting gun for a global push on sustainable development, and many businesses have come flying out of the blocks. Whether it’s consumer goods giants and housebuilders going carbon positive, or manufacturers large and small opting for on-site solutions to drive efficiency, businesses are developing sustainability strategies that have a real business impact.
But what is perhaps most exciting about this brave new world of sustainability is the pace at which disruptive innovation is transforming entire industries. Companies are shaking-up traditional business models; changing the way they design and sell products, and driving changes in the global energy system - all in the name of low-carbon, resource efficient business.
This is not just rhetoric. Take a look at the automotive industry – an industry that, just six months ago, was embroiled in one of the biggest environmental scandals of our time.
Since ‘dieselgate’, consumers have seemingly realised that the high-performance, low-emission, low-polluting, affordable diesel car is an illusion. Manufacturers have dually been scrambling to release new electric and hydrogen-fuelled vehicles, and people have been queuing up by the hundreds of thousands to buy them.
How is it that Tesla can generate $14.5bn in potential sales of a car that no buyer has actually seen or driven in person? The answer: a disruptive business model based on products with built-in sustainability credentials.
“Products will define the future of sustainability leaders,” says former Kingfisher sustainability director Dax Lovegrove. “If you want to be a sustainability leader, you need to be thinking about changing your industry through the products and services you sell,” adds Lovegrove’s former boss Richard Gillies.
Nissan is one incumbent firm doing exactly that. Yesterday, the carmaker unveiled two new innovations that “turn science fiction into science fact”, setting a precedent for the future of sustainable business. By turning electric cars into mobile power units, the Japanese firm has realised that the potential to disrupt markets goes well beyond transportation, bringing together vehicles, roads, buildings and energy networks in “complete synchronicity”.
“Within the next 10 years, we’ll see more change than within the past 100,” says Nissan Europe chairman Paul Willcox. “We are entering the decade of disruption and it’s an opportunity for Nissan and the world around us to behave and act differently.”
Now look across the automotive industry. Last month, Volvo announced it is preparing to road test its new low-carbon, driverless cars in London. BMW has this week launched a new car-sharing service to reduce emissions across the city. And today, British engineering firm Dyson is reportedly developing its own electric vehicles, incorporating extended-range batteries.
This is disruptive innovation in action, and it isn’t confined to the automotive sector. Retailers, hospitality businesses, building firms and public sector organisations are all proving that a greener economy can deliver, clean technologies do work, and disruptive innovation will be the only way to secure a low-carbon, circular economy.
… Which makes this year’s edie Live exhibition so appropriate and well-timed.
At the show, you’ll see how carpet tile manufacturer Interface is linking sustainability and innovation to drive new business. You’ll hear from construction company Hanson – one of the first UK firms to embrace a demand-response approach to energy management. You’ll be told how social delivery service Nimber is using the sharing economy to shake up the industry. And Liz Goodwin will provide her pearls of wisdom on the future of sustainable business, in her last speech as WRAP’s chief executive.
You'll also see 10 potentially ground-breaking and commercially viable green innovations – all aimed at tackling sustainability head on - in the Innovation Zone.
In fact, more than 120 industry experts are set to feature in 33 sessions across the two days (17-18 May), all with a focus on doing business better.
See you there.Luke Nicholls