‘Innovation should close the gap between the current economy and the new, sustainable economy’

There is no specific blueprint for sustainability. However, innovation must be included in every approach. This may close the gap between the current economy and the new, sustainable economy, according to Bernard Wientjes. The corporate sector and the government play a crucial role in this respect, according to the President of the Confederation of Netherlands Industry and Employers, VNO-NCW, during a UN conference on water management in The Hague yesterday. Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, Minister Melanie Schultz (Infrastructure and the Environment), and Minister Lilianne Ploumen (Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation) attended the conference.

Added value 
Increased research and development leads to innovation. This will add value, reduce resource consumption, and reduce our ecological footprint. In addition, social conditions will improve, according to Wientjes. He feels that careful water supply management (efficient use, purification and reuse) is an important element of this strategy. Wientjes mentioned the Water Governance Centre as a good example of public-private cooperation in which polders are built and delivered with a governance model for further funding of these protected water areas. 

Prudent policy
The business community and the government play a crucial role in the sustainability process. Wientjes explained: ‘The role of the business community is important for the simple reason that businesses control the entire chain from raw materials to the end product for consumers.’ Governments should support business by implementing prudent policies and regulations instead of obstructing it. He takes the view that corporate frontrunners should be supported and encouraged. Wientjes mentioned the Dutch Sustainable Growth Coalition (DSGC) as an example. However, the President of VNO-NCW also said that businesses that lag behind and continuously fail to meet the generally accepted standards will be punished by the market and by their clients.

Green polder
According to the President of VNO-NCW, the transition to a sustainable economy requires collaboration, allocating specific roles to the corporate sector, government authorities, universities and NGOs. He argued that this is in line with the tradition of successful public-private cooperation in the Netherlands. In this respect, Wientjes referred to the universally praised polder model. This has been expanded in recent years to include nature conservation organizations to hold ‘green polder consultations’.