How can businesses be more sustainable? Not only we as students are asking this question, this is a challenge the Dutch government and businesses themselves are facing. Even if the motivation is there to create a more sustainable business, it still hard to implement this. Last December I was part of a working conference about sustainable business. This conference was organized by the Dutch government especially for industries, municipalities and other interested parties and specifically focused on Natural Capital (Natuurlijk Kapitaal).
Natural Capital explained by the IUNCS Director General
The concept: Natural Capital
Natural Capital makes the translation of Ecosystem Services towards businesses and other users of nature. Ecosystem services are natural services like provisioning of food and material, regulating systems like climate control, supporting services like water cycling and cultural services like the enjoyment of nature in general. The idea is that businesses and other users are aware of this natural capital and use it in a sustainable way. However it is still a very vague and complex concept. This working conference brings businesses, innovators and policy makers together to bring this concept of Natural Capital into practice.
Econosystem Services scheme:
The role of the government
What I found most striking during the conference was what the Dutch government saw as their responsibility to work toward a sustainable business and integrate Natural Capital. Although the government is responsible for making regulations, the government relies on the power of the free market concept. The government is trying to provide services to stimulate sustainable business and the use of Natural Capital, and tries to avoid rules to impose this principle. For example, on websites like www.helpdesknatuurlijkkapitaal.nl/ businesses can have free advice what Natural Capital means for them. But how industries implement these advice is up to them.
One of the biggest initiatives on how the Dutch government tries to stimulate sustainable businesses are Green Deals. Green deals try to work towards a circular economy by bringing different companies and interested together and tries to take away regulation barriers that hold these developments. A simple example of a Green Deal: when a fishing boat also catches plastic waste in their fishing nets they can collect it and bring it to a recycling company that can make new plastics out of it. This way the ocean stays cleaner and more plastic is being recycled. The Dutch government can help realizing this green initiative with the right regulations and bringing companies together.
Green Deals explained (in Dutch)
During the conference the Dutch Government was really reflection upon themselves. One of the discussions was also if “Different interpretations of laws and regulations are the biggest obstacle for companies to investment in nature and biodiversity”. Too many regulations can make it hard for a business to function and still be sustainable. On the special website www.ruimteinregels.nl the Dutch government try to create some order and give answers.
In the end was a very interesting day to see how businesses and governments try to work together to bring Natural Capital and sustainable development into practice. But we have release that it is a very complicated matter to stimulate and work together towards a more sustainable world.
For more information about the working conference in its result, take a look at: