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Green sauce and cake

16 December 2020

Column Wim Geens - Managing Director Renewi België

You read or hear criticism of the circular ambitions from companies and governments more and more often. Particularly on the use and juggling of terms such as “circular economy”, “corporate social responsibility” and “sustainability”. Buzzwords that obscure interests and create false expectations for the public -- deservedly.

Sustainable development or corporate social responsibility (CSR) are seen as the future for more than 30 years. Well, we are that future now. The criticism of the sustainable green sauce that is poured on industries, brands and governments about everything, rightly and wrongly, is something I understand.

Yet, at the same time, I am convinced that a sustainable business is possible. In a sustainable society, people, the environment and the economy complement each other. Too often they are now enemies because of conflicting interests. The vast majority of people, including business owners, politicians, scientists, activists and CEOs, are willing to work towards a better world. But no matter how good that will is, it is only sustainable when all the interests of these different people are in balance. And that is where the problem lies.

Sustainability requires efforts from the consumers, producers, processors and governments alike. It requires flexibility, investments and efforts from every one of us. Producers and consumers must take their responsibilities for the sustainable use of raw materials, just like the processors must invest in innovative recycling processes. Governments, in turn, must seize the moment to facilitate the transition to a circular economy and create a clear, uniform legislative framework.  And you, the entrepreneurs and business owners will also have to learn that “you can’t have your cake and eat it too”.  We need to meet each other halfway to move forward.

Culinary metaphors and good intentions. It is indeed that time of the year now.