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Leading the industrial infrastructure transformation to competitive sustainability – industry is ready to innovate

May 19, 2021
  • Press releases and news

Nevel’s Industrial Infrastructure Summit on May 6th brought together renowned experts and industrial visionaries to discuss how to lead the transformation of industrial infrastructure towards competitive sustainability. Hosted by Teemu Klingberg, Director Industrial infrastructure at Nevel, we examined the changing business environment and sustainability, and the role of digitalisation.

The pressure is on, but industry is ready to innovate and take the lead

The summit included a lively panel discussion between four experienced industry leaders on how to lead the transformation of industrial infrastructure towards competitive sustainability. Taking part were Hannu Kasurinen, Executive Vice President of Stora Enso’s Packaging Materials Division; Carlos Lopes in 2003, Senior Policy Advisor for energy efficiency policies at the Swedish Energy Agency; and Amir Sharifi, Managing Director of Ardian’s Infrastructure Group in charge of energy transition investments.

The panel discussed how the transformation to competitive sustainability for industry is about far more than just energy efficiency and how it requires a wide variety of different competences. The pressure to transform is coming from all sides – regulators, consumers and investors – and is creating an environment where innovation is more critical than ever before. Sustainability is at the core of industrial companies’ strategies and investments, and we need investments that are not only sustainable from an environmental perspective, but which make a valuable contribution to society.

All the panelists agreed that digitalisation presents a fantastic opportunity to transform industrial value chains in a more sustainable direction. The key to leading the transformation will be a creating and communicating a clear vision, putting in place bold leadership, setting ambitious targets and fostering cultural and behavioural change. Regulatory frameworks will play a key role in stimulating the transformation and creating a level playing field where everyone has the opportunity to participate in and reap the rewards of the transformation to competitive sustainability.

Our compass is calibrated towards a more sustainable future

Nevel CEO Markus Hassinen focused on the pressing need to redress the balance between our ecological footprint and the biocapacity of our finite planet. The Earth overshoot day – the day of the year when our global footprint exceeds the Earth’s biocapacity – is getting earlier every year. This year’s overshoot day was on 6 April in Sweden and on 10 April in Finland. We need a new, holistic compass for economic growth, one focused on meeting the needs of all within the means of the planet, as proposed by Kate Raworth’s so-called “doughnut economics” model.

The model drives home the fact that, as things stand, we have exceeded the earth’s ecological ceiling, and this has led to dire consequences such as mass deforestation, a deluge of pesticides on farmlands and mass biodiversity losses on land and in our seas. Markus also reminds us that 57% of humanity’s ecological footprint is made up of our carbon footprint alone. Drastic action is needed now to reduce CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions globally, supported by a kind of growth thinking.

You cannot solve today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions

Peter Lund, a professor in Advanced Energy Systems at Helsinki’s Aalto University, has served in a senior advisory role for many businesses and energy programmes worldwide. His keynote focused on the decarbonisation of our energy systems and on the impact on society of this transformation.

Peter began by describing the global pathway to carbon neutrality by 2050, and how the Paris Agreement of 2015 sets the pace for the emission reductions we have ahead of us. He highlighted that although the task ahead may seem almost impossible, new technologies are constantly being innovated that can help us to succeed. He also emphasised that taking better care of the world’s carbon sinks, such as forests, will be critical as we get closer to 2050.

On a local level, the European Green Deal – a set of policy initiatives by the European Commission with the overarching aim of making Europe climate neutral in 2050 – provides an important framework and sets the pace of emission reductions in Europe. Peter highlights that by 2030, the target is to cut emissions by 55% compared to 1990 levels, meaning the next nine years represent a critical part of the journey towards net-zero emissions.

But how to change our energy systems to become carbon neutral? Here, clean energy, renewables and improving energy efficiency have a key role to play. “You cannot solve today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions”, Peter stated, explaining that within the next 20 years renewable sources such as wind and solar energy could produce up to 50% of the electricity for the power sector.

The key role of renewable energy was highlighted in the recent Nordic Flagship Project, which demonstrated that by 2030 all electricity in the Nordic region could be carbon free. Peter explained that as we approach 2050, around 80% of all electricity in the Nordic region could come from hydro and wind power. The Flagship Project also demonstrated the importance of bioenergy and electrification in the decarbonisation of district heating networks in the Nordics.

In closing, Peter explained that in the Nordics, and indeed globally, we will see the focus for decarbonisation shift from power generation to other industrial sectors, and that the same solutions apply in this context: clean energy and heat, improving energy and material efficiency and making use of new technologies and the opportunities provided by digitalisation.

Business for good is good business

Marga Hoek has served as CEO of multiple private and public companies and is also a member of Thinkers50, the world’s most reliable resource for identifying, ranking and sharing the leading management ideas of our age. In her insightful keynote, Marga shared practical examples of how business for good is good business – how turning sustainability into a business model can drive companies forward. She emphasised that sustainable thinking means a holistic system change, reminding the audience that carbon and its reduction is related to 13 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). In other words, making progress in this regard can have a positive impact in a wide range of areas.

Marga emphasised the leading position of countries like Sweden, Finland and Denmark in terms of their performance according to the SDGs, and why this position brings with it great responsibility too, to act as leading lights in the drive to transform our world for the better.

Marga also highlighted the importance of challenging ourselves to do more, to go beyond merely striving for carbon neutrality and improving recycling and aim to achieve carbon negativity and take action to remove the polluting waste we have already dumped into our environment. Businesses that are willing to repurpose themselves, to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem, by putting positive-impact sustainability objectives at the core of their strategies will unlock new markets and thrive in the future.