The green market revolution is well and truly upon us. The stakes — and the opportunities — couldn’t be higher. As former US Vice President Al Gore noted, “We’re in the early stages of a global sustainability revolution that has the magnitude of the industrial revolution coupled with the speed of the digital revolution.”
Put another way, it’s not just about risk and compliance, or renewable energy and batteries, or carbon emissions. Decarbonization will impact everything we do, including how we make things. Innovations in materials, techniques, and even mindsets will all help drive positive climate action.
- Sustainable materials are transforming construction. Making cement generates 8% of global carbon emissions, the world’s single biggest cause of carbon pollution. Efforts are underway to decarbonize cement production and increase the use of green concrete. But far broader transformations are underway, including the growth in alternatives to cement, like hempcrete, bamboo, and even living fungus.
- Technology is accelerating further changes. 3D printing can be used to create almost anything, including an entire housing development “printed” onsite to reduce waste while also leveraging sustainable materials. Demand for building information modeling (BIM) data and solutions will also rise sharply, as these platforms provide the basis for optimizing design, construction, maintenance, and even decommissioning for improved sustainability and reduced waste.
- Upcycling and recycling are fueling business innovation. The market for secondhand commerce is thriving. Danish startup VAER produces sneakers from textile waste and has a take-back system to recycle shoes when no longer used. Australia-based CHEP differentiates in shipping and logistics by enabling more circular and efficient supply chains via pooled pallets and containers.
- The circular economy is redefining the concept of waste. This approach effectively breaks the traditional model of “take, make, waste” that defined the industrial revolution, where natural resources are extracted, valuable elements are transformed into products, and anything left over (along with the products themselves when they are no longer useful) is discarded as waste. In contrast, a circular economy “replaces the extraction of resources with the transformation of existing products.” In other words, instead of discarding material and products when they are deemed no longer useful, focus shifts to creative reuse, effectively doing away with the notion of waste altogether. And this isn’t just theory — Finland has outlined plans to end all waste by 2050.
- Traditional architectural techniques are gaining new life. Jaali architecture, an approach based on using latticed screens common to traditional Islamic and East Asian buildings, is highly effective at increasing natural air circulation while blocking direct sunlight. The Spanish city of Seville is leveraging 1,000-year-old Persian technology called qanats, essentially underground canals, to lower street temperatures.
As we wrote in our new report, The Green Market Revolution, you have a choice: Take part in the green market revolution, or watch and wait for irrelevance and obsolescence. In reality, though, this is really no choice at all.