Drees & Sommer Innovation Forum – Sustainability as a Yardstick of Economic Success

If the world as a whole consumed resources at the same rate as Germany, then in purely arithmetical terms, this year’s resources would already have been exhausted. These calculations published by environmental organizations are confronted by a growing environmental awareness within society as a whole. In recent years many companies have also revised the way they think, moving away from pure profit maximization toward a more active role for the environment and society. The potential success of this move was at the heart of Drees & Sommer’s Innovation Forum entitled Tipping Point – Blue Equals Profitability. Over 120 guests had come to Frankfurt am Main yesterday to gain some insight into the sustainability strategies of the public sector, industry and the financial markets.

In his welcoming address Steffen Szeidl, Member of Drees & Sommer SE’s Executive Board, stressed the importance of sustainability for all sectors of the economy: ‘For some time now our priority has shifted away from profit generation, and our focus is now very much on finding the answers that our environment demands. Economy, ecology and sociology – these three notes will together determine the music of the future. Given that the construction industry is one of the largest consumers of raw materials in society, our sector has a major responsibility when it comes to the use of resources. That is why we are focusing more and more on digital solutions and on the circular economy in an effort to save materials, energy and CO2.

Real Estate as a Raw Materials Reserve

The approach underlying the Cradle to Cradle principle is to avoid waste and always to acquire and reuse same-quality raw materials for products, processes and buildings, thereby turning buildings into a veritable reserve of raw materials. In his lecture, Hans Goverde of Kraaijvanger Architects, the architect of the world’s first city hall designed in accordance with Cradle to Cradle principles, explained the numerous advantages inherent in consistently sustainable construction methods: ‘The city hall in Venlo, Netherlands, was designed and built in such a way that all materials formed part of a closed circuit, out of which emerged a sustainable building, a comfortable and healthy place in which to work. The building has its own greenhouse on the roof which, together with the building’s green façade, purifies the air coming up from the street and the railway line. In addition, the underground car park is used to heat the air in the building in the winter and to cool it in the summer.’ In order to ensure other building developers also follow the sustainable building model, the municipality of Venlo has enshrined these principles in its building regulations. Under these regulations a more positive assessment of planning applications is achieved if the applications are developed in line with the Cradle to Cradle concept.

Siemensstadt Silos Torn Down

For Siemens AG, sustainable development is part of its corporate and social responsibility. With this in mind, the group is investing up to EUR 600 million in the creation of a new living and working environment on its historical site in the Berlin’s Spandau district. As Stefan Kögl, Head of Technology & Construction at Siemens Real Estate, explained: ‘What we are seeking to do in Siemensstadt is to transform the existing industrial area into a modern city quarter that is used by people in lots of different ways. Physical and mental silos will be a thing of the past. By linking work, research, living space and leisure facilities we can create the basic prerequisites for sustainable urban development and make space for innovation and creativity. What’s more, the ecosystem surrounding Siemensstadt is ideal for sustainable applications such as decentralized energy systems and electromobility.’

Financial Markets as a Driver of Sustainable Development

Sustainability has also become an important yardstick in the financial sector. Sustainable investment is enjoying greater and greater popularity; against the backdrop of the Paris Climate Protection Agreement and the fossil fuel phase-out, more and more investors are factoring environmental risks into their portfolios. In her lecture, Dr. Alexandra Hachmeister, Chief Regulatory Officer of Deutsche Börse AG, pleaded for the establishment of sustainable structures: ‘Sustainable finance is no longer the niche market it once was. Investors no longer limit their attention to traditional short-term financial indicators.

They want to ensure they have a complete picture of how a company creates value, based on medium to long term opportunities and risk assessments. Sustainability indicators are therefore forming an increasingly important part of the selection process. These include environmental, social and governance standards. As an infrastructure provider, Deutsche Börse has a particular responsibility in this regard.’ In order to drive forward the implementation of a sustainable finance industry, Deutsche Börse has joined together with the Ministry of Economics, Energy, Transport and Regional Development of the German federal state of Hesse to establish the Green and Sustainable Finance Cluster Germany. The aim is to come up with recommendations relating to aspects of system stability with regard to environmental risks and the financing of sustainable growth, as well as on the implementation of fiscal policy frameworks.