Professor Jacqueline Cramer
Director Utrecht Sustainability Institute (USI)
With more than 1,500 affiliated researchers, the Utrecht Sustainability Institute (USI) is a leading network organisation in the field of sustainability in the Netherlands. USI pools knowledge in order to help resolve complex sustainability issues in an integrated way in close cooperation with the public sector, social organisations, and the private sector. By linking research, innovation, and industry, USI is contributing towards the transition to sustainable urban regions, both inside and outside the Netherlands. BAM is the business partner of USI.
What makes a business a sustainable business?
‘When sustainability is a genuinely integrated part of the company strategy, and when it has permeated into every aspect of the organisation. It is not a question of one employee wearing a cap with the word ‘sustainability’ on it. I have spent many years advising companies in the development and implementation of their sustainability policies. In the past, they would employ an environmental coordinator or, later, a sustainability coordinator. However, these people were never in a strategic position and were often just a link in a larger support department. It is something that really has to be on the agenda of the board itself, and that process is now underway.’
Why does the USI focus on urban regions?
‘The biggest problems are related to cities and their surrounding areas. In 2050, some 75 to 80 per cent of the world population will live in urban regions. That’s a lot of people in a small space, with all the problems that that entails. Urban delta regions in particular are hugely vulnerable. We face the immense challenge of closing raw material and water cycles. Apart from limiting energy consumption and developing renewable energy, closing cycles is the key to the solution.’
What is the role of a construction company like BAM in this?
‘Only by working intensively with other sectors is it possible for cycles to be closed and added value to be created. In construction in particular, BAM can place the transition on a sustainable footing by developing technologies and by working according to integrated design processes together with the users. Sustainable solutions require cooperation with energy and water companies. It is all about designing interactively, in partnerships, and looking for financial solutions. Examples that come to mind are ESCos (Energy Service Companies) or GENs (Gebieden Energie Neutraal - energyneutral areas). These are developments where you can learn a lot from each other.’