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Why the biggest obstacle to addressing sustainability is the economic growth mindset

Menno Lammers spoke with FUTURE PropTech, about his insights on Sustainability and the future of proptech beyond the current challenges of Coronavirus.

How are you and your business adapting to the new way of working?

The new way of working is not 100% new to me. I’m generally used to working remotely. However, all physical activities like events, roundtables, masterclasses are continued digitally or have been postponed until further notice. By the end of 2019, I had set myself the goal of building a new business model in the second half of 2020. The COVID-19 outbreak accelerated this goal. On Earth Day we launched a new movement, PropTech for Good.

Why is sustainability important to your overall business strategy?

The old way does not work anymore. Many people use 'a better world' as a marketing tool to achieve their own growth but I started PropTechNL with a higher goal as a starting point. I choose to use an old earning model, which is familiar to everyone. WithPropTech for Good(powered by PropTechNL) we are going to change this and go beyond making money (financial capital). After all, there is also ecological and social capital. I will definitely share the new model at Future PropTech in London this year (if not, earlier).

What are the biggest obstacles that you believe the industry faces when addressing sustainability?

The biggest obstacle, in my opinion, is the economic growth mindset. Changing societal values, climate change, depletion of natural resources, and economic and political instability are beginning to call into question long-held beliefs - including the idea that growth is not acceptable at any price. More and more entrepreneurs (and their employees) do not see the current way of doing business as their future. They do not want to continue on the track of individualism, competition and the extraction of value. The Business Roundtable (an influential association of nearly 200 CEOs of leading companies in North America has redefined a company's mission (from shareholders to stakeholders) and represents a major turning point. The number of companies (in general) where sustainable progress and development are central – not aimed at disrupting current markets, exponential growth and striving for a quick exit – is growing. I am happy to support and encourage this sustainable movement.

What 3 solutions would you like to see in the marketplace that can help achieve the sustainable development goals?

  1. It starts with awareness of the SDGs in general. We still have 10 years to realize these Goals together. The real estate sector has great impact and technology can be used as leverage (but is not a goal in itself);

  2. Include the SDGs in queries. Wouldn't it be great if we awarded on the basis of the most socially valuable tender instead of the most economically advantageous tender?

  3. With government support in this COVID-19 crisis, questions could be asked such as does the company behave responsibly and transparently, do they contribute to solving a social issue, how do they deal with their stakeholders, do they have a sustainable business model (or do they want to make it sustainable).

How do you think the real estate industry will change in the next 5-10 years?

COVID-19 has accelerated digital transformation and put people at the centre. It will be challenging times to find a new balance because we also have to deal with an economic and political crisis. And climate change could be the third because nature is always looking to restore its ecosystem and humans are just a part of the puzzle. In any case, the theme 'Health and well-being' (SDG 3) will come to the fore in the coming years. The COVID-19 outbreak has made us more connected with ourselves and nature (clean air in China, fish to be seen in the waters of Venice, etc.). Economically (SDG8), with all that printed money, hyperinflation has become a serious scenario (an easy way to get rid of high debt, for hedge funds for example). I hope we have learned our lessons and that together we can create future-proof environments for everyone with a healthy balance between social challenges and the economy.

The theme for this year’s FUTURE PropTech is “Re-Imagining Real Estate.” What does this mean to you?

Re-imagining Real Estate makes me think of this quote:

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” — Steve Jobs, 1997 (Think Different).

It’s about the right side of your brain, but also about human potential which is infinite. The Sustainable Development Goals have the power to make environments like cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages, and stop climate change. Guided by the Goals, it is now up to all of us to work together and use Property and Technology (PropTech) for Good.

The original post is published on FUTURE PropTech

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