By external blogger and PLGC preliminary jury member Jan Paul van Soest.
For the past couple of years, the month of August is Postcode Lottery Green Challenge Month for me. Literally hundreds of innovative ideas and businessplans find their way to the preliminary jury members, and I'm fortunate to be one of them. Each year is surprising and inspiring. Who else gets the opportunity of pre-selecting entries from all over the world, and by doing that getting a great overview of what's going on in the global arena of sustainable concepts and innovations? Well, my preliminary jury colleagues and I are in the privileged position to call this 'work'.
Of course, each of us works with the same criteria (climate saving potential, viability, realisable within some 2 years, entrepreneurship and creativity). But inevitably, and luckily, we all have different backgrounds that in a way colour and shape the personal top 20 lists that each preliminary jury member makes for themselves. (Informally, this is even an additional criterion: any other criterion the preliminary jury or jury think is relevant). Then we openly discuss all top 20 lists in a plenary session. Every year, there is some overlap (making the plenary easy) and some variety and disagreement (making the plenary interesting). Sharing and discussing preferences, and particularly the motivations behind the preferences, always leads to a collective learning and weighing process that leads up to a list of 5 or 6 finalists we all feel comfortable with. And not because we reached some kind of compromise, but because a really open preliminary jury dialogue leads to shared understanding and insight which in the end is more than the sum of the individual contributions.
So here are some of my viewpoints in addition to the three formal criteria. To explain them, first I have to state that I am what my opponents call an alarmist. Having worked in the field of sustainability consulting, idea and concept development, research, policy advice and so on for exactly 30 years now, I'm getting more and more concerned about the Big Planetary Issues as analysed in the planetary boundaries concept, particularly climate change and biodiversity. I am indeed highly alarmed by the impacts of global warming and by the unprecedented biodiversity losses. Focusing on climate, the key issue for the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge, the planetary boundaries perspective indicates that drastic greenhouse gas emission reductions may not even be sufficient, we're going to need 'negative emission options': technologies and concepts that actually help to extract CO2 from the atmosphere.
Therefore, my personal spotlight on the entries is directed by these ideas: can we find disruptive technologies and concepts amongst the entries? Can we even find feasible negative emission options? Or the other way around: can we make sure that an entry promising large potential CO2 reductions does not have adverse so-called rebound-effects? Some promising disruptive and even negative emission options have caught my eye this year.
Secondly, my perspective is that in order to make these far-reaching solutions politically and socially feasible, equity of fair-share is an important criterion too, meaning that developing countries need to get their share of wealth in the years to come. Therefore, options that combine social and economic development and greenhouse gas reductions get my personal bonus too. Quite some interesting concepts and ideas have been proposed in this area as well.
Looking at the variety of entries, I would even advocate that next year the criteria could even be more strict: Let's challenge the world to completely dedicate their business proposals and innovations to far-reaching, disruptive and even negative emission options, and options that combine bottom of the pyramid solutions with carbon reduction and sequestration. This year's entries show that this road is already being taken. Next challenge for the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge is to give this quest a huge push.
Jan Paul van Soest
Partner, De Gemeynt Cooperative – thinkers, developers and entrepreneurs for sustainability