The sustainability dilemma

10 October 2018
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Sustainable products are expensive. There’s a reason why people think this. For example, when I go out to buy organically farmed chicken, it feels like a dilemma. Because organic chicken is usually two to three times as expensive as ‘regular’ chicken. Which makes me feel as if I’m throwing away money. But when I buy cheaper standard chicken, I know they’ve used more antibiotics and pesticides and paid less attention to animal welfare. Organic or regular chicken – both options have clear drawbacks.

Remco Neumann Port of Rotterdam Authority

This same kind of dilemma regularly crops up within our work as Port Authority too. We are introducing increasingly clean solutions for our vessels, vehicles and energy systems. But in most cases, biodiesel, hydrogen and electrification still cost more than the conventional options. From a cost control perspective, it makes sense not to be too hasty when it comes to switching to new and expensive solutions – which in many cases are still not entirely proven.

Nevertheless, I believe our attitudes towards this sustainability dilemma are changing. We’re becoming increasingly aware that we need to make a dedicated investment in the transition towards a sustainable port and a sustainable economy. And that as the ‘face’ of the port we should take on a pioneering role in this venture. That’s why we are making more and more use of hybrid engines and biodiesel, why we’ve introduced a hydrogen-powered inspection vehicle and an electric car sharing scheme, why we enter into increasingly ‘green’ dredging and energy contracts, and why we encourage people to travel to work by bike or public transport rather than a car.
As a society, we are becoming less and less accepting of solutions that hurt other people or the environment. There’s a growing demand for sustainable products, with increasing taxation of unsustainable options. When sustainable products ultimately become less expensive than their unsustainable counterparts, basic market forces will do their thing. Sustainable solutions will become mainstream. Until then, we’re all free to decide what we use our money for. We can either support sustainable practices or maintain unsustainable ones. Which side are you on; which outcome do you want to contribute to? After giving it a bit more thought, I don’t think it’s that much of a dilemma after all.

Remco Neumann
Corporate Social Responsibility Programme Manager