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Blog #6: You only see it when you know it!

When will suppliers register their products in the NMD?

VNO-NCW finds the climate and environment policy unclear and is concerned that lawsuits will undermine the business climate. In the FD newspaper of 14 February, the employers’ association states that uncertainty can lead to companies investing less. It is actually quite striking that companies still have difficulty assessing the direction in which they are heading. It is now fifty years after the publication of the report by the Club of Rome. And there are bookshelves full of scientific publications and policy memorandums that explain which way we should go. Is the policy really unclear or has the penny simply not yet dropped for many companies?

This is the question we ask ourselves at the Dutch Environmental Database (NMD). That the building industry must become more sustainable is obvious. Companies have an important role here. They can adjust their products and processes to contribute to a sustainable built environment. But until now, many companies have taken a wait-and-see attitude. Of the 3,000 cards in the NMD, only a quarter (!) are from individual companies. The other cards are from industry associations and from the NMD itself. These cards are necessary to determine the environmental performance of a building. But in the end, you want to use the product cards of individual suppliers. For only then do we get a realistic approach to the environmental performance of a building!

So the question is, why are many companies waiting? Some suppliers may think that it won’t be a problem that fast. Although the MPG is embedded in the Building Decree and the standard is still easily met. So we’ll be fine. For these companies, it is good to know that the standard for homes has already been made more stringent. And that the new cabinet intends to tighten the standard significantly. Furthermore, it is good to know that it is currently being worked out how the MPG system can be used for buildings other than homes and offices and for renovation and transformation. The system is also gaining ground in the ground, road and hydraulic engineering sector. RWS (part of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and responsible for the design, construction, management and maintenance of the main infrastructure facilities in the Netherlands) uses the ECI as an award criterion in tenders. And a legal embedding is under study. So to wait is a risky strategy because the system will be expanded and the standard is being tightened!

There are also indications that suppliers find the process of registering environmental product information complex, and think it time-consuming and expensive. This is foremost a point of attention for smaller companies. But the construction industry has many medium-sized and large companies. Some even operate on a European or global scale. Surely, then, making an LCA cannot be a show-stopper?

Is there – as VNO-NCW argues – a lack of clarity? Perhaps a little. At the moment, for example, there is a discussion going on about whether we should focus on climate targets and CO2 reduction or whether we should aim for environmental impact in a broader sense. And discussion always creates a certain amount of ambiguity. But is that a reason to wait? I would like to emphasise once again that, 50 years after the Club of Rome was published, we really do understand how we should act. It is more a question of whether companies recognise the underlying trend, embrace it and act upon it. Perhaps it is also a matter of rethinking. To look at things differently, to take more and other factors into account, to become more creative and to weigh interests in a different way. By looking at things differently, you also start to see new things and new meanings can arise. Environmental performance is not a condition but a starting point! A small step in thinking. But with great impact. To come to that conclusion, the penny must first drop. Because as Cruyff once said: you see it when you see it!

In order to get more environmental product data into our database, we will start with the White Spots project in April (NL).

Do you have any questions about product cards or our database? Ask them via info@milieudatabase.nl

(Translated by Heleen Scholte)