“We do not live in an era of change, but in a change of eras”, said Jan Rotsman. The third industrial revolution brings changes along with it. How will territories and entrepreneurs adapt and interact in the wake of this revolution?
For Didier Cousin, president and founding member of ECOPAL, ecosystems and territorial dynamics come together by establishing a network of local entrepreneurs. Consequently, that lead to a circular economy: wastes produced by one company will be reused by another, therefore generating an additional economic activity and reducing the environmental impact. Fifteen years after the start of this initiative, the wastes have become a new resource in the area of Dunkerque. The collect of wastes is mutualized between the member companies. This initiative is not just economically rational. It also attracts investors, promotes responsible entrepreneurship and it promotes the territory. For Franck Sprecher from GDF-Suez, “developping the territory and developing the company is the same thing”. ECOPAL represents today 450 connected companies. With its action, 230 tons of CO² emission are avoided and 2 500 tons of wastes repurposed. These astonishing results prove that a responsible economy benefits the territory.
The role of authority
Entrepreneurs cannot be the sole actors. The public authorities within the territory also have a role to play in developing responsible ecosystems. They must promote such conducts and help these companies in order for them to have a bigger impact on a shorter time scale. For instance, ECOPAL was supported by the ADEME Nord Pas de Calais and the Regional Council of the Hauts-de-France. Responsible business initiatives need support and “enablers”, as defined by Antoine Jourdain, Interregional Director of Enedis. This vision of an implicated public authority is shared by Xavier Bertrand, president of the region Hauts-de-France, who would wish to see a deeper involvement of the state in the region in the near future.
A global transition
Responsible entrepreneurship needs to be spread to the international level. Indeed, Jan Rotmans of the Erasmus University in the Netherlands warns us of the imminent and unavoidable transition in front of us. The fossil fuel cannot last forever and we must find ideas in order to preserve and develop our economic activity. We are currently underachieving within this field according to Jan Rotman. Henceforth, adjustments must be made. Digital gateway, smart energy, circular economy and entrepreneurial region are key points of this transition. It will require first and foremost social innovations and technological innovations. The many good conducts must be taught and diffused. The energy transition itself is unavoidable. Regions must adapt their economic activity accordingly, apply already working techniques and allow new ones to be invented.
Harry Jennings – ESPOL Lille