Scenarios - Industrial System
Can we make the manufacturer liable for waste throughout the product lifecycle?
Sustainable Industrial Revolution
- Will the current growing level of consumption be sustainable if natural resources become scarce?
- If no...
- Waterworld Resource Reclamation
- If yes...
- Will increased levels of protectionism lead tp a redistribution of manufacturing across the world?
- If yes...
- Make Every Country Great Again
- If no...
- Business as usual
Sustainable Industrial Revolution
Question: Can we make the manufacturer liable for waste throughout the product lifecycle? Scenario: The Sustainable Industrial Revolution
• In 2021, a study that found that 43% of small businesses are not in the business of providing environmentally friendly products or service packages, but are “low-hanging fruit”, noting that 36% are more environmentally friendly than those with the rest of the business. There is no indication that businesses are using the products of their own products. As a result, businesses are being forced to clean up their environmental sustainability programs by shutting down their operations.
• In 2022, manufacturing businesses and investors began using environmental protection and policies as a way of addressing the environmental damage caused by climate change, as documented in a report prepared by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the International Energy Agency, and the World Bank. It was determined that effective policies that promote circularity will require economic and social protection systems, including but not limited to micro-infrastructure.
• In 2025, global environmental policies slowly came to fruition. Unsustainable manufacturing practices began to irreparably damage the environment, to the effect of minimizing output and hurting industrial economies. Industrialized countries began to penalize unsustainable companies for their environmental damage. This effected small buisnesses in the US, who relied on production facilities abroad who were notoriously wasteful.
• In 2026, The Clean Power Plan was put into effect as a universal global trade agreement. This plan ensured that all goods produced and traded internationally had a biodegradable life cycle and clean production rating. Technologists got to work in developing new materials for products previously not recyclable.
• In 2028, companies committed to circular production began to produce fewer premium products that were fully biodegradable. Many companies established subscription services for their products, to monetize the product itself as well of each use of the product.
• By 2030, the sharing economy had grown vastly. Culturally, people became less attached to commodities, and looked forward to reusing clothes, modes of transport, homes, and experiences with eachother. All the while, the earth’s carbon footprint had been reduced significantly.
A day in the life of Jade
Jade is an extremely wealthy lady in her mid 30’s. From her bed, she is looking at her wardrobe and admires the newly fancy designer gown she just rented from the Wearables, an e-sharing app for renting high-quality luxury apparels).
The next moment, gazing from the window of her mobile home, she looked into a street in the city center of Amsterdam. She was filled with joy, realizing that it was only a few days ago she was living in Stockholm. Jade did not like the weather forecast for Stockholm, as a big storm front was expected to hit the Nordics later that week and decided to move to Amsterdam to enjoy a bit of fair weather.
Following a quick shower, she gets ready to meet some friends for breakfast, as the e-Ferrari she ordered parked outside just as she ordered. ‘What a world to live in’ she said to her virtual assistant as she left her mobile home. Over the past years she had become accustomed to experience driving different luxury cars without owning any, and the luxury brands of the past were now selling ‘driving phone boots in combination with information hubs’ where privacy and the social status of the passengers influenced the price of a specific trip / ride.
As she arrived for breakfast, Jade ran into Farrah, a long-time acquaintance, who has a family of 2 kids and a husband. Farrah complained about how unsatisfied she was with the apartment in a block of flats that her e-sharing app had provided her with. ‘Why are you unsatisfied’ asked Jade – and Farrah responded: ‘Well, we moved 3 times in 6 months, because of a variety of reasons, but the nice places to live are already overbooked multiple times so it is good to have flexibility in moving apartments, but if the area is not as good, it is a concern’. ‘Isn't your e-sharing app providing you with different plusses though?’ Jade asked. ‘You are lucky with the options for furnishing your apartment and the collaboration with the Wearables is unique as well right?’. 'If you are unsatisfied, I can find the time to hook you up with my e-sharing partner at a later stage – if that's what you would want?’ they hugged and Jade continued to her appointment.
On the way back home, Jade decides to take a detour and visit a supermarket to purchase a bottle of water. Jade has become used to it, but who would have thought in 2022 that each bottle would clearly state “liquid contents only” and contain a QR code that links the bottle to her Social Security number? Since the year of 2024, heavy fines and collective resource planning were introduced to extend the product lifecycle as much as possible and make every company that manufactures goods liable for the entire lifecycle, including a 98% recycle and upcycle mandate after the product is considered ‘end of life’. Jade knows from experience that if she does not drop the bottle at designated pick-up points all around the city she will be fined and the city will decrease her social status. In fact, Jades’ permission to live in the city of Rotterdam was already invoked in 2027 as she failed to recycle 3 times.
Waterworld resource reclamation
Question: If water becomes scarce, will the global manufacturing industry continue to sustain current consumption levels?
2023. Scarcity in fresh water has led to increased pressure on groundwater stocks, mainly in the US and Asia, leading to an increase in agricultural commodity prices. This event coincided with an increase in inflation across the world in the aftermath of the COVID19 pandemic that decreased purchase power for the growing middle class in emerging markets. Countries like China have implemented laws to ensure food commodity prices would decrease with 5% before 2025, aiming to spur growth in GDP through consumption of the middle class.
2025. Social unrest caused by the effects of climate change has tempered growth of the global economy and increased short-term handling and actions to support country specific objectives. International collaboration has been scrutinized and alliances of the past have become unstable, as governments try to handle the seemingly insurmountable effects of climate change and a shortness of supply in essential materials. Inequality between the rich and poor, especially in the emerging economies, reaches a new high.
2027. A planned economy, comparable to wartime economic policies, has been put in place in most of the developed economies. This had to be done to face the seemingly daunting task of curbing the effects of climate change. Everybody agreed that for too long a time, not enough action was taken to seriously address the effects and impact of climate change on our daily lives. A combined taskforce of politicians and business men and women, across the world, was brought together to take action and set the pace for the efforts needed. Part of the resolutions was that all economies that could transition towards a 'green economy' would do so as soon as possible, changing use of materials and products in a radical way.
2029. Rationing of scarce materials and goods, in combination with a burst in innovation investments put in place by the IMF, changed life significantly. Major area's of development are in infrastructure engineering, circular economy and mining our waste by extending and multiplying the product life-cycle.
2030. The green golden age, as was described by Carlota Perez, might have started. Societies across the world see that life has changed, but they are happy that leaders stood up to ensure radical and necessary steps have been taken. The temporary loss in democracy and freedom is still something that is not taken up lightly, but it was absolutely necessary to break with the past and make steps quickly. A new economic model is being worked on in order to facilitate a future that enables a healthy quality of life and well-being.
A day in the life of Anna
6 am….as my alarm rang, I jolt awake. I can’t miss my reservation. I grab a change of clothes, and rush to the county sanitation facility for my shower reservation next to the laundry room of our building. I have been so excited for my 10-minute shower reservation spot – it was not easy to book, let me tell you!
In the last 5 years… fresh water has been so scarce that the new government policies allow 2 10 minutes shower availabilities for all people (except the rich and well connected… who for sure who could afford it). One barrel of water costs same as one barrel of oil dis 10years ago. Human consumption has grown as it would naturally since 2020, yet the availability of water and other natural resources. have not been able to match population growth. Hence now on top of my building, next to the solar panels are pipes and basins designed to collect rainwater. Near these basins, are where I grow what I can with what I collect. To some extent, everyone grows their own vegetables (for eg. tomato, beans, onions etc. on the side scaffold cages). These “victory gardens” decrease the need for air conditioning and happen to be aesthetically pleasing at the same time.
Other resources have been scarce as well such as wood, iron, trace minerals etc. Without water, there are fewer trees, for instance. We have had to use reclaimed materials to construct shelters and structures, especially in developing countries. Plastics exhumed from landfills have been compressed into bricks and used to create housing projects as a proactive solution to our climate shift and need for homes.
In the last five years, the government has subsidized material science and biotechnology vocational programs to combat the setbacks that the manufacturing industry has faced. The experts in this field are getting paid better than IT and Data scientists now. It is near impossible to fashion products without the use of water. Just as well, impossible to maintain hygienic production for the workers and surrounding environment. Thanks to this investment, the fast fashion companies that remain from the old world now fashion garments from new sweat wicking fabrics, so that we don’t smell so bad between showers. These innovative technologies came into place a few years back. My bed that initially would have been made of a combination of wood, steel and a mattress has been replaced with a unique alternative (recyclable plastic and other components of landfill) which is strong and durable and can be 3D printed into a mold of bed frame and on top is a mycelium (type of sponge fungi) that can be treated to be soft to be used as alternative to mattress.
Now, governments are putting in place a mix of policies, incentives, and tariffs to steer local industries and innovations to align with what resources are available and scarce. Almost all the industries hence had to radically adapt, and if they could not, they were replaced by those who were less reliant on water, or at least, in better standing financially. A new industry linked in landfills getting mined for rubber, steel and other stuff has caught up momentum. Some scrap finds can be traded almost in gold prices!
After my cold shower, I make a shot of kefir-coffee. Since we don’t have coffee beans grown here (I miss my regular Starbucks coffee that was in every corner when I was growing …sob!). So, the next alternative to caffeine source is a lab grown coffee beans with bacteria that is sustainable and easy to replenish. Not just coffee but majority of meat products are now lab grown. Animal farming had become so challenging in terms of availability of feedstocks and water and adding too much CO2 that our government put huge tariffs on it that eating it became just too expensive. Hence the industries had to move into cultivating meat in lab.
I take out my iPhone which is now looks like folded sheet of unique plastic-glass. The product designs of new products have changed. New generation iPhone look different now than how it did. Coffee in hand, I quickly scan through the news on the internet. Since natural resources in some countries have become so low that lit has triggered another huge wave of migration. Especially since oil has been depleted the people in middle east, their power in world in terms of oil has diminished. Refugees crisis has never been worse since people there are trying to make their way to other countries. There has been a big debate if the Saudi sheikhs (billionaires) can pay their way to get citizenship of Canada (one of the richest countries currently due it its abundance of natural resources) or the government must be fair and give equal chance to other people trying to immigrate.
Who would have thought the world would change so much in a decade…
Make Every Country Great Again
Question: Will increased levels of protectionism lead to a re-distribution of manufacturing across the world? Scenario: Make Every Country Great Again
2022. The political tensions between the United States and China reach a new level, causing higher tariffs on imports and exports. Meanwhile, following the resignation of Brexit minister Frost late 2021, disagreement over the future treatment of Northern Ireland between the UK and the EU have led to higher export duties on goods manufactured in the UK to be sold in the EU.
2024. Across the western developed economies, the ECB and the FED have a hard time managing inflation. The appreciation of the Renminbi against the Euro and the US Dollar led to a sharp decline in global economic activity, resulting in increased commodity prices and decreased purchasing power for the lower and middle class across the US and the EU. This, in turn fueled social unrest and nationalist feelings across the developed economies. 'Buy local' initiatives in large urban areas are becoming mainstream.
2025. COP 30 is of vital importance this year. The geopolitical tensions that led to increased neo-nationalist and populist sentiments across the developed economies are further amplified by the effects of climate change as extreme weather events and rising sea levels incite fear across the world. A call for action and cross-country collaboration is made by millennials throughout the world, stating that they will 'reject the inheritance' of the world in the state it is in. Emerging economies with a growing middle-class call upon the developed countries to carry a significant amount of the investments needed to save the planet.
2027. Xenophobia sets in across the world. The pride of those who 'made it' in the materialist / consumption driven era seems unyielding and the short term view of the politicians has allowed tensions to rise even further. In almost all western societies, right-wing conservative parties have a majority in support. The liberal stance on free market dynamics is on its return, as governmental institutions try to solidify their grip on the economy and manage international trade - the 'fading American dream' scenario has played out. Manufacturing of consumption goods and services have been localized in most developed economies as trade barriers that have been put in place prevent efficient global supply chains.
2030. Most economies have been able to make the shift and adjust to a new economic reality, where the hegemony of the USA and the EU has ceded and made place for situational collaboration across the world through government alliances. A green revolution, started by young leaders from India, China and Brazil spread like wildfire across the world and was backed financially by The Giving Pledge - Mission Innovation. The nationalist sentiments of the past years has changed momentum, where there is now more of a division between the old and young generations across the world as opposed to country-specific inertia.
A day in life of Paul
It is a warm Saturday morning in the Netherlands. ‘Mom, Dad – let me tell you that the Kralingsebos is the place to be this afternoon!’ said Julia, 7 years old. Paul, her dad, replied – ‘Ok ok – did you finish your homework for Ecology and Environmental awareness?’. Julia smiled and responded. ‘Actually dad - there are some things I would like to check in Nieuw Kralingen, as the recycling stations there are state-of-the-art’. Jessica, her mother jumped in - ‘Excellent idea Julia - let's do a picnic!’. 30 minutes later, the family was on their way on their bikes. The atmosphere in the Kralingse Bos was relaxed, and all visitors in the park were adorned with masks – standard practice since everyone started blaming each other for the rising infection rates of Sigma – the most pervasive CoVID variant yet. The masks were all identical in appearance– a red stripe, a white stripe, and a blue stripe. No one can be too careful with the new virus variant that is transmitted by touch. And what better way to sport national pride for the best country in the world - right?
Paul took a bite out of his sandwich and he couldn't help but ponder about the significant changes that happened over the past years. Who would have thought in 2022 that the world would be revisiting the Cold War situation of the 20th century 10 years later… Did we not foresee that the impact of the shift in demographic and geopolitical powers in combination with the lack of action on climate change would lead to a systemic redistribution of wealth and manufacturing across the world?
It was a messy shift in every country. It all started when the forged alliances of the late 2010s were engulfed by enduring pandemic pressure, followed by steep price increases imposed on manufactured goods by China and India, as they were taking up their ‘rightful’ position in the world.
As a result, geopolitical tensions intensified and distributed supply chains and manufacturing in low labor-cost countries became increasingly expensive for western economies, urging businesses and governments to rethink and bring home manufacturing of essential products and goods. Some countries were able to make this shift as they had enough purchase power and were able to invest successfully but more countries that heavily depended on imports were less successful to retain the standard of living and welfare they had become accustomed to.
The morning after the picknick, Paul left for work to a factory that manufactures t-shirts. But not just any t-shirts! These t-shirts have a special production process as the greenhouses in ‘het Westland’ have shifted from growing tomatoes into growing genetically modified cotton. Being an engineer, Paul developed a new production process in which robots and 3D printers create t-shirts incorporating biomimicry and state-of-the art sensoring technologies. Demand for smart, sustainable clothing in the Netherlands soared after 2024, allowing Paul to co-found his company with 2 of his buddies, with the help of a sustainable manufacturing subsidy provided by the government. Additionally, local green and circular manufacturing had to be brought to fruition and the government was heavily subsidizing initiatives in this area. Every country wants to be self-dependent, every country wants to be great, climate issues and resources scarcity has put pressure on countries and force innovative approach for a sustained future.
Jessica, holding a bachelor’s in international law and public relations, works 3 days a week for the department of finance and trade in The Hague, where she helps organize visits for international delegations of diplomats. With the mission to prevent institutional failure and help the Dutch economy benefit from international trade, she is proud to play a role in exporting knowledge of infrastructure and water management in exchange for the needed (natural) resources. While all efforts were made to stall CO2 emissions, extreme weather events across the globe and increased water levels had to be dealt with. The cold wars have introduced new ways of international relations.
In addition to that, Julia attends primary education, and the curriculum includes, amongst others, biology, ecology, and environmental awareness. The study trip she will be making next week will be to the revolutionary ‘Deltawerken 2.0’ maquette that was revealed in 2028, with the objective to 'keep the water out'.
Business as usual
Question: What will happen if things continue as they are today by 2030?
Specifically for this scenario, some minor things change compared to today for the industrial system in the world. The Green Deal in the EU has made significant impact on the automotive industry, Space travel is now a common thing and incentives are provided for those companies that make the shift to green their supply chains. Supply chain transparency and increased consumer awareness on environmental impacts of the products, goods and services they buy and invest in. Additionally, a further standardization of ESG reporting is now taken along the standard financial reporting rules for listed companies. Those companies who do not perform, are penalized based on CO2 reduction quota's.
A day in the life of Paula
Who would have thought in 2030 so little would change…? Looking at the little tomatoes in her front garden, Paula thought how lucky she is to had given up city life already 2015. Working remotely feels fine with a view over the green fields of Schönebeck in front of her home-office window, she thought smiling. Her self-built tiny house was worth two million by now and she was among the privileged that had profited from the development of the last years. The 2020 pandemic had prompted many people to migrate from urban areas to the countryside, adjusting to working remotely. Housing prices in rural areas had skyrocket with no building grounds available anymore. The taste of the tomatoes was intense, almost like cherries. They surely had seen a lot of sun this year, however not a lot of rain. Next year, I will also try sow the new dry-cucumber seeds and the sunny-pumpkin kind my neighbor is harvesting, Paula was thinking to herself... Sustainability had developed a wide cultural prominence by now, with many people aiming for more self-sufficient lifes. New tiny countryside homes were equipped with solar panels, had modern heat pump systems and a charging station for the electrical cars, that 60 % of the population were constantly sharing by now. Gardening was everyone's hobby with a large industry for new vegetable seeds, gardening soils and watering systems to account for the increasingly unpredictable weather conditions. Returning to her kitchen to prepare a fresh-mint tea, the sweet tomato taste turned bitter in Paula's mouth when looking at the news headlines of today "Two teenagers wounded in climate protests in Rotterdam". Friday for future had become increasingly violent, merging with social movements of the “disadvantaged city-kids”. Those who were of a lower education level were forced to work and live in the big cities, causing a rift between classes. Voices for global policy changes, allowing green sustainable lives for all were getting louder and louder. Paula's feeling about these protests were divided. It was thanks to them that at least local policies were put in place over the last years maintaining her lifestyle in big parts, but was that violence needed, she asked herself? Today Paula had a work-meeting in Hamburg. She was excited... these face to face meetings happened rarely, and she wanted to make sure not to come late. While preparing her to-go lunch, Paula remembered that she had forgotten to clean her lunch box after her last trip to the city... Shit, now it was all with hols... With increasingly strict waste policies and more and more financial incentives to avoid one-time use products, coffee-to-go cups had disappeared, everyone started to carry a wooden cutlery set for lunch breaks and Amazon converted its packaging system. Instead of paper boxes, reusable transport boxes made of biodegradable plastic were introduced that could be used “up to a million times but still would dissolve under special conditions”, as stated by one of the rising companies at the stock exchange “Bio-me Bio plastic”. Special conditions apparently meant leaving lunch boxes unwashed in your backpack for 3 month, Paula realized. Despite the introduction of many new materials, waste sadly had become a profitable industry, especially in poor countries. While 50% of the waste was recycled by now, the rest was exported from rich countries to poor countries, letting them participate in the western wealth at least in a “wasteful way”. Indonesia had given up tourism, relying completely on the waste import... How good that Paula still had been visiting in Indonesia in 2016... Due to still insufficient waste processing technology in third world countries, large amount of waste still ended up in landfills and in the ocean. This resulted in 80% of people being vegan by now. Not anymore for animal protection reasons but to avoid plastic nutrition, that by now had been proven to cause 80% of cancer cases in the digestive system. Paula's hands were nervously clenching to the steering wheel of her rented electrical mini-car on the way to Hamburg... Driving so rarely nowadays mad her almost forget the traffic rules. Again and again she was surprised by the exclusive transportation lines at motor ways with autonomously driving e-trucks that circumvented the looming supply chain crises in 2025.
The motorway exit to Hamburg was announced by an increasing amount of bill-boards. Zara advertised their new “first-hand-second-hand" cloth collection for winter. What a joke, Paula was thinking to herself... Most parts of industries had found a way of green wash themselves. “Dirty chemical industry” was re-branded as “the renewable eco material industry” and all energy industry got green washed via their CO2 fees. Surprisingly little had changed in industrial systems. The use of AI and the automation of process had increased, but mainly in sectors with mass production, straightforward working processes or where working force was hard to find. Increasingly cheap labor due to the increasing number of refugees had however prohibited the prognosed widespread digitalization and automation of industrial systems.
Who would have thought in 2020, that 5° would become the new 2°? We have achieved to buy more time, but is that enough, Paula was thinking. Would it remain sufficient to act bypassing immediate problems, without a global long term vision? How much longer would eco-demonstrators tolerate that world leader signing mainly non-binding comfort-agreements at world climate conferences? While searching for a parking space in Hamburg, Paula was already looking forward to leaving the city again in the evening, returning to her hamook and getting into her new gardening book.