The future of sustainability
Talking about the future of sustainability with trendwatcher Lieke Dols
︎︎︎MIRTE WINTERS / CLIMATE
Lieke is the owner of Make Waves, a trendwatch agency that knows how to apply social developments in various sectors. gives her vision on the present time in which we live: is this the moment to set up our economy towards a more sustainable model?
What is your definition of sustainability?“For me, sustainability means taking good care of yourself, the other person, and the earth. I see this as a development, not as an endstation. Creating a world in which future generations can live healthily and also take care of the earth in cooperation with like-minded people. In this, I see the environment, social welfare, and the economy in harmony with each other. It is not about reducing a negative footprint. Sustainability now and in the future is about actively generating a positive footprint: restoring nature, depleted resources, forming a sustainable economy, production systems, and human well-being.”
So it’s a combination of different factors, do you think the term sustainability encompasses these factors well?
“I certainly see it as a combination, as something holistic. Sustainability is often linked to the environment. That is why some people have an aversion to it. So yes, the popular term sustainability does not cover this well. What, would be a good understanding of it ... perhaps we should think about something new? To achieve sustainability, it is about balance: if one factor is out of balance, the others will not flourish either. With balance we build a sustainable livelihood, I think we need to talk more about openness, transparency, and certainly responsibility.”
“No, I think sustainability is a new standard. For me, that is the new normal. It’s not a trend, marketing tool, hype, or buzz-word. It started as a trend, of course, and you could still label it as a mega-trend. Sustainability as development comes slowly into our lives, but countries will not disappear anymore.”
Can we call sustainability a trend, in your opinion?
“The consumption system. That is something that should be organized differently. We have lived with material prosperity for decades. Growth has been tremendously stimulated, consumption and possessions have been at the forefront of our natural drive for status. That system has an expiry date; it has now been achieved. I am still surprised that in fast fashion new collections are coming in every few weeks. The desire for the latest or the newest is also continuously maintained.”
What do you think can still be improved in our search for a more sustainable existence?
Can you name a brand that you think has made the best progress? According to my colleague, Filippa K. I am a little less into fashion brands so Ikea would say with their mission to be fully circular by 2030.”
“Change is in the air”
When do you believe a brand?
“I believe a brand that is transparent and open on the road they take to sustainability. In the short term, we cannot expect all brands to be 100% committed to a sustainable business model and production process. What we can expect, however, is that they show what ambitions they have, dare to talk about them, and take action to help them step by step in building a fully sustainable brand. So not just calling out ideals, but action, action, action.”
Do you believe that IKEA can realize their plans for the future?“As an optimist, if a brand sets such ambitions and shows where they stand in that process, I certainly want to believe in it. I see a closed system in front of me, where you can return old IKEA products as raw material for new items. With an IKEA repair shop. They are already opening small stores in large cities to get closer to the consumer. They are also busy using natural materials. In the future, I see that 100% of the items are made of natural materials. IKEA can be a huge pioneer to inspire and activate consumers to make their homes more sustainable.”
What is the first thing you look at when you buy clothes?“Quality. I think it’s terrible that something doesn’t look good after washing it three times.”
How do you measure quality?“I mainly feel the material, but I also look at how an item is finished. And I am fairly brand loyal, so I often have a positive experience with the brand I buy.”
What are you wearing now?
I now wear a lot of high-quality Scandinavian brands. My closet is full of timeless items so I don’t get tired of them after one season. This in combination with unique statement pieces that I will keep forever.”
What was the first thing you did to make your live more sustainable?
“Although I have been critical of the quality of clothing for a long time, read: how long does an item last, the most concrete action I have taken to live more sustainably is to stop buying meat in the supermarket. At home, we now eat 90% vegetarian. When I eat meat, I buy it from a local farmer.”
How does this look like for you now?
Now it goes further and further in my consumption pattern. New bike?: recycled Dutch brand. New winter coat: must be sustainable. New curtains: from recycled PET bottles. There are more and more sustainable options, so the choice for sustainability is becoming more and more the standard for me.”
How did sustainability get to such a point that brands can no longer reconsider but have to use it?
“This has everything to do with the increasingly critical consumer. Consumers want to enter into relationships with brands that match their standards and values. The time of pushing the product is long gone. Consumers are increasingly looking for a sustainability mindset that inspires, educates, and supports brands. This puts pressure on brands to offer more sustainable options.”
How do consumers know ir they are buying something really good for our world? How can we remain critical when everyone is now ‘sustainable’?
“That remains a tricky thing. Of course, a lot is still being done about greenwashing. That is why it is good to read between the lines. Is it just an item that is sold as sustainable, or does a company have sustainability in its DNA? A good example of this is Everlane, which is radically transparent. From working conditions to raw materials, price structure to inclusiveness. Many other brands can take that as an example.”