3B_Elle in Amsterdam… Start with “why (not!?)”

Amsterdam offers a recipe for triple-bottom-line success.

Once the “heart of capitalism”, the Dutch capital now consistently ranks among the world’s most sustainable and innovative cities. A long history of cultural and religious tolerance has shaped today’s open, liberal mindset – less a “why?” and more a “why not?” kind of place. 

Pair this culture with a hefty dose of pragmatism and competence, and voila, the Dutch effectively convert this creativity into meaningful action.

The Netherlands has long been a leader in clean energy – both in its ambitions (zero carbon emissions by 2050) and in the investment and rapid growth of wind and solar. It makes sense for a coastal country that faces outsized threats from global warming, and rising waters – especially given that nearly 1/3 of the country lies below the level of the sea.

Within Amsterdam, perhaps the most conspicuous example of this is the city’s ultra-eco transportation (there are more bikes than people, and no shortage of electric charging stations).

We were particularly impressed by the foodtech scene (the Netherlands is home to the world’s first lab grown meat, for example), a product of the country’s leading AgriFood sector, (second in the world, only to the U.S.),  leading engineering (Delft) and agricultural (Wageningen) universities, and public-private partnerships. 

We also visited incredible companies in the sustainability space ranging from clean energy to sustainable fashion to smart mobility solutions. Here’s a rundown of who we met.

Tony’s Chocolonely: This wildly popular and brightly colored chocolate company is confronting some of the industry’s biggest challenges: slavery in the cocoa supply chain. We spoke with Chief Evangelist Ynzo Van Zanten (and over plenty of lip-smacking chocolate) about how this company is using a product (chocolate) to address a problem (slavery, child labor).

Patagonia: Ryan Gellert, the Managing Director in EMEA of this iconic sustainable brand and triple bottom pioneer explained how the company is thinking beyond its own business and focusing its efforts on changing the whole system.

Vattenfall: We met with INSEAD alumn, Arjan de Jong and Sustainability Manager Anne Korthals Altes who explained how this leader in clean energy is integrating sustainability into the core of their business strategy.

AquaSpark: Founder Amy Novogratz shared how her VC focused on sustainable aquaculture is supporting innovations in a space where there exists an ocean of opportunity (pun intended).

Fashion for Good: We chatted with INSEAD alumn Kathleen Rademan, as well as Greg Stillman and Brittany Burns about how this organization is working to foster innovation and partnerships between corporates and startups pursuing sustainable products in the fashion industry.

Meatable: Co-founder and CEO Krijn de Nood explained how he is working on the food infrastructure (growing meat in labs, not farms) of the not so far future.

Impact Hub: Frederik van Droffelaar, Impact Hub Amsterdam’s co-owner explained how this global network of coworking spaces is fostering an ecosystem of triple bottom line innovation.

Felyx: INSEAD alumn and electric scooter startup COO Kasper Zwetsloot explained how this company is offering clean energy solutions to city dwellers in the Netherlands.

Solar Monkey: CEO and founder Jan Pieter Versluijs explained how his company’s software is enabling for more effective and efficient solar panel installations

Rockstart: Director of Corporate Programs Kim Geesink shared how one of Europe’s first startup accelerators is increasingly focused on triple bottom line sectors: Energy, Health, AgriFood, and Emerging technologies.

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