UZWIL, Switzerland — Bühler hosted its second annual Networking Days event in Uzwil Aug. 26 and 27, where global industry leaders gathered to discuss environmental challenges and how they can be alleviated with sustainable business practices. About 800 people representing 500 companies from more than 80 countries attended the event.

“The challenges have accelerated dramatically,” said Stefan Scheiber, CEO of Bühler Group. “The world today is better, in many respects, than ever before. Yet the progress we have made comes at too high a price. We are using nature’s resources faster than our planet’s ecosystems can regenerate. We now have just 10 years to prevent irreversible damage from climate change. But today we have the opportunity to make a real difference and shift course. Business has to be part of the solution.”

The motto for this year’s event was “creating tomorrow together.” Thought leaders, industry partners, scientists and start-ups gathered to discuss the increasingly deteriorating environmental condition of the earth and how the constantly growing population will continue to adversely affect the planet and our quality of life.

According to Bühler, the global population is expected to reach 9.8 billion people by 2050, with about 70% of the population inhabiting urbanized areas. The company and others in the food industry say this will put an enormous strain on our current agricultural system and nutritional well-being if we continue to cultivate mass quantities of food the way we do today.

“There is no turning back. The need for private sector engagement is stronger than ever. We cannot solve all the challenges without the resources, the expertise, the technology and brain power of business,” said Gro Harlem Brundtland, former prime minister of Norway and former director general of the World Health Organization.

Bühler reported that the companies represented at the Networking Days event collectively reach up to 5 billion people every day, providing food to an estimated 4 billion and mobility to another 1 billion. The company called this “a powerful lever for change,” and urged long-standing and incoming companies to come together to address consumers’ needs in a changing industrial landscape.

Experts juggled ideas of fermenting mass quantities of food, rather than farming it, as well as utilizing emergent technologies, digitalization and biomanufacturing capabilities to modernize agriculture and increase yields.

“Technology has a huge role to play,” said Ian Roberts, chief technical officer of Bühler Group. “But it cannot solve these challenges alone. We also need to think and work across value chains and systems.”

Saint-Gobain, a company in the construction sector, addressed the need for mitigating CO2 emissions across industries. One-third of global CO2 emissions are created by the construction and building industry, another third by mobility and the last third by agriculture. Luckily, major companies from each of these sectors were present at Networking Days to share centralized solutions.

During Networking Days, MassChallenge, a global start-up accelerator, announced a collaboration with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development to identify climate change solutions. The collaboration was also supported by One Young World, a non-profit organization supporting young leaders.

“We will each get more value and impact out of the collaboration than we could get as individual entities,” said Sunny Verghese, chair of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. “What I like about Networking Days is it’s not all about Bühler; it’s about bringing us all together.”

Sustainable packaging initiatives were also discussed at the event. Isabel Wijsen, co-founder of Bye Bye Plastic Bags, spoke about her experiences with getting plastic bags banned in Bali and how that movement has gained momentum on a global scale.

Scheiber ended the event by urging industry leaders to innovate and modernize for the sake of future generations, saying, “We recognize the urgency of the challenges and have dramatically increased our sustainability commitments. It is now our goal to reduce energy, waste and water by 50% in all our future solutions, and make a significant impact in the value chains of our customers.”

“As industries, companies and individuals, we all have to ask ourselves, today, how we can become part of the solution. We hope that Bühler Networking Days 2019 will be seen as a turning point. The challenges are demanding, but we can do it,” Scheiber concluded.

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