Today I am pleased to share an interview with Dr Christine Lemaitre, CEO of DGNB.
The German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB) was founded in 2007. Ever since more than 470 building projects and urban districts in about 20 countries were awarded with a DGNB certificate in either bronze, silver or gold. The DGNB Certification System assesses quality comprehensively over the entire life cycle of a building in up to 50 sustainability criteria from the quality sections ecology, economy, socio-cultural aspects, technology, process work flows and site. The system is based on voluntarily outperforming the concepts and standards that are commonly applied in the construction industry.
Before Dr Lemaitre she joined DGNB in 2009 as Director System, she was Project Director at Bilfinger Berger Construction. From 2003 to 2007 she worked at the Institute for Lightweight Structures and Conceptual Design (ILEK) at the University of Stuttgart where she obtained her PHD. Dr Lemaitre studied Civil Engineering at the University of Stuttgart and started her professional career in the United States.
Q1. – What is your definition of sustainability in one sentence?
For me, sustainability means acting in a reasonable and restrained manner.
Q2. – Who is your sustainability hero and why?
There are lots of people who are inspiring. I don’t have one particular hero. Basically, anyone who dares to realise something new and innovative which makes a significant contribution towards the creation of a sustainable environment is courageous and deserves recognition.
Q3. – If you were running a powerful environmental NGO, which issue would be the focus of your first campaign?
As Managing Director of the German Sustainable Building Council – DGNB e.V., an NGO which currently has around 1,200 member organisations, the goal is naturally clear: to ensure greater sustainability in the built environment. As this is a multi-faceted topic, we are constantly working to inform the various actors and increase interest in the subject. The integration of the topic of sustainability with a focus on the built environment into company strategies is particularly dear to my heart. In my view, this is where there is great potential for reaching many people and for making a positive contribution.
Q4. – What’s the worst sustainability claim you ever heard?
“But we have always been sustainable”… This is something we unfortunately still hear far too often today. This kind of statement does not really advance the topic, implying as it does that no further effort is required or desired.
Q5. – What will get us out of this mess? Miraculous technology, tough regulation or self-flagellation?
A healthy mix of several factors seems to us to be the most promising approach. Firstly, of course, we have to point out the appropriate technologies and technical solutions which enable sustainable building. But many changes that are needed will not occur without some pressure. That is why, secondly, we are working politically to try to establish the corresponding framework conditions which reward sustainable building but regulate environmental pollution and the wasting of resources. Thirdly, we must also appeal to people’s awareness and self-interest. We must give those prepared to lead the way the feeling of doing the right thing, and convince those who hesitate of the economic, environmental and social benefits of sustainable building.
Q6. – If you could approve a law related to sustainability which would be your first?
The duty to develop a proper understanding of sustainability. Only those who are informed can make the right decisions. As there is no recipe for success in the area of “sustainability”, we are always reliant on new impulses and approaches.
Q7. – “Sustainable brand” – Admirable ambition or ad-man spin?
A laudable aspiration, if it is taken seriously and deeds follow words. Companies must be measured by their actions.
However, “green washing”, that is to say, pure marketing speak instead of actual reform, is a serious issue. Not only does it do damage to the company purporting to be sustainable in the long term. In the worst case, it damages the public perception of the concept of sustainability.
Q8. – What is your message to the Fortune 500 CEOs?
Do something and then do more! These companies in particular have a major responsibility to lead by example and provide impetus to their staff as well as to society at large. Lasting business success is increasingly based on sustainable management. And it can’t be achieved in a single process, but only by a stringent, strategic reorientation. This requires the personal dedication and courage of top management.
Q9. – What is your favourite sustainability website?
Q.10 – And… what is your dirty unsustainable secret?
That is definitely my travel behaviour. I drive far too much and use alternative meeting options, such as video conferencing, far too seldom. That is my own personal improvement objective.
Thank you, Dr Lemaitre for answering our 10 Cut the Fluff questions.
Interface is a founding member of DGNB and has a range of products that can help contribute to DGNB criteria. The leaflet explains how: Interface DGNB Guide
If you would like to find out more about the DGNB certification system, click this link to visit their website.