Websummit 2021's Final Day Highlights by Kirsten & Wilmar

By Wilmar Alex Tax & Kirsten Scholte, 04 November 2021

We - Kirsten & Wilmar - are live at the WebSummit covering its highlights for you (and ourselves of course). This is Day 3. Reuters calls WebSummit is the biggest tech conference in Europe and the Guardian calls it the Glastonbury for Geeks. This is our fourth time here.

This is our final day at the Web Summit. Day 3 was awesome. These are our notes with the highlights.

Veja - living an obsession sloooowly

Veja Founder Sebastien Kopp: "Veja wasn't built as a cult brand. It was built slowly, brick by brick. We don't want to grow fast or make more money. We want to go slow, be happy and make people happy. Our people work 40 hours a week and have individual housing. It's very different from how most sneakers are made. Most brands have sustainability as a side project, but for us it is in our DNA."

Veja pulls sustainability through everything: electricity with solar and wind, every element of the shoe is sustainable, the working conditions are good, the farmers regenerating their soil. Also: Veja pays the fair price for their cotton (much more than what most companies are willing to pay). 

Veja started more activist like, but they realised being angry doesn't work. Kopp: "Greenwashing doesn't make me angry anymore, it's their problem, I find it a bit ridiculous. We don't try to change the world, we start with ourselves. The story of Veja is to show what we've done. Not what we're going to do."

China: big tech crusher or innovation pusher?

Most people will acknowledge innovation is the big driver of progress. According to Horacio Gutierrez (Spotify) and Andy Yen (Proton) the dominant gatekeeper platforms Google and Apple of today are slowing this down. According to both, big tech is using fear of privacy and security as an alibi to stop innovation, whilst there's no reason why other companies than Apple and Google wouldn't be able to keep you safe. It just deflects from the conversation around gated communities. What's interesting is the fact both named tech companies arose out of the US and EU governments pushing Microsoft out of their monopoly. Gutierrez and Yen: "China taking on their big tech will help them innovate faster, this will give them an edge over Europe and the US. And we should follow China on this."

Fashion: from future driven to driving the future

The H&M group (H&M, COS, Weekday, Monki, Arket, Afound, & Other Stories) is on a mission to drive the future with fashion. CTO Alan Boehme mentioned 'hyperverse' instead of metaverse. Not two separate worlds, but a combination of both where they seamlessly come together. Where friction and reality blend. In this world self expressions will change. It will no longer be singular. We'll have multiple selves. Digitally and physically. 

Also, what about fashion plus? What could the fashion do for all of us? What if the fashion industry creates news streams of innovation? Think of socks that can track our blood levels and clothing that tells us when we need to put on sunscreen again. Or clothes that can make us more productive, or even tell us when we need to rest. H&M group want to dive in the white spaces that need to be filled. They want to combine fashion and data for the good. Good ideas can be emailed at whatif@hm.com and will be personally answered by Alan Boehme himself. 

We are part of nature and we forget that

Biodiversity and climate change are heavily connected. Without biodiversity we are done with. It gives us clean air, it gives us crops and beauty. And we can fix this, there is science based evidence for this.

Three things are needed:
1. go to 100% renewable energy
2. protect and restore 50% of our ocean and lands
3. elimination of toxic agriculture, shift to regenerative agriculture (check out Veja piece ☝️)
[Justin Winters - co-founder at One Earth]

Capitalism as a force for good

A company which is using capitalism to drive a better world is Engine No. 1 — an impact investment group purpose-built to create long-term value by harnessing the power of capitalism. They believe a company’s performance is greatly enhanced by the investments it makes in its employees, customers, communities, and the environment. And they delivered by for example claiming 3 board members at ExxonMobil in 2021. Read about it here.
[Michael O'Leary MD Engine No. 1]

Web Summit 2021. That's a wrap with this quote by Sartre [quoted by Veja Founder Sebastien Kopp]:

"You are what you do, you're not what you say you do."