MONTREAL – Mobility is essential to our way of living, but it’s quickly running out of fuel.
“Sustainability, basically everybody now agrees, is a must,” says Nicholas Beaumont, director of the Movin’On Summit by Michelin. “You cannot eat twice the Earth’s resources every year. It has got to end.”
The big question is how do you make mobility sustainable and still ensure economy growth? The answers may emerge from this 3-day global summit on sustainable mobility that serves as an incubator for ideas, insight and projects to address this critical issue.
“We’re seeing that, compared to five years ago, the transparency is better,” says Beaumont. “It’s not perfect. We are, after all, human beings. But at least people are starting to understand each other. There are questions on the table that were not there before. What’s happening is a major revolution.”
This is the second year for Movin’On, which was previously known as the Michelin Challenge Bibendum. That world summit on sustainable mobility had been held 13 times at various venues over the past 20 years before coming to Montreal a year ago under the new name and concept. Movin’On 2017 drew more than 4,000 participants from 31 countries over its 3-day run to discuss and share their solutions to the major challenges of future mobility.
Beaumont, who is also Michelin’s senior vice-president of sustainable development and mobility, says the event gathers together people “to innovate, to construct, to look from ambition to action.”
He says finding solutions is extremely important for the future of transport, the future of humanity and the future of industries because mobility is essential. “It provides access to culture, access to health, access to everything, but today, transport mobility is not sustainable.
“Sustainable means it needs to be green for the environment, but you know it’s not, with its CO2 emissions and pollution. It needs to be safe and you know it’s not because there are more than 1.3 million killed in transport accidents each year. It’s not accessible to everyone and it’s not efficient.
“If you look at the definition, we are not there. And we are all in the mobility sector and we know it’s needed and we know that today it’s not where it should be.”
Beaumont says it’s very important that all the key players move forward and push together, working together – not individually. “That’s why we created this event. It’s so constructive.”
This year, the summit had 150 partners involved – an increase of at least 20% over last year – and more than 60 nationalities represented, which is up about 35% from a year ago. These increases reflect the fact that the value of the Movin’On summit as an incubator for ideas and the implementation of ideas is being recognized globally. Beaumont says Michelin created the event because there was nothing equivalent that existed. “If there had been something equivalent, we would not have created this, we would have been part of it and there would be no need. Today, it seems that it fills a need, and that’s good.”
There were also representatives from more than 25 cities present this year and more than 180 officials from different governments. About a dozen automakers were directly involved, as well. However, Beaumont says partners can’t just show up with a chequebook and buy their way in – they need to bring either expertise, a vision, a product or a service.
“What’s important is we need and only have companies of people that matter. You come because either you have expertise, or you have a person in your organization who is known and recognized, or you are particularly strong in one field, or you have something that could be a very good benchmark that you could share, because that’s the idea.
“It’s not like an auto show where if we sell more booths we are more happy. It’s the same regarding the number of people – our goal is not to have 15,000 people because then you don’t achieve anything. There’s a limit to it. The idea is that this is a gathering of people who can discuss and have a role in moving toward sustainable mobility and you have other people who are interested, who want to hear what those ideas are and how to implement them.”
Sustainability can be profitable
Beaumont says many people think that if something is sustainable, it doesn’t make a profit. However, that notion is changing as new business models are being implemented. “For example, 10 years ago Michelin was selling tires to the airlines. Now we don’t sell tires anymore. We are paid for lending them tires. The fact that we changed the business model changes the perception completely. If you sell tires, the more tires you sell the happier you are, but if you’re paid for lending, the more the tire lasts the happier you are because you make more money with a single cheque. In some cases, the changes in the business model certainly make sustainability the key to profitability.
“It’s the same for car manufacturers. For example, people are saying consumers aren’t buying cars, so the car manufacturers are going to sell fewer cars. But the question is not how many cars you can make, but how do you grow in terms of market share? Are you still able to pay your employees, are you still able to pay your shareholders, what good are you doing for society in general? So, you can imagine a business model of pay-for-service. In that case, the longer the car lasts the more money the car manufacturer makes. I think all these things are starting to change.
“We also have some financing agencies (at this year’s event.) There are some banks that are present because financing of sustainability is also extremely important. How will you do it?
“People are starting to understand that for survival a company needs to make profits one way or another. They’re starting to understand that without companies there are no services, no products; starting to understand that companies are evolving in the sense that they go beyond only making a profit but are also concerned about sustainability as a whole, because we have no choice. We are all citizens of this world.”
Not a Michelin event
What is somewhat unique about this event is that although Michelin has been over the years the driving force behind the summit, Beaumont says it’s not a Michelin event in the sense that you don’t see Michelin signage plastered everywhere. The company is simply facilitating the event.
“It’s not about sponsorship,” Beaumont explains. “Michelin has been involved in sustainable mobility for more than 100 years, basically. In 1998, we created the Michelin Challenge Bibendum, which was the first event that gathered together the stakeholders, the people interested in moving forward toward sustainable mobility. We did this from 1998 to 2014.”
The Challenge Bibendum was held every two or three years, but as its name suggested, it was an event from Michelin, for Michelin in a way, even though other people were involved.
“In 2015 we changed completely. We decided to change the name and concept. That’s why we now call it the Movin’On Summit by Michelin – the ‘by Michelin’ is very small and I’m convinced in one or two years the ‘by Michelin’ is going to disappear completely.” He adds that although the event as the momentum to perhaps go on without Michelin, “we would still be a partner in terms of ethics and content.”
Michelin currently pays for Beaumont to head the event, but he says it’s possible that in two years or so the director could be paid by a consortium of all the entities involved with the summit.
“Michelin, as a company, is proud of this event, so that’s why there is a Michelin booth here, but it is exactly like any other booth you will find in the venue. Michelin presents its new products, its new initiatives, its new vision.” The company has two separate entities here –as a trust partner of transport and mobility, gathering people together; and as a commercial vendor with its booth.
Beaumont says his company’s involvement is not simply a case of putting the Michelin name on something, but to actually create change. “We want things to change because our industry, the transport domain, has got to change. It’s a question of survival for all the actors of the transport industry in general, for the cities and the companies. Either you stop mobility, but then you have no access to education, to health care, etc., or you say how do you manage to move toward sustained mobility? We cannot do it alone; other companies can’t do it alone.”
Individuals, companies, governments ... together
To find the answers, however, people/companies/governments need to be put together to cultivate very simple solutions on how to move forward. “Today, there are initiatives everywhere, but human beings tend to work alone in silos, so if we can help even a little bit to get them out of those silos and have more interaction, we will have done something good.”
Although the summit is now an annual event, shifting from being held every two or three years, Beaumont says once a year is still not enough. “That’s why we have created what is called the open lab, the Movin’On Lab. It’s a think-and-do tank of companies with academics and lead NGOs (non-government organizations) working on communities of interest to tackle a particular issue. You’ve got companies interested in it, cities interested in it, working on a real output that can be a pilot, a project, a prototype. The idea is that the Movin’On ecosystem will be seven days a week, 365 days a year. The yearly summit event will be the moment when all these communities of interest gather together to exchange and converge ideas. That’s the vision we have behind it.”
This year, more than 3,500 were on site during the peak period on opening day, compared to a year ago, when about 2,600 were at the venue. (Total attendance over this year’s 3-day run was not yet available) Although the increase in attendance is a positive sign for the organizers, Beaumont says what’s really important is they were all people who can make things change. As for concrete action to make mobility more sustainable, Beaumont says there have been announcements made at this event that started with discussions in Montreal a year ago. As well, there are some prototypes here that are a result of ideas raised at previous Challenge Bibendums. As a concrete example, Beaumont points to last year’s event, when the mayor of Montreal arrived at the venue in a semi-autonomous vehicle whose development was initiated at a previous Challenge Bibendum.
Seeing movement year to year
“You see things moving,” he says, “but even doing a prototype takes a few years. These things take time, but at least in future years if we are able to say okay, these people met, these cities met, these companies met during Movin’On and they started working on this and it became a prototype, it became a methodology, it was applied in this way and the Movin’On ecosystem, with the Movin’On Labs and Movin’On event has become a place that enables things to happen, to become concrete. That’s our vision, that’s our goal.”
To facilitate such change, the summit offers workshops and panel discussions featuring leading experts in various fields related to mobility. One of the keys to the success of the discussions and interaction is that all the people participating on the stages have all met before – and not just the prior to the event.
“They get to know each other, so they are comfortable enough in order that they can be transparent enough with each other to move things forward. This is not a trade show. We want people not necessarily agreeing, but trying to move things forward, to move from what we want to do, to move from ambition to action.
“Real issues brought to the table”
“In the end, we want real issues to be brought to the table. We try to have people on the panel that are not necessarily going to agree – if everybody agrees on the same thing, then there’s no panel. We try to organize the panels in a way that either they complement each other, or they bring a different point of view, a different value.
“The world is changing, and I think the Movin’On labs and the Movin’On event will help. With the exchange of business models, the way the different actors and stakeholders interact together here, I think we will have achieved something.”
Planning for next year’s event, which will be held June 4-6 again in Montreal, starts immediately. After a debriefing session, Beaumont said his group will look at the themes they want to stress in 2019 and then in July-August they will contact all the partners to see if they’re onboard again. Planning for the first program will be done in December-January. Then, based on it, specific details for the workshops will begin.
“As long as people are happy to come and really get something of it, we are moving in the right direction.”