A Viewpoint for the Future Markets Consultation

As part of the Future Markets Consultation, individuals and organizations were invited to submit a viewpoint on any topic that is of relevance for creating a more just and sustainable market economy in Europe. This is a viewpoint submitted by Katinka Abbenbroek and Annemieke Nijhof on behalf of the Dutch Springtij Forum.

What follows is part of a manifesto that was published after the Springtij Forum on September 28th, 2020. The full version of the manifesto can be found on: www.springtij.nu

The Netherlands is the best country in the world to grow up in as a child. That is something to be proud of and seems like a guarantee for a bright future for our country. But how long can we still preserve that pleasant and healthy living environment for future generations?

As a country we have become more financially prosperous, but that has come at expense of our ecological well-being; worldwide biodiversity is declining at an alarming rate, the soil is becoming depleted, summers are getting warmer and water is becoming scarce even in the Netherlands. All of that will affect the children be born here over the next decades. They will experience how their prosperity and well-being are directly affected by to the shifting coastline, failing ecosystems and the erratic climate.

It is more important than ever to provide our country with a smart, just and sustainable economy. That is not utopian or futuristic, but simply what “economy” originally means: taking care of our home, the place where we live. So that we will be able to pass it on to the next generation in good condition. Too long the economy has been focused on just raising money and not on creating values which nurture society and keep it liveable.

The next ten years are crucial to prevent our well-being from being damaged irreparably in the future. That is why the upcoming elections in the Netherlands are all-determining. If there is one moment when we can really change, it is now. Springtij calls the coming national government to protect our well-being with the same vigor as it protects our health during the corona crisis. The air we breathe, the insects that fertilize our crops, the fertility of our farmland, the water that characterizes our country and a fair distribution of opportunities are crucial to this.

With this manifesto, Springtij wants to give a significant push to the shift towards a future-proof Netherlands. It is a political manifesto that is apolitical; we indicate ideas that transcend party political positions. Ideas and solutions that do not divide our society but strengthen it.

It is not without reason that the theme of Springtij this year is “The power of our voice”. We want to show what the Dutch consider important, so that the next national government will also address these themes and make them important. But we also realize that politics is not just about politicians. We are all “politics” and thus all have a role in shaping our living environment.

The power of our voice is not limited to elections. We can use her every day. With our voice we ask politicians to give direction in a bold and sustainable way, and where necessary govern with conviction and directing. With that same voice, we also offer our help to governors and directors, we are happy to think along and discuss to solve the complex and burdened problems of the coming years. In this way we can avoid social unrest around important decisions. This does require a richer interpretation of the term ‘citizen participation’: administrators not only ask what people think of plans that have already been prepared, but ask them to think about the process, to discuss the bottlenecks and to participate in deciding on the solutions. Ownership prevents polarization and creates support for the transition that is so desperately needed.

Politics must balance decisiveness and direction on the one hand and give space to dialogue and cooperation on the other hand. This manifesto is a well-considered offer. It wants to show that there are many concerned people with constructive and brave solutions who are eager to make the Netherlands future-proof. We outline a number of beckoning perspectives that show how the Netherlands in the future might look like and concrete ways how to get there. We hope that this manifesto will serve as a springboard, so that the Netherlands remain the most beautiful country to raise our children.

Beckoning perspectives and system changes

The Springtij manifesto is built around four “environments”:

  • living & working environment,
  • agricultural & natural environment,
  • industrial environment, and
  • great waters & sea.

For each of these environments we sketch a beckoning perspective. We  translate this perspective into steps over the next 10 years necessary to get there and measures that a new cabinet can work out and to carry out. For these perspectives and steps, please view the full version of the Springtij Manifesto.

The changes described for the environments require a number of economic and social changes. These changes shape the circular economy of a future-proof society; they connect the above themes and make them viable. Below we elaborate on this.

System changes in the financial economic system


In the future, the economic and financial system will be structured in such a way that what we do contributes to the well-being of people, animals and nature. We measure the strength of the country on the basis of broad prosperity, not only on economic growth, but also on the ecological and social welfare. We realize that financial and fiscal incentives often do not serve broad prosperity for all humans. Virgin raw materials do no longer have a lower price than recycled or reused raw materials. Repair of broken items has become cheaper than throwing away or buying new, because from now on the costs of environmental and social impacts are included in the price of products. The tax system has been greened, the cost of labor has been reduced and the cost of virgin raw materials and energy has been increased. Long-term interests and interests elsewhere affect our daily choices because the true price of daily products is being calculated, communicated and paid. Money is sent in the right direction: into society.

Measures up to 2030
What we put on the agenda:

  • Tax shift – a burden shift: the burdens are shifted from taxes on labor (repair, health care, education, etc.) to taxes on the use of (virgin) raw materials, pollution and damage to biodiversity. Societal support arises as such a shift of burden is fair, e.g. by compensation of households with a lower income. There are several tax instruments which can be used in a balanced mix.
  • True prices for a future-proof economic system: the government uses and stimulates “true prices”, which include social and environmental costs, such as greenhouse gases and low wages. She uses it in monitoring, analysis, reporting, purchasing, financial and tax incentives, legislation and regulations and in sector agreements. Examples are CO2 tax, government purchasing and tenders based on true prices and reduction of VAT on products which contribute to society. As a driving force, she supports SMEs with the application of True Pricing in their value chains. The national government obliges (semi-) public institutions and companies such as infrastructure managers to publish annual social reports. Finally, the government is committed to propagating a European True Price Standard.
  • Green recovery: Economic recovery measures and public money steer the economy during and after corona to consistently manage both recovery (jobs, retraining) and greening. Dutch stimulus measures must be closely related to the investment agenda of the Green Deal. Important measures are to increase sustainable public investment, boosting sustainable buildings (including tax incentives and subsidies), higher taxes for large polluters and investments in the implementation of climate agreements.

Citizens, companies and politicians make decisions together


We improve sustainability together. In the future, the relationship between citizens, companies and administrators is reassessed, so that they stand side by side as partners, trust each other, do what they are good at and work together in reciprocity. The Netherlands is a deliberative democracy, an enhanced and enriched version of the current parliamentary democracy. There is a good balance between decisive direction with regard to the big questions and more active usage of knowledge, wisdom and energy of society. Citizens help politicians to make complex decisions through citizens’ councils. Complex decision-making that used to divide society now works binding because it is based on dialogue and gives responsibility to citizens. People no longer feel trapped in large systems of government and the market, but they get control themselves through social initiative and local customization. Employers and employees have entered into a new alliance with a shared responsible for the vitality of the company and the employees and the earth, as the foundation of our well-being. Work and cooperation play a key role in the stability of society. With a new social contract solidarity between generations is increased and the gap between rich and poor is reduced by creating chances.

Measures up to 2030
What we put on the agenda:

  • Don’t polarize but connect: the social polarization that occurs around sustainability issues can be reduced by putting shared desires and goals first, to take scientific insights as a guideline and to include “ordinary” citizens in decision making.
  • Citizens’ Council: Citizens’ councils are being organized, both at local and national level, on climate, biodiversity and energy transition. The citizen councils are being independently organized, they are transparent (so that even people who do not participate, feel represented) and are informed by
    experts, advisory councils and planning offices.
  • Between market and government: the “commons” society is experiencing strong growth. We estimate that in our country, about a million people are already now involved in all kinds of collectives, cooperatives and social enterprises related to, among other things, food, energy, health care and mobility. We have thus passed the pioneering phase. A new national government supports further dissemination of these initiatives.
  • Inclusive transition: we want everyone to be able to come along and create opportunities. If people get into problems due to the necessary changes, we will solve it together. Examples are people who lose their jobs in the fossil industry or as a farmer, and people who will be faced with high costs by making their homes more sustainable.

Political leadership, through connection, direction & perspective

Everything in this manifesto requires strong leadership, in all places and positions in the society. The (political) leadership gives direction to a society with regard to social added value. Where everyone has a place in an open, democratic society. The leaders do not avoid the sacred cows, they choose innovation and public interest. Leaders don’t focus on their own ego, but for the present assignment. They trust others and themselves to realize the assignment together. Leadership requires meekness in seeing and actively listening to the views and interests of the other and to taking them seriously. Space arises for what you did not see, did not know or did not want before.
Polarities and contradictions will always be there, that’s what makes an organization and society sharp. Leaders see these contradictions and opt for a connecting issue from the center. They create frameworks and conditions for cooperation with trust and transparency. In this way, leaders can connect so that the sustainability challenges become from all of us.