REDESIGNING SUSTAINABILITY: the mindset we must acquire to live a greener future

We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility and face together global challenges. One of them is redesigning sustainability and figuring out how humans can meet their needs while protecting, preserving and restoring the environment. The event organized by Green Light for Business on Tuesday 18 September focused exactly on that. 

As Robert Swan once said: "The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it". The time for redesigning cities, the food system and the garment industry for sustainability is now. Today, 55% of the world’s population lives in urban areas. According to a recent research by the UN, this proportion is expected to increase reaching 68% by 2050. In order to successfully support this urbanization we need to think in terms of sustainable development. This progress is supposed to be represented by smart cities, whose main objective is that of enhancing the administration of services such as transportation and energy in order to reduce waste and pollution. These goals will be reached by using ICT (information and communication technologies). In Europe, in the top ten smart cities we find Amsterdam, Barcelona, London, Berlin, Helsinki and on the podium and moving toward a zero-carbon future by 2025 we have Copenhagen. During our Redesigning Sustainability event we had the opportunity to listen Maria Chiara Pastore working for architect Stefano Boeri who designed the Vertical Forest here in Milan, an example of sustainable residential building that contributes to the creation of a microclimate by absorbing dust and COand producing oxygen. 

A new way of thinking is also gaining ground in the food sector with the so-called slow movement that began in 1986 when Carlo Petrini founded Slow Food to counterbalance fast food and fast life. This slow philosophy is about balance and eating at the right speed in a world where we have become accustomed to the McDonald's grab and go routine. We should focus more on the connection between who is the producer and how is the food actually produced. Food should arrive on our plates in the most environmentally responsible way possible and producers should be fairly compensated (fair trade movement). We need to remember that this slow movement is not only limited to food, but it refers to life in more general terms. As Carl HonorĂ© wrote in his best seller "In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed": “The great benefit of slowing down is reclaiming the time and tranquility to make meaningful connections- with people, with culture, with work, with nature, with our own bodies and minds”.

During the event we also talked about green finance with Andrea Cincinnati from Integrate, Davide Dal Maso from Avanzi, Giuseppe Zammarchi from Unicredit and Ylenia Yashar from CSRnatives. The speakers commented on BlackRock CEO Larry Fink’s letter to CEOs across the world. He asked them to start accounting for the effects of their firms on society and on the environment since “to prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society”. (If you are interested, you can read the whole letter here: What the founder and chief executive of the investment firm BlackRock is saying is as straightforward as it is revolutionary: if you, both public and private firms, want to receive our support, you need to actively contribute to society, meaning that you need to do something more than just making profits. If you will not do that, you will lose BlackRock. And since BlackRock is the largest investment company in the world, it’s undoubtedly a great loss.
Our guests also discussed the REDD+ approach, where REDD stands for countries’ efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. This is about a sustainable management of forests that represents an essential battle in order to mitigate climate change as trees remove COfrom the atmosphere and store it in biomass and soils. However, when they are felled, they release that stored carbon and forests become a source of greenhouse gas emissions. Today, deforestation and forest degradation are the cause of approximately 17% of carbon emissions, more than the entire global transportation sector and second only to the energy sector. 

As our guests believe, we are beginning to perceive a deep interest in sustainable management and today business people associate a green company not only to a profitable firm but also to a firm with a passion for quality in all corners of the organization.
We can also observe how this sustainable mindset is spreading by thinking about William Nordhaus and Paul Romer, the two American economists who received the Nobel Prize for their work on the relationship between climate change and technological innovation to economics. After the announcement of the winners, Professor Romer explained that “one problem today is that people think protecting the environment will be so costly and so hard that they want to ignore the problem and pretend it doesn’t exist” but he continued by stating that “humans are capable of amazing accomplishments if we set our minds to it”.

Maybe one day we will reach all those SDGs written in the 2030 agenda for sustainable development set by the UN. Or maybe that fundamental change in our mentality towards a greener future will happen sooner, even tomorrow. Day one.

written by Francesca Ernani