The United Nations 2030 Agenda contemplates 17 sustainable development goals ranging from clean and affordable energy to gender equality, from fair industrialisation to responsible consumption and production, from combating climate change to sustainable cities and communities. Transforming our world, so radically altered by the pandemic, is an ethical and economic imperative that can no longer be ignored or underestimated. We can only change course by venturing off the beaten path, by challenging the very structure of our thinking, the way we look at problems and their solutions. The health emergency triggered by COVID-19 has pulled back the curtain on an inadequate capitalist economic model, affording us a rare and precious opportunity to start afresh. Just where should we start? First and foremost, this (reasoned!) step towards tomorrow takes creativity, lateral thinking and courage. Essential ingredients that everyone, governments, businesses and citizens, must embrace to take concrete action and reshape our world.
This urgency fuelled The Bravery and The (Sustainable) City, a PHYD talk by The Bravery Store and ELIS on 19 March during the Milano Digital Week, with The Bravery Store founder Annalisa Galardi, Paola Miglio, communications expert and collaborator of the Milan-based consultancy, and Luciano De Propris, environmental engineer and head of the Open Innovation and Sustainability division of the ELIS Consortium. The event revolved around the sustainable city or, as De Propris calls it, the resilient city, a place of choice for transformations and a primary ground for experimentation and digital innovation. To better understand how this change could be brought about in the present, the talk described three main pillars on which this renewal is based, analysing national and international case studies, examples of virtuous companies that chose to buck the profit motive in favour of embarking on a very different mission. In the words of the Global Web Index
It's clear that addressing sustainability is no longer a nice-to-have, but a must-have, for any brand looking to safeguard their business and meet consumers' expectations
Circular economy, use versus possession. A society that consumes frenetically is a society that wastes uncontrollably. This is why many brands, especially in the fashion industry, have opted to harness the sustainable surge. Examples include Patagonia, which as early as 2012 invited its customers not to buy their garments, but to use them longer or even swap them with other consumers, and Adolfo Dominguez, which launched two highly successful social campaigns in 2019 and 2020 (boosting its online sales turnover by 70%), driven by two high-impact slogans: "Sustainability is buying a dress that lasts you 10 years" and "Think, then buy". Paola Miglio's examples include not only fashion, but also startups that have made circular and sharing economies their core business, such as the US-based Tulu, which aims to change the way people in big cities use and consume household products such as hoovers or printers, making them available on demand, thus reducing waste and optimising their use.
Co-creation or eco co-design. Luciano De Propris talks about this second pillar, reporting on the positive experience of the ELIS Consortium and the Green Hub sustainable mobility project, fruit of the partnership between companies with different know-how and specialisations, such as Ferrovie dello Stato, Sirti and the Verde 21 startup. An example of Italian excellence and virtuous collaboration to create resilient cities and improve the lives of the people who live in them. There will be a growing need in the future to rely on collective intelligence, on a shared, communal multi-stakeholder design.
Carbon footprint or environmental impact. The third pillar concerns checking the emissions generated by the production process and the resulting purchasing and consumption behaviours. Symbola data for 2019 show that 345,000 Italian companies are investing in the so-called green economy, while 207,000 have already invested in sustainability and efficiency, with a positive impact on business, especially in exports. And so many organisations have even opted to shoulder the responsibility of reducing the harmful effects of their production cycle on the environment. Unilever, for one, pledged to become carbon neutral by 2039, and Coca Cola has committed to a 25% reduction in emissions by 2025. We're also seeing an increasing number of companies striving to create responsible purchasing choices, thereby encouraging their consumers to adopt more sustainable and ethical behaviours.
In building an inclusive, fair and environmentally and people-friendly future, to quote Tom Szaky, CEO of TerraCycle, "everyone should have a chance to play".
To learn more and listen to the entire talk, simply sign up on the PHYD website.