Morning Future ROSSELLA SOBRERO OK
Inspiring Books 23 January Jan 2019 0733 23 January 2019

Sustainability in ten words

An anthology of key-words from the latest essay by Rossella Sobrero, an expert in social communication and contributor of the Salone of Csr of Milan: “we’re in the middle of an extraordinary evolution.” This is why we need a new vocabulary.

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The new social responsibility in ten words. Starting from those that provide the title (“Sustainability, Competitiveness, Communication”) for the latest work for Egea curated by Rossella Sobrero, president and cofounder of Koinètica, the agency that in charge of organizing the Salone della Csr of Milan, and professor of Social Communications for the Università degli Studi di Milano and Non Conventional Marketing at the Università Cattolica di Milano.

In just a few years, sustainability has made great steps ahead and has entered the political agenda as well as taken its place in the strategy of many organizations. There are multiple transformations in progress: from change in language to changes in lifestyle and consumption; from the factors that influence the market to laws and regulations that redraw the rules of the game. “But what contribution does a sustainable approach in terms of competitiveness offer? And, above all, how should it be communicated to be really effective?” This is the question Sobrero opens with. An initial answer to these questions is found in the ten key words that define the perimeter “of the extraordinary evolution we are experiencing!”

  1. Listening: it’s the first step to building a relationship with the stakeholders. To listen is to understand their needs, their interests, and their expectations: putting ourselves in a position to listen is paramount to create trust. The exchange with stakeholders becomes a priority to understand –and if possible intercept- the changes at hand.
  2. Sharing: While listening constitutes the first step, sharing is the second. A necessary one for an organization that wants to grow in time. The meaning of this word, often associated with sharing economy, refers to processes and initiatives that aim to reach a common goal, for example improving the sustainability of an area.
  3. Engagement: moving on from sharing to involvement, or better, engagement. The word, most often used in its English form, is often associated with other words. For example, stakeholder engagement, employee engagement, civic engagement and more. We talk about stakeholder engagement when discussing the ability to involve various stakeholders in a positive and lasting relationship. If talking of the engagement of coworkers we use the expression employee engagement, while civic engagement indicates participation in a community.
  4. Impact: the word "impact" is used in different areas and can have different meanings. It is used to define the set of environmental effects generated by an action, an event, a behavior or an activity. However, we talk of "social impact" when referring to the influence that a social actor is able to generate in the context in which it operates. To measure and evaluate the impact, scientific, economic and relational indicators are needed.
  5. Materiality: the meaning of this word is little known except among those dealing with social budgets. It is a process to identify the most important issues on which the organization is called to focus attention and effort. The materiality matrix identifies the relevant areas, which are the aspects that can generate significant economic, social and environmental impacts on the organization's activities, or are perceived as relevant by the stakeholders.
  6. Resilience: the word "resilience" takes on a different meaning depending on the area in which it is used. In the scientific field, it defines the physical capacity of the materials to resist shocks, keeping their original shape. It is often also used, however, to define the psychological ability to overcome adversities in life and gain strength from them. We talk, for example, of resilient communities when describing the ability to regenerate the balance of an ecosystem after a shock that may be natural or manmade.
  7. Responsibility: the most focused definition of this term is awareness of the consequences of one's own behavior and of one's way of acting. When we talk about sustainability, the term takes on an even more important meaning because it emphasizes the attention that people and organizations must put in their daily actions thinking about the consequences that can be generated by their work. Responsibility is often determined by one’s cultural background, world vision, values that define people and organizations.
  8. Respect: even if this word can have many meanings, in this case we mean the ability to accept, and discuss ideas, proposals, considerations that come from other subjects. For example, when we talk about stakeholders in an organization, respect is the ability to listen to their needs and is the basis of any path that has as its goal the engagement of stakeholders.
  9. Traceability: in texts on sustainability issues, we often come across the term traceability, in particular when referring to the production chain. With this word we define the process aimed at keeping track of all the input elements that act to create, modify or transform a product. Transparency, collaboration, sharing are the basis of a system that can guarantee the traceability of any product.
  10. Transparency: if traceability is one of the tools to improve control of the supply chain, transparency is one of the objectives that all organizations should strive for. Transparency in relations with stakeholders becomes one of the assets to obtain the cooperation of stakeholders and positive returns from the market.

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