Bocconi University and the Green Economy Observatory

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The project of the Milan University is based on two working groups to give new strength to future circular economy.

A new chapter of Recycling Point’s focus on GEO, the Green Economy Observatory by the Bocconi University of Milan. Edoado Croci and Fabio Iraldo, the coordinators of the Policy group and Management group of the Observatory, explain how this initiative was born and how it works.

What inspired the Bocconi University to give life to an observatory on green economy?

The Observatory was born from the solid know-how base of IEFE Bocconi in the field of research-action and proposals in support of the evolution of policy scenarios and company management strategies. It gathers and merges the experience of previous distinct observatories, and aims at creating an opportunity for dialogue, confrontation and collaboration on green economy themes among institutions, enterprises and the world of research. This Observatory is a dynamic research and study platform that interprets the Green Economy trends under two main perspectives: Policy and Management. Each of these makes the object of two distinct but integrated working groups that strictly cooperate and aim at similar targets.

The Observatory (www.geo.uniboccini.it) counts on the participation of 40 members and is sponsored by the Ministry of Environment and Protection of the Territory and of the Sea, by the European Commission-Milan branch, by Rete Cartesio and by Coordinamento Agende 21 Locali Italiane.

What does the Observatory do?

The main activities of the Observatory are intense study and research on different research branches that are inspired by the suggestions of its participants. One of the founding principles of GEO is also the exchange and confrontation with different organizations: GEO aims at creating an opportunity for dialogue, confrontation and cooperation on green economy themes among institutions, enterprises and the world of research.

As said, the Observatory consists of two different but integrated working groups: the research activities are developed together, but always maintain a different focus according to the specific working group they belong to. Each working group pursues specific goals, in close collaboration with the other group’s goals and activities.

Through the sharing of research themes, the variety of topics considered, and both research and analysis perspectives (Policy and Management), GEO offers concrete occasions for inspiration, development and exchange for all green economy actors.

Research activities follow different paths, according to which working method best suits the theme concerned: I&I – Inform and Innovate studies the new international trends and new European policies through specific surveys, so as to keep participants always up to date and to give visibility to the most innovative policies, tools and management approaches; B&B – Brainstorm and Benchmark provides focus on specific topics chosen by the participants and promotes the exchange of knowledge to develop new tools and more effective operational solutions, as well as to strengthen the existing know-how through the sharing of experience; T&T – Test and Train pursues the experimental application of methods, policy and management tools through application tests, guided simulations, case studies, support and assistance of the participants, with research and innovation activities; and finally D&D – Debate and Develop provides a space for dialogue and confrontation among all participants, to develop innovative proposals, define positioning documents and promote the development and improvement of policies and tools that are deemed the most suitable to sustain enterprises and industries in a Green Economy perspective.

You organized your work in two distinct groups, Policy and Management. Institutions on the one hand, enterprises on the other hand: can there be communication between these two worlds?

National, regional and local institutions have been paying increasingly more attention to sustainability and green growth goals in their agendas, through various tools such as norms, economic measures and voluntary actions. On the other hand, enterprises interested in the opportunities connected with the Green Economy need to refine their competitiveness strategies aimed at Sustainable Production and Consumption, as defined by the European Commission, making the most effective use of tools, methods and operational approaches available and in constant growth.

This is the context in which the Observatory operates: it allows these two worlds to meet and actively dialogue, cooperating and integrating their needs and interests in an open and collaborative confrontation enabled by the GEO platform. Today more than ever, a proactive cooperation of these separate worlds is essential, and the Observatory offers institutions and enterprises a unique occasion for debate.

GEO considers it essential to keep its participants always up to date with the novelties in the environmental field at a national and international level. It is often this constant updating activity that provides the main inspiration for debate and confrontation between these two worlds on the most recent and urging issues. These days, for example, the meetings of the Observatory are focused on the most recent normative innovations.

An example is the Green Act, which is still being defined and is expected to contain important indications concerning the application of Circular Economy principles. One of its main axes should be environmental fiscal benefits, that is the granting of incentives to green economy operators. Another key document currently under discussion at GEO is the Law 221 of December 28th 2015, the so-called Environmental Bill (“Collegato ambientale”) attached to the 2014 stability law. The bill, published on the governmental Gazette on January 18th, contains “dispositions on environmental matters aimed at promoting green economy measures and limiting the excessive use of natural resources” and introduces measures concerning nature preservation, sustainable development, environmental assessments, energy, green procurement, waste management, reclamation, protection of soils and water resources. A further example is the new, ambitious package of Circular Economy measures issued on December 2nd 2015, which was adopted by the European commission to strengthen competitiveness, create employment opportunities and generate sustainable growth. And last but not least, a specific meeting was held on the legacy of the recent COP21 climate conference that took place in Paris between November 30th and December 11th with the ambitious goal of finding a binding agreement for all participating countries to limit the increase of the average global temperature to a maximum level of 2°C by the end of this century.

What are the goals of the Policy working group? Who does it address?

The Policy working group aims at analyzing policies and institutional approaches for the development of the Green Economy and defining planning, assessment and decision-making tools.

The group interprets the trends of evolution in economy, technology and marketing scenarios, in order to provide updated information and drive the Green Economy policies by forecasting the possible development of European and international normative frameworks and assessing its consequences on the Italian context. Moreover, analyzing economic growth indicators and measurement methods, and considering the environmental resources and performances, it is possible to assess the effectiveness of the tools designed to support planning and promoting their use in specific contexts.

Another important goal is evaluating the economic-competitive environmental performances of different national Green production chains, to analyze the efficiency increase deriving from innovation in the environmental field. Furthermore, it is important to identify the most effective information and participation tools for what concerns environmental policy making processes, and to assess the possible effectiveness of economic instruments (taxes, tariffs, incentives, transferable permits) to increase the effectiveness of the markets.

With these points as main goals, the Policy working group addresses subjects such as industries, service providers, business associations, consortia, consultancy firms, banks, credit institutes, insurance companies, Regions, Provinces, Municipalities and other administrative bodies, environmental agencies and voluntary certification and regulation authorities.

How can the Management working group help enterprises?

The goal of the Management working group is to analyze business strategies and in particular the management and product aspects of the Green Economy. To this end, the group develops approaches, methods and tools aimed at concretely supporting enterprises in facing the challenges and opportunities of the Green Economy, by studying key issues under different perspectives, according to different business strategies and functions.

During the first two years of the life of GEO, the Management working group developed and studied in depth the issues that were identified as being the most urgent for the companies participating in the Observatory and were defined in the shared research agenda approved at the beginning of the first annual activity cycle.

In particular, the work of this group focused on the following themes: evolution of the environmental footprint and the Environmental Footprint method of the European Commission; greenwashing risk and a correct environmental communication on products; supply chain management in a sustainable perspective; environment management systems and the ISO 14001 frontier; environmental costs and benefits of corporate accounting; environmental accounting, assessment of emissions and ecosystem services; circular economy and resource efficiency, “ecocrimes” and business risk management.

The Management working group also provides companies with “on site” support, through the experimental application of management methods and tools presented and analyzed during the group’s meetings, supporting experimentation and the implementation of new applicative tests, offering help with guided simulations, realizing case studies, and training the participants on specific topics.

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