Green Economy, sustainable future at Bocconi University

Questo post è disponibile anche in: Italian

The Milan University, an Italian flagship for entrepreneurial training, bets on circular economy.

Entrepreneurship and respect for the environment? This union is not only possible, it is inevitable, in a world that is increasingly moving towards the circular economy. Now more than ever, it is essential to provide the future ruling class with an adequate training.

Starting from this consideration, in early 2014 the Bocconi University of Milan, the Italian temple of economic education, created GEO, the Green Economy Observatory, at IEFE – Università Bocconi. The initiative was presented during a conference entitled “One year after Rio+20 – Relaunching growth through the Green Economy” which took place on September 16th 2013 with the participation of the Minister of Labor, the Minister of the Environment and the dean of the Bocconi University.

Recycling Point interviewed Edoardo Croci and Fabio Iraldo, the coordinators of the Green Economy Observatory research team.

Your university is strongly business oriented: how much are entrepreneurs actually interested in the green economy? Did this sector gain economic importance, in addition to its obvious environmental value?

According to Ocse and Eurostat data, 27.5% of all Italian enterprises are Core Green, meaning that they produce goods and/or services with a high environmental value. And there is an even more significant fact: 14.5% of all Italian enterprises, although not producing high-impact green goods or services, are now gradually steering their management policies in an environmental friendly direction, with different actions and initiatives, adopting high environmental standards in both the design and the manufacturing of their products. In particular the industrial sector, which accounts for about 26% of the above mentioned percentage, proves how much the environmental effort of Italian enterprises is growing.

Considering both Core Green enterprises and non-Core Green enterprises with green management models, as many as 42% of the total of Italian enterprises have chosen the direction of the Green Economy.

So to answer your question, yes, this sector is growing quite fast, which means that its economic importance is growing too. A relevant factor, in this case, is the economic crisis of the last few years, which caused a strong decrease of the number of enterprises and a strict selection among the enterprises that made it through: in order to maintain their competitiveness, they were forced to rethink their management models. And one of the main drivers of this innovation aimed at a better quality was the environmental factor, with the search for high-quality ecological manufacturing systems, and environmentally advanced production and management models. For example, between 2007 and 2014 the number of enterprises registered with EMAS increased by 74%. In addition to this, the choices, policies, measures and investments made played an important role to mitigate climate change.

Italian entrepreneurs really started on a new path, transforming their way of producing, selling and providing supplies. But this is just the beginning, because there are still heavy barriers that obstruct a full transition to new production and consumption models. For example, many highly polluting enterprises have decided not to invest in innovation, which allows them to have low production costs, low sales prices and therefore high competitiveness.

Everybody is talking about green economy, but the problem is how to actually do it. What does an entrepreneur need to operate in this sector? Are Italian entrepreneurs ready for this or do you see the need for a specific training?

Sustainability and transition towards the green economy in all its forms are global challenges that surely demand great efforts and great changes on all levels, from institutions and enterprises down to single citizens and the civil society. Enterprises, both industries and service providers, are and have to be the main actors of this change: they need to reconsider their business models as well as their social role.

This is not a distinct and independent sector like many others. It is essential for entrepreneurs to identify their own green strategy to integrate in their daily operations and business model. Choosing the path of the green economy requires a strong will and ethical and environmental consciousness on the part of entrepreneurs.

We are surely observing a higher environmental awareness at national level: Italian entrepreneurs seem ready or at least willing to operate in this direction, adopting new green management models.

Starting from this base, it is essential to provide a good training to entrepreneurs and their teams, so that they can always be prepared and up to date with regulations as well as with the many possible tools and approaches. The different potentials of these tools offer benefits not only for the environment, but also for the enterprises’ competitiveness, market performance and consumer base.

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