«Sustainable development means a sustainable future for us all»
In a spirit of constructive cooperation and with the aim of shaping a sustainable future for all, representatives of the business world, the State and civil society accepted SEV’s invitation to attend the event organised on Tuesday, November 11th 2008 at the Zappeion’s Aigli to mark the «maiden outing» of SEV’s Business Council for Sustainable Development.
The event was addressed on behalf of the State by the Minister for the Environment, Mr. Georgios Souflias and by the Greenpeace Fundraising Communications Director, Mrs Sonia Ruiz on behalf of the Non-governmental Organisations. The aims and direction of this new initiative were described by the President of SEV, Mr. Dimitris Daskalopoulos and Mr. Efthymios Vidalis, President of the «SEV Council for Sustainable Development. The President of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Mr. Björn Stigson and the Greek EU Environment Commissioner, Mr. Stavros Dimas, sent video greetings.
During the event, SEV presented the aims, actions and direction of the new body it has set up towards Sustainable Development, which will comprise the Greek section of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s (WBCSD) regional network. The new «SEV Council for Sustainable Development» will be composed of companies which are willing and able to play a leading role amongst SEV’s members in endeavouring to raise awareness amongst the business community, stakeholders and broader society about essential Sustainable Development issues.
The new «SEV Council for Sustainable Development» comprises 31 companies as founding members, mainly from industry and processing, which have committed to gradually implement and disseminate a 10 principle Code for Sustainable Development.
Opening the event, the President of SEV, Mr. Dimitris Daskalopoulos, pointed out that the objectives of Sustainable Development are more than merely topical; they essentially point the way out of the current crisis, clearly prescribing a dynamic, society-focused and environmentally friendly economy.
At this point, the President of SEV stressed that it had been brought home to everyone in no uncertain terms that the days of rapid growth and easy profit were a thing of the past. “Unbridled casino-capitalism has proven to undermine long-term growth, put social cohesion to the test and shun the environment” –stressed Mr. Daskalopoulos. Conversely, sustainable development is well-attuned with society, setting three equal aims: economic benefit, ecological balance and social progress. It is an act of social responsibility and economic realism to adopt them today, from amidst the wreckage of the global financial crisis. First and foremost, however, their adoption will allow us to strike up new relations, a new balance, between the State and the market, between the economy and politics, between the market and society. This balance is based in the real economy, business ethics and the dignity of labour, in private initiative and state welfare».
Mr. Daskalopoulos went on to state that «the global credit crunch is currently monopolising our attention and efforts. But two more crises await us. The first is related to the global destruction of the environment and the radical climate change brought about by the rapid growth of the world population and the economic activity which fuels higher standards of living. It is already upon us, but has been overshadowed by the fury of the credit crunch. The second, which is related to the global disruption of social cohesion, is still dormant. If we fail to take action in due time, however, when it does break out it may well prove catastrophic for economic growth and social progress, which require a firm basis and stable conditions».
The SEV President also pointed out that «Sustainable Development means sustainable investment. It means, in other words, realistically assessing risk, accepting long-term responsibilities towards the workers and society, adopting business initiatives which promote innovation and which are in line with market requirements. It means that investment decisions cannot be based on the economic data of the balance sheets alone. They must also take account of factors which are of wide-reaching importance to society: the environment, corporate governance, long-term prospects, integrity, human rights, and combating poverty». « Sustainable development – stressed the President of SEV- means a sustainable future for us all». In closing, Mr. Daskalopoulos noted that SEV had specifically decided to play a leading role in promoting the three pillars of entrepreneurial and social action and within this framework was internally setting up councils or networks of companies for sustainable development, corporate governance and corporate social responsibility, which would provide the critical mass for promoting these principles throughout the business world and society».
Presenting the new «SEV Council for Sustainable Development» its President, Mr. Efthymios Vidalis, started by pointing out that «Sustainable Development and its principles have found their rightful place at the top of the agenda for governments, organisations, business and citizens». He referred to the challenge which we are called upon to face, pointing out that «everyone agrees that the current undoubtedly very serious economic crisis will some day pass. As for the sustainability issue, however, no-one on earth can claim that it will pass. The longer we drag our feet, the worse it will get, making the necessary solutions even more painful».
Mr. Vidalis laid particular store by the need for balance and in-depth aspirations in all three pillars of Sustainable Development, which means that it will be necessary to weigh up in careful and complex fashion what are often conflicting stakes and interests. Moreover, the requirements of such a process create new commitments for all parties: the State, business, the representatives of Civil Society. If this is to be successful, it will require open, honest and substantiated dialogue as well as coordinated action with everyone on-board. Within this framework, stressed Mr. Vidalis, the many modern, well-staffed and organised businesses which have already included environmental concerns and social contributions within their strategy and operations are prepared to play a leading role, carrying with them the many tiny companies which are struggling for everyday survival. The State can make a major contribution by shaping clear goals and providing a stable institutional framework. At this point, Mr. Vidalis mentioned the example of the Land Use Plan as being a step in the right direction, in contrast to the permit granting framework, which as a whole is still complicated and labyrinthine, strewing the development process with hurdles. Finally, the environmental NGOs and others can also make a major contribution with their knowledge of the broader issue and their international experience, the know-how they are developing and their clout at international, national and local level.
It is within this framework, Mr. Vidalis pointed out, that SEV decided to take the initiative in pointing the way for its member companies towards Sustainable Development and flagging them up as the main stakeholders and catalysts on Sustainable Development issues. Of particular importance to the new SEV Council is the strategic alliance with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development which, after the European Union, is seen as the most authoritative body on Sustainable Development matters internationally.
Finally, Mr. Vidalis referred to the fundamental commitment by the members of the Council to adopt the 10 principle Code for Sustainable Development. «A commitment not just in words, but one which will be tied in with efforts to be accountable, with figures and specific action. Several of the companies which are founding members of the Council have already produced Social or Sustainable Development Reports, a practice we would gradually like to see spreading throughout the entire business world», stated Mr. Vidalis in concluding his speech.