• "Our task is to find new ways of guaranteeing a plural economy within a framework of democracy.

    Instead of making an abstract appeal for an alternative economy, we should be devising fresh combinations within the field of economic possibilities open to us."

    Jean-Louis Laville: European Coordinator of the Karl Polanyi Institute of Political Economy

    Maximising dignity through social and solidarity economy - Final Event in Brussels

    On Tuesday 23rd of January, from 9 to 11 a.m. at the European Parliament in Brussel there will be the presentation of the policy paper "Maximizing Dignity through social and solidarity economy" promoted by the SUSY consortium representing 26 partners from 23 European countries. The policy paper can be downloaded here.

    The event will also be available via streaming from our SUSY Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/solidarityeconomy/).
    Social and Solidarity Economy Actors, implementing the SUSY project (SUstainable and Solidarity economy), demands of the EU Institutions and National Governments to recognize the important role of SSE, for achieving Sustainable Development goals through monitoring and control, binding mechanisms, recognition and promotion of education and training on SSE.
    The event, hosted by MEP Elly Schlein -S&D- will be an occasion to discuss about the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) and its role in the implementation of the Agenda 2030. Furthermore it will discuss how the SSE can represent a model for the private sector in the transition towards a sustainable economy.   We will deepen the topic with Elly Schlein (Member of the European Parliament), Giorgio Menchini (COSPE), Marina Sarli (Fair Trade  Hellas), Kasia Hanula-Bobbitt (CONCORD EUROPE) and Jason Nardi (RIPESS).

    Why sustainability has to be legally enforced in trade agreements?

    Analyzing sustainability in trade and economy: the 2015/2038 EP resolution
    In the early summer of 2016 the European Parliament approved a resolution on trade, economy and human rights prepared by GUE MEP Eleonora Forenza in collaboration with civil society networks and presented at the EP Plenary of 27th of June 2016 [Report on on implementation of the 2010 recommendations of Parliament on social and environmental standards, human rights and corporate responsibility (2015/2038(INI)
    available here ]. Environmental and social standards in economy and trade is the main topic the Social and Solidarity Economy movement is rooted in and should be one of the main issue to be considered when campaigning Public Authorities for a fairer and more sustainable economy.

    From today we start analyzing some parts of Eleonora Forenza's resolution to highlights and explain some concepts useful to be taken into account in our SSE basic framework. Eleonora  Forenza already presented this resolution last October 2016 in Bologna during a public speaking along with social movements and trade unions and she's available to attend similar events organized by SSEDAS partners in their own Countries.
    These first on-deep analysis of the resolution text would like to be an useful contribution for all Partners keen on deepening the tight connections among economy, sustainability and rights with the aim of raising awareness of Local Authorities and National Governments upon this topic.

    Trade and sustainability is a sensitive issue within the EU's external policies. In every international forum related to trade, environment and human rights are well highlighted among the general assumptions and principles, but fall short when specific implementation mechanisms are designed. Trade policy has been modifying during the last years. While environmental and labour rights were considered as exceptions in GATT 1994, the multilateral trade deal that set up the World Trade Organization, in the new trade era these issues gained an increased consideration in bilateral trade agreements considering the specific chapters related to "trade and labour" and "trade and environment". An important step forward but still insufficient for implementation purposes. Eleonora Forenza's resolution on implementation of the 2010 recommendations of Parliament on social and environmental standards, human rights and corporate responsibility (2015/2038(INI)) approved by European Parliament last July 2016, focused on this shortcoming as well. Article 17 (Human rights, environmental and social standards at bilateral level) cites Sustainability Impact Assessments (SIAs) that European Commission has to carry out in order to justify any bilateral trade negotiation to be approved by European Council. SIAs are condicted by external agencies using specific methodology in data analysis often critize by NGOs as insufficient and partial because of the econometric method used (General equilibrium) focused too much on economic gains instead of environmental and labour rights impacts. When negotiations are kicked off, no obligation are taken into account for the inclusion of a legally binding human rights clause. On the contrary in environmental and labour chapters no binding instrument or mechanism is designed but just consultative fora and panels. Civil society is allowed to participate to trade agreement monitoring bodies within Domestic Advisory Groups (DAGs) related to Sustainable development chapters, but lacks of resources is risking to undermine their possibility to be effective (article 23). But the most important part to be taken into consideration is emphatized in article 22 where monetary remedies (or other forms of retaliation) are strongly requested in order to strenghten a human and environmental rights' legal binding framework. European Commission and Parliament haven't any effective tool to be used for sustainable development's clauses to be respected by EU trade partners. Civil society organizations are campaigning in international trade mobilization to change as fast as possible this approach considering the recent megadeals already on track (TTIP and CETA) and not yet suspended. These trade justice issues as highlighted by the EP resolution could become and important part of advocacy action toward national Governments part of European Council. A strong change in their position could ease to modify European Commission's approach on sustainable development in trade agreements.

    The role of megadeals in Europe

    A first important goal has been achieved by social movements in the neverending struggle against Corporates' capture of Free Trade Agreements. Following a strong political pressure by all the Stop TTIP and CETA campaigns active at european and canadian level, European Commission agreed to consider CETA (the Free Trade Agreement  between EU and Canada sealt on September 2014) as "mixed" and not "EU-only". The Commission accepted to take into consideration arguments from social movements and trade unions about the national competences of some chapters of the deal. What does it mean? That national parliament are allowed to have their say on the treaty and to accept or not the proposal throughout a ratification process. It is just a first step. According to social movements on trade justice, this achievement avoids a progressive weakening of parliaments' prerogatives but most has to be made in the next future to protect citizens' right. Firstly NGOs are pressing to avoid provisional application, that could consent CETA chapterS related to EU-only competences to enter into force before national ratifications. But the main goal to achieve is to stop megadeals as TTIP and CETA, pressing to reverse EU trade policy toward a more sustainable, equal and fair policy eith regards to citizens' and workers' rights and environment protection.

    Alberto Zoratti - COSPE Policy Advisor

    Circular Economy can save all

    Interview with William McDonoug by Emanuele Bompan - Free-lance Journalist


    William McDonough talks about his last book and reflects on how we became an unsustainable civilization. And how a solid circular economy, based on good design, can save us all.Elliptical, philosophical, rarely obscure and always enlightened with solid, simple concepts. Talking for more than an hour with one of the XXI century design guru is a revealing trip in everything that was wrong with past-century design and economic discourse. What if a global trauma, like the Hiroshima-Nagasaki atomic bomb erased not only two major Japanese city but also our bond with Nature’s equilibrium? And how can we rethink everything – the way we use natural resources, the way we produce – in an organic, circular way? William Andrews McDonough, designer, philosopher, and author, is known for his seminal Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, co-authored with chemist Michael Braungart.

    In his latest book, The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability — Designing for Abundance, McDonough takes sustainability beyond the simple reuse of materials, to regeneration, proposing a world in which everything we do improves the environment.

     “The Upcycle is literally an extension of Cradle to Cradle. If we want to use a metaphor we have to look at Cradle to Cradle as the fulcrum and The Upcycle is the leverage. Cradle is the rock where we can raise leverage to human design. In the ‘fulcrum’ we outlined very straightforward pre-condition.”

    Which are?

    “Materials are seen as biological or technical nutrients for safe, continuous cycling. Nature has no waste, nothing goes unused. This is why we need material reutilization: maintain continuous flows of biological and technical nutrients. Things have to go back for human utility and back to the natural realm safely. Think as a base for new business model. Renewable Energy is fundamental. Power all operations with 100% renewable energy. We have seen this coming. Especially from Italy, among others. Water Stewardship: water is regarded as a precious resource. Today when clothing factories have finished washing textiles, they collect this water and make clean drinking water. That’s because we changed the chemistry in the dyes, we thought with ‘the next mentality,’ and instead of producing hazardous waste – which means that products were hazardous – we designed safe products with an output (water) that can become something you can sell to the local garden club. This makes us think: why would a business want to lose such an opportunity? Why would a company poison water? Do we open business so we pollute rivers? Asking the right questions is key. Last precondition is social fairness.”

    This is something that many businesses forget.

    “We must celebrate all people and natural systems. People should be treated with respect in the whole process. This is extremely important (he takes another long pause). That is Cradle to Cradle. The book The Upcycle intends to make things better because you understand the concept in Cradle to Cradle. We collect so many examples to make the world better. For instance, it starts narrating a big company understanding what it means to say ‘we will become 100% clean powered.’”

    Design plays a central role.

    “Design is the first signal of human intention. Without the intention actions don’t necessarily begin. So the first act is to represent your values. Human values. Such as ‘we will not destroy the planet for future generation, because we believe in a healthy and safe world.’ And you apply those to your business: This is the upcycle. Deciding to become 100% good. And mean it.
    “Look at chart of constant improvement (see figure 1). You decided, ‘yes I want to be less bad,’ but being less bad is not being good. It is being bad, just less so. Upcycling, instead, is being less bad and at the same time being more good. Typically, upcycle is a qualification, not just a quantification (such as ‘I do less bad stuff’). Recycle is not upcycle because the transformation is not really improving the quality, making it more complex and less able to be beautiful. Downcycling: mix it with something that can’t be recovered cleanly. Upcycling: bring it back into the system for next use and increase the quality. Putting it back in the world. This is upcycle. Something that is better than before.”

    Traditional societies always have designed their ecosystem in a balanced, sustainable way. Why modern societies, in particular capitalist societies, have become so unsustainable?

    “A small Italian farmer has been doing upcycling for thousands of years. Brilliant, because what he has been doing was essentially upcycling soil, following how nature work. But I want to take the answer to a larger scale. Have you ever tried to solve the Einstein’s equation E=mc2? I was sitting once by the fireplace in New England and I was in deep thoughts about energy. The Universe is entropy; everything is going to chaos, never to revert. What is the opposite? I went to the library to find about negative entropy. Everything has an opposite. Where is the order? And then a flash: E=mc2. We have E that is physics and m that is chemistry. The question is: Where is biology? Negative entropy is not physics, it is biology. The log burning is entropy, the log growing is negative entropy, it is order, and so you realize the Earth is a living thing that needs growth and open system of chemical to guarantee reproduction to organism. So biological life negates entropy. When you see that you realize what farmers have been doing for thousands of years. Life is creating order out of chaos, they support the soil with nitrogen and carbon from the atmosphere, and they are grazing the vitality of the planet. “Again, think about E=mc2. When I was a child, at 5, I was exposed to Hiroshima. I remember the cover magazine on the table with pictures of the atomic explosion. And I was thinking: why humans do this to each other, how is this possible to make a city disappear in seconds? In college I asked a professor how a city can disappear in seconds. He told me to look at the E=mc2 (relativity theory give birth to the nuclear bomb, Editor’s Note). What has changed in the way we look at the world? The atomic bomb. In the midst of last century humankind created a situation where people’s understanding of the world was that the world could end tomorrow. We started living, as there were no tomorrow. We started throwing things away, make things and use them. Because the world can end tomorrow.”

    Like with climate change.

    “Exactly. Enjoy your life while you can, don’t worry about it. If the world ends will make no difference. We lost our sense of intergenerational connectivity and we create a kind of global tyranny of hopelessness.”

    A culture of waste born, imbued of consumer capitalism. How can we shift this approach and say: upcycle?

    “Designers are terribly optimistic about things. The world of the arts is looking with intensity at details, they see things deeply. It’s the wonder, it deliciousness, beauty. Gods is in the details. These are drivers. On the other hand, we have specialist learning more and more of less and less, for them devil is in the details, a detail that can debunk a theory. It is not the wonderment, it is a focused understating. Something that can change design and the business is asking the right question: how can something beautiful destroy children’s health? Or the planet? If I make the finest silk in a factory and pollute the river, you can’t say I am providing the fashion industry with the most beautiful silk.”

    We need more regulation and control to protect us from harm?

    “Regulating design has a cost. We need to eliminate regulation. That is what cradle- to-cradle design does. By producing good design you eliminate the need for regulations, for paperwork, you eliminate costs, fear, and concern from customers. This is the chance to rise up and upcycle your business. This changes the fundamental question of business itself. How much can we give for what we get”
    “Today green and clean techs are booming. But new technology, branded and environmental friendly, or marketed as so, aren’t always based on good design. Think. Today many things are still releasing carbon in the atmosphere. We have to ask: are you emitting toxins? Carbon is not a toxin. Our food is carbon, our trees are carbon, and children are carbon. We see carbon as something that surrounds us. The problem is having carbon in the wrong place, which is where it becomes toxin. Toxins are material in the wrong place. Lead in computer is behaving as a transmission; lead in child’s brain is a neurotoxin. Carbon is only toxic in the atmosphere, at this point of history. It is like putting lead in a child’s brain. So when we see clean tech that puts something in the wrong place – like carbon in the atmosphere – that is not good. So for example when we talk about biofuels we are still talking about carbon going in the atmosphere. So we have to ask ourselves: is this intelligent? I think you have to look at the equation quite carefully. When you use palm oil you lose all the carbon sequestered in the forest. “Watch out for things that are not as green as they are labeled. Efficiency is usually a good place to start. But the search for new technique that respect the point said is the most exciting thing.

    In the book you often make the case about a typical wittgensteinian issue. The way we use concept can be a limit. How is relevant to find new meaning to new material innovation?

    “We replace concepts in a strange way. For example we use space to define our relations. Where is it, instead of utility, ‘what is it?.’ Think: we throw things ‘away.’ We put in the water and goes ‘away.’ For the person downstream it is not away. This idea of away is odd; we forgot that we are somebody else’s away. We started as gatherers, in a world where there’s no ‘away.’ When we became farmers we created here and away. In China sewage was considered sacred. When you were having dinner at someone’s, you where leaving you ‘deposits,’ your faeces because your were returning their nutritious. Now we throw those ‘away.’ If we move towards the concept of utility, than we can can talk use.
    “You can’t say drink my urine or drink my sewage, they say ‘throw it away,’ but if you stress use and say ‘how can I design to reuse sewage that contain H2O,’ you use your brain thinking about use.
    “Earth is here for a use. And instead we are abusing it. Language becomes important.”

    In the book you describe how can we upcycle soil.

    “China has declared that 19,4% of farmland is polluted with toxic metals, and toxic to food. Current farming techniques expend the Earth’s natural resources without ‘giving back.’ In the past 200 years, the US have depleted 75% of its topsoil due to ‘modern’ agricultural techniques such as monoculture, over-tilling and salinization of soil due to over-watering. The yearly loss of topsoil in the United States alone continues at an estimated $150 billion annually. One hundred and fifty years ago, the Iowa prairie had 12 to 16 inches of topsoil, as well as the carbon stored in the deep roots of prairie plants, which were as much as 15 feet deep. Now the topsoil is down to 6 to 8 inches. Soil production takes significant time; it can require from 100 to 500 years to create one inch of topsoil. With those kinds of numbers, human beings have little to no hope of catching up. We should go and fix it. Upcycle it.”
    You travel across the world, do you see a change in mentality, do you see people applying Cradle-to-Cradle concepts? -“We are seeing changes today. I am Chairman of World Economic Forum for the council of circular economy. It is interesting they put a designer do chair the group. Circular economy is spreading.”

    How would you define the circular economy?

    “The circular economy is a resourceful economic system and innovation engine, providing continuous benefits to society in the present and the future. It is designed, Cradle-to-Cradle, to endlessly recirculate clean biological and technical materials, energy, water and human ingenuity. In essence, the circular economy puts the ‘re’ back into resources. Our goal is a delightfully diverse, safe, healthy and just world – with clean air, soil, water and power – economically, equitably, ecologically, and elegantly enjoyed. Otherwise the future will bring a global nuclear desert.”


    This website has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The contents of this website are the sole responsibility of the SUSY initiative and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.

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