Green shift for a Sustainable Leadership

Our Planet is not what it used to be. It is transforming faster and faster: climate change, the acidification of the seas, and the dramatic rise in temperatures are just some of the symptoms of our beloved Earth’s malaise.

Change also comes from great leaders.

Everyone does not necessarily feel the urgency of eco-behaviors concerning what is happening to the environment, yet they are considered by many to be an excellent business opportunity. The world, new regulations, and company stakeholders are dragging the economy towards a more eco-sustainable world.   These days Performant’s offices don’t look the same…chairs and desks have disappeared, or rather they are cleverly hidden, to make way for various types of installations, screens, and artwork…even a bas-relief!   The walls of the rooms host a succession of different kinds of suggestions to stimulate reflection on green shift issues.   In fact, on September 27th and 28th, an experiential show, curated by Executive Business Coach and artist Anja Puntari, was set up in the offices on Via Leopardi to create a dynamic and purposeful dialogue regarding the transition to environmental sustainability in companies.    “In this exhibition, I did not want to get into that boring and unfruitful debate about the existence of climate change. I want to talk about all those skills, emotions, relational experiences, and even spillover effects that we see taking hold in companies during the green transition we are currently living. I wanted to create a narrative that uses art and other visual forms as a stimulus to talk about this topic that is on the agenda in organizations today,” Puntari explains.   “In this transition what do people feel? How are people experiencing it inside organizations? How can the leader be supportive in this moment of change? What are the obstacles to the green transition?   Each room encapsulates a different sense of environmental sustainability: from the more institutional one represented by the Green Deal of the European Union and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) instituted by the UN to the “techno-existential” one through contemporary artist Sara Ciracì’s work Sacrilege. Between sacredness and control, the bas-relief, displayed on the blue wall of Performant’s offices, arouses emotions and feelings of different kinds, from well-being to revulsion. The exhibition opens by investigating that tractable desire to produce more and more, exploiting and stealing even the resources meant for the generations to come. Between sacredness and control, the bas-relief, displayed on the blue wall of Performant’s offices, arouses emotions and feelings of different kinds, from well-being to revulsion. The exhibition opens by investigating that tractable desire to produce more and more, exploiting and stealing even the resources meant for the generations to come.

The Opportunity

"It is necessary to understand that sustainability is an opportunity and how we can develop it. Until we understand this, we will find it complicated to act on the urgency of sustainability"

Where someone sees tradition someone else sees innovation and opportunity! This is the case of all those Enterprises and Startups, SMEs that have made sustainability their business, bringing together the need for the common good with the opportunity for growth.   Francesco Guido de Sanctis, Senior HR, Organization & Sustainability Manager at Gruppo Crédit Agricole Assurances Italy, explains to us that sustainability is one of the central issues of our time, present, and future. “That is why it must be considered in all the variations of ESG goals as a priority strategic asset in organizations as well. In all industries, including those operating in financial services, and at all levels of stakeholders involved: senior management, top management, employees, customers, suppliers, partners, intermediaries, investors, and shareholders”.   De Sanctis continues: “The banking and insurance sector is a complex, highly regulated, and constantly evolving context. The ultimate goal for companies is of course to intercept new needs and new sensitivities of customers. This can be done by building more and more products and services that have in them contents related to sustainability and ESG factors (avoiding greenwashing phenomena) and by proposing and placing them respecting the criteria of transparency, clarity, and financial education”.
The ESG reality is also a business opportunity for Toroto, a Mexican-based startup company that Performant has coached since the first moments of the company. Toroto has been working in carbon management since 2020, developing land reclamation and carbon capture projects. “I think one of the most important moments in my life was when I realized that it is impossible to significantly combat the climate crisis without restoring, conserving, and sustainably managing land,”says Santiago Espinosa de Los Monteros Harispuru, Co-founder and CEO at Toroto. “At the time, there were no high-quality projects against the climate crisis at the field level, but we realized that companies and governments were beginning to be willing and ready to invest in climate action.” In short, the Green shift has come to stay and requires a new mindset, a new corporate culture, and a new way of doing things. It is not enough to use recycled paper in the office, a real shift in perspective is needed.

Towards the future

Thinking about the Green shift means thinking about the future. As demonstrated in the installation called Future Time, a succession of covers from the well-known “TIME” magazine from 1967 until 2105 chronicled the climate urgency…but what lies ahead? What will be the next covers? Will climate change still be talked about?
One does not have to be an incurable optimist to hope for the future; it is an instinct or desire inherent in each of us: that of our survival, that of our species, and our Planet. But then why, even though we are convinced of the importance of eco-gestures, are we not ready to act? To stimulate this reflection, Puntari has set up a special room that shifts the focus to the obstacles and emotions we feel about the green shift. Usually, it is indifference that leads to immobility, but in this case, there are other emotions and other reasoning, even very rational ones, that block us. They can be reducible to thoughts like “why do I have to do something if others do nothing!” Or inaction in the company stems from the belief that sustainability issues should be regulated and managed only by the ESG department, “so other resources can focus “on what is important: the real business.” “I think that you have to lead by example and not spend too many words,” Maria Grazia Bonomelli, Managing Director and Senior Account Executive at Accenture. Mindset change in organizations can also, and above all, be generated through leading by example. Leadership, therefore, plays a key role as a vehicle toward the green shift. Indeed, the leader, by acting in sustainable behaviors, stimulates his or her resources to do the same. “Being a leader allows you to bring the different figures on board at the corporate level…you may be top sustainability experts, but that will not lead to real change. Being a leader means being able to communicate one’s ideas, embracing those of others and thus arriving at change through positive compromise,” Simone Targetti Ferri, Director of Sustainability at L’Oréal, tells us.

"Anyone who has a managerial role in the company can act as a change agent; I am involved with HR, and I think the HR department can do so much in the area of sustainability. Because it is a department that owns those mechanisms that change behavior."

What can I do?

“I think some emotion is needed on the topic. Going to catch people at their softest part helps to create a new normal because you have to hit people inside,” Dr. Bonomelli tells us. Therefore, as a conclusion to the journey, Puntari thought of something extraordinary: a moment that could center each of us in our intimacy; after all, the purpose of the event is not to give answers, but to help ask questions, inviting the viewer to reflection and dialogue. So while transparency is required of companies, none of us expect our neighbors to shout out our efforts and actions in the name of the Planet. Only we truly know our involvement in the fight against climate change. Therefore, an empty, dimly lit room set up with only a large mirror and a cabinet, above which a bowl containing a small thought to take home: a wooden dice, was prepared to conclude the walkthrough with the sentence “How are you going to play your part?”. “It gave me a way to reflect on all the previous rooms, and to smile, to get excited because I’m doing something that can lead to change and have a positive impact on ‘human beings and our planet,'” Dr. Targetti Ferri says.
In this room, the visitor becomes a performer for himself. In looking at himself in the mirror, holding the wooden die, a symbol of the struggle for CO2 reduction, he will find himself asking, “and what am I prepared to do for the future of the Planet?”

"To summarize as much as possible, real-world and ethical businesses are moving in the direction of sustainability: towards a model that must always hold together, in all its variations and facets, the three ESG pillars. We are still in the early days but the transition is underway, the road is long but mapped out. Impossible to turn around and go back: it is an opportunity that this era is giving us. An opportunity not to be missed."

Green shift for a Sustainable Leadership curated by Anja Puntari works by: Sarah Ciraci, Italy; Yolanda Harris, USA; Asger Jorn, Denmark; Ananya Sen Gupta USA; Subhajit Khush Das, India; and MaraM, Italy.
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