Business Innovation 4 Sustainable Finance: technology and people for sustainable value creation

EMF - Executive Master in Finance, C-Suite Forum

Technology and people are the two key assets for rising up to the sustainability challenge. Technology provides solutions that are able to reduce the use of material and environmental resources in the production of goods and services, but businesses are made up of people. People who must broaden the values of organizations and define strategies that consider the interest of all stakeholders and not just the owners, who, for that matter, could benefit from lower risk and a better return on their investment if companies aggressively pursue the path of sustainability.

Panel 2 of the EMF C-Suite, covering technology and people for sustainable value creation,

discussed these issues bringing together Gianmarco Beltrami Director Dallara, Pamela Bussi Group Sustainability & Social Responsibility Prada, Stefano Catanzaro General Manager Italy Allfunds, Marco Grillo CEO Abitare In,  Paolo Magnani Coordinator Credem Banca, Wealth Management Area, Renato Miraglia Head UniCredit Private Banking, Silvia Totaro Sustainability and HSE Manager Nestlé Nespresso SA.

Technology is a pivotal enabler for sustainability, productivity and return on investment. In many industries, including automotive and real estate, the use of Artificial Intelligence has dramatically shortened the time between the conception of an idea and its final realization. Artificial Intelligence is now even capable of directly producing new asset production solutions, leaving it to experts to select the best designs. Responses to a quick survey showed that participants consider Artificial Intelligence a tool that needs to be enhanced to further facilitate managerial action, even though they are aware of the ethical issues associated with poorly regulated use of new technology.


Digitization goes hand in hand with the introduction of circular economy solutions, which in order to be fully utilized must go through a change in values, business organization and also business models which must be based less on the idea of one-time product sales and turn toward the logic of long-term delivery of asset-related services (70 percent of participants responded to a quick survey highlighting the central role played by companies through their business models in the effort to improve circularity of production processes). However, the circular economy needs to be assisted by technology and regulation, which in some cases is based on traditional models and cannot address the issue of improved reuse of everyday objects in our homes that escape the prevailing definitions that guide waste management processes.

Still, according to EMF C-Suite participants, the greatest difficulties at the managerial level in pursuing sustainability are "the lack of a logical framework for comparing economic results and various aspects of environmental and social impact" (67 percent of responses to the quick survey) and "deficiencies in the framework of data available within the company" (31 percent). The Chiefs offered various explanatory comments on the results, arguing how the main challenge is precisely that of measuring and incorporating sustainability goals among corporate KPIs at the same level as strictly economic ones. They also highlighted how consistency in the relevance of sustainability among companies operating in Europe, Asia and the Americas is necessary in a global marketplace so as not to put our companies at a disadvantage from a global competition standpoint. The challenge of human resource management is also important, and must involve all levels of business if it is to pull off cultural change, particularly for companies that make human capital, and the fiduciary relationship between people and customers, the main asset of long-term value creation, even if it's paradoxically an easier obstacle to overcome.

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