Events Ascame/ February 14, 2024/ Featured, Institutional

Last year, ASCAME signed a collaboration agreement with Grupo ÉRRE, a Portuguese consultancy firm with a wide experience in advising companies from different sectors on TIC solutions, sustainable transition or communication services. In the following interview, we talk to Luís Roby, CDO & Board Vice-President of Grupo ÉRRE about sustainable transition, digital transformation, public-private cooperation in the Mediterranean.

Let’s start talking about sustainable business practices. In your opinion, what are the main obstacles that still have many companies to advance towards the sustainable transition?
In my opinion, there are three main obstacles. The first one regards with changing the mindset. Companies should start looking to the sustainable transition as an opportunity to grow. The second main obstacle relies on the youngness of the technologies that are being developed to overcome some challenges. It is normal because we are walking and paving the way at the same time. To face it, my deepest advice is to find partners to interchange experiences and, in that way, shortcut the analysis and the paths. At last, but not least, I would add the financial impact, because the sustainable transition needs significant investment. There are lots of funding opportunities that companies should be aware of, especially those ones regarding innovation.

 

How can companies implement green technologies and what are the main benefits from doing it?
My first suggestion would be to ask ourselves why we want to implement green technologies. This will help to start the assessment process of the company, adjust the mindset and adopt sustainable practices, such as introducing sustainable resources to reduce the environmental impact of their operations. In terms of benefits, there are lots. For instance, the cost savings: energy-efficient technologies and waste reduction and recycling often lead to reduced utility bills. Another benefit is the regulatory compliance: adhering to green standards and certifications can ensure compliance with environmental regulations. We could add the benefit of a positive brand image: consumers increasingly prefer eco-friendly businesses, leading to a positive brand reputation. Without doubt, green technologies contribute to the long-term sustainability of both the environment and the business. Despite the clear benefits, it is crucial to assess the specific needs of each organization and tailor the implementation of green practices accordingly.

Is it possible to be sustainable and innovative?
I would say that it is not only possible, but mandatory. We need to act quickly to respond to new challenges. To solve them, we need to be innovative through creating new solutions, finding new approaches and adopting new technologies.

How to guarantee equal access to green financing across all objectives? How to support SMEs in developing innovative and sustainable projects?
Nowadays, there are a significant number of financial and funding frameworks available to help SMEs and other organizations to create innovative solutions. The main obstacle to access to these opportunities is the amount of bureaucracy associated with and the amount of time to get a decision -when we talk about innovation, time is crucial-. My firm advice to SMEs is to foster cooperation and seek for opportunities in consortiums formed with experienced companies, research centers… This will help them enlarge the range of skills and ease the preparation process. A good example of this is the Eureka Network, the world’s largest network for cooperation in R&D, with many available programmes.

Within MedaWeek 2023, in the framework of the Green Session, you said that green economy has a real impact on all the companies. Could you put some examples?
The green economy is a reality. Although it is still being shaped and adjusted, it influences the company’s life in terms of legal frameworks and access to a specific market or client. In the EU, the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) establishes the obligation for companies to communicate and published detailed information on sustainability issues. In addition, I would like to highlight the European Sustainability Reporting Standards (ESRS), a set of standards defined by the European Financial Reporting Advisory Group. The next step will be the adoption of sector-specific sustainability reporting standards, postponed until June 2026.

Green technologies contribute to the long-term sustainability of both the environment and the business. It is crucial to assess the specific needs of each organization and tailor the implementation of green practices

How can we detect greenwashing practices?
We should be particularly focused on verifying the legitimacy of certifications and eco-friendly labels claimed by a company. Some certifications, such as Energy Star or Fair Trade, are reputable, while others may be less reliable. Greenwashing is often detected when a company claims to be eco-friendly while its supply chain or manufacturing processes have significant environmental impacts, so we should examine the entire lifecycle of a product or service.

What are your main recommendations to foster cooperation among countries to find common solutions to sustainability challenges and advance all together towards a sustainable transition?
Regarding this question, we see that not all the countries are rowing in the same direction. We must understand that while this happens, we are losing time and keeping our targets out of sight. We should empower communities, so they can be part of the change and not misled by sensationalist actors. In the sustainable equation, the front row countries should also include developing countries, giving them the tools to a smoother transition. Public and private partnerships are crucial to foster cooperation among countries. The agility and dynamism of the private sector could hep implement and shape the guiding principles from the public sector, with emphasis on the exchange across borders.

Could you tell us about Grupo ÉRRE’s projects developed along with public and private sector?
In the public sector, I would like to highlight two projects. The first one, in partnership with the Lisbon Municipality, was the 3D Model of Superficial Urban Occupation Project, which aimed to be integrated in the production of the thematic cartography related to heat waves and urban heat islands. Outside of Portugal, we conducted a study to analyze the technological incorporation and its impacts on gender and climate change in Uruguay. The objective of this consultancy was to incorporate the gender and climate change perspective into technological solutions that allow the improvement of the management of subnational services, income management, public lighting and rural roads. In the private sector, I can refer to a project in Portugal linked to sustainable tourism in a wine region in the North, promoted by a wineries association. The main goal was to promote the region and different players as a sustainable tourism region. Our role was to create and implement the entire sustainable strategy. This included the creation of an eco-label and its guidelines, surveys of touristic points of interest and the development of an online platform for an integrated collaborative management.

In your opinion, what is the key role of the chambers of commerce in helping businesses to implement sustainable practices?
When we talk about sustainable transition and change of mindset, we are necessary talking about cooperation -the empowerment of the companies, the exchange of information and best practices, etc.- . Therefore, the chambers of commerce play a fundamental role in their networks to bring all these to their members, so they can have access to reliable information and the right partners.

Within MedaWeek 2023, you said that it is imperative to analyze the life cycle of products, processes and projects. Can you explain this idea?
Analyzing life cycle of products and processes we can identify environmental and social ‘hotspots’ or critical stages where the majority of impacts occur. This allows us to targeted improvements and interventions in those specific areas to maximize sustainability benefits. Life cycle assessments also consider economic factors, helping businesses evaluate the overall cost-effectiveness of products or projects. This includes not just the initial costs but also the long-term economic viability and benefits.

We should be optimistic about the future of the Mediterranean. This region has a solid heritage of cooperation, which is the key factor to overcome current challenges such as climate change or digital transformation

 

What about the digital transformation of companies? What are their main obstacles to face this challenge? What about this challenge in the Mediterranean region?
This transformation is also a complex process. One of the obstacles is the inherent resistance to change, especially when there is a perception that can somehow threaten jobs. Also, digital transformation often involves collecting and analysing large amounts of data, which raises concerns about data security and privacy compliance. The last main obstacle regards with the associated costs, that can require significant upfront investment and it may be challenging to quantify the return on investment in the short term. If we look to the entire Mediterranean region, we can add the different regulatory environments, languages, and business practices, the digital and electrical infrastructure of some countries and also that there may still be a shortage of skilled professionals with expertise in digital technologies and data science.

Are you optimistic about the future of the Mediterranean? In your opinion, what challenges can become great opportunities for the growth and development of all the countries of the region?
We should be optimistic! The Mediterranean has a solid heritage of cooperation, which is the key factor to overcome current challenges. For instance, the actions to fight against climate change will gather different actors from the region and will foster the development of new technologies that can be shared and applied in a much wider geographic context. From a digital point of view, the Mediterranean region is taking steps forward to become a digital hub, capable of training professionals, share projects and export solutions worldwide.

What is the main objective of the agreement between ASCAME and Grupo ÉRRE? What are the next steps and jointly projects that both institutions will launch?

We are very thrilled with this new partnership. Our vision is that only through cooperation we can develop as companies (and as individuals). Finding a partner such as ASCAME, with its unique and dynamic ecosystem, is a great honor for us. The main goal of our agreement is to put together our skills in order to tackle the current challenges of the Mediterranean region. We are currently deepening our common knowledge of each partner and structuring and scoping projects related to the topics we have been discussing during this interview, especially climate change and digitalization. Together, we will be able to foster the development of the region and to create solutions with potential to be applied worldwide.

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