Sustainability and enterprise: moving back to Sicily to invest in the future
It all begins on a strangely sunny autumn day in the English countryside. Two Sicilian boys meet by chance, attending accreditation day at the university where they will spend the rest of the year.
from Ecoistituto Siciliano website
It sounds like the opening of a buildungsroman and this is how Ecoistituto Siciliano was born just before the pandemic.
Alessandro tells of the inspiration born after experiencing Ecoistituto Mediterraneo. On a visit to the Sardinian cooperative, a positive collaboration full of exchanges of ideas was born, leading to the founding of the Ecoistituto Siciliano, active since 2019. The organisation promotes, organises and manages initiatives and services to spread knowledge, protection and promotion of the environmental and cultural, historical and agri-food heritage, through collaboration with the local community.
Today it employs young professionals, people who have chosen to return to Sicily after a training and work experience abroad or to invest in their homeland while working remotely.
“Those who work with Ecoistituto have made a difficult choice moving back to Sicily, or living abroad being active in Sicily. We are united by our love for this wonderful land with a wealth of opportunities to be used in the fairest and most sustainable way by applying methodologies that favour environmental and social sustainability”.
Impact Assessment and the 2030 Agenda
The compass of the organisation’s work are the sustainable development goals defined by the UN in the 2030 Agenda programme. In particular, the activities carried out in recent years have focused on the economic assessment of the environmental and social impact of business activities.
“Any human activity creates an impact. Every action can be evaluated from an environmental and social point of view. This has become an economic yardstick for understanding the consequences of one’s activities and re-evaluate processes to have a positive impact as possible. Every project can be evaluated from the point of view of the impact created, and only by evaluating we realise that the funds provided by the European Union can create wealth within the area of action. This is an excellent argument for dialogue with public bodies, but also an excellent example of marketing and corporate social responsibility for companies. We are starting activities with profit and non-profit organisations in the field of sustainability that are showing interest in impact assessment”.
Pandemic and design opportunities
Over the years, Ecoistituto Siciliano staff have collaborated with different actors and concluded European exchanges on urban regeneration always in line with the metrics and goals of the 2030 Agenda.
However, a few months after the establishment of the organisation, it faced the spread of COVID-19.
“During the pandemic, we gained experience by writing projects and adapting. The other way would have been to abandon everything. We took advantadge of that time as a kind of pause, we did what we could do and waited for better times”.
The organisation then carried out a redevelopment project for an urban park in the suburban area of the city of Catania, which resulted in an urban regeneration model applicable to different projects together with the Department of Political and Social Sciences of the University of Catania and Istituto comprensivo Giovanni Maria Allegra.
Ecoistituto Siciliano addresses mainly profit/non-profit organisations, providing solutions to the main tensions towards ethical sustainability, helping companies in their entrepreneurial journey with tools and skills to create sustainable businesses.
There is no shortage of opportunities for young people: the organisation works on Erasmus+ projects to encourage contact between local and European youth population. But much still needs to be done to ensure that the organisation can courageously decide to pursue their own projects.
“When people talk about environmental sustainability, they often say that it is too late. Or they talk about Sicily and say that nothing can be done here. We try to understand and put into practice what can be done now and here”.
Small projects and big actions, but dedicated to the territory, for a wonderful reality that looks forward to collaborating with other organisations interested in promoting sustainability in all its facets.