The dynamic image of Sustainability

I have partaken in the past few days at the Business and SDG Annual Forum of the Global Compact Italian Network in Matera. I wished to “feel the atmosphere” about Sustainability within the “august circle”. I must regretfully say that I came out rather disappointed, even though not surprised at all. Too many words, too much CSR focused almost exclusively on philanthropy initiatives, a bit of energy savings, at most a touch of “environmental”, but very little awareness of how embedded sustainability requires visionary innovation in business models.

In practice, the usual feeling that large companies want to continue “business as usual”, offsetting the potential reputational risks through buffer measures which, by referring to the objectives of the UN Sustainable Development, should make them appear “virtuous” as they rarely are. Instead, if the discussion on sustainability aims to be productive of the necessary paradigm shift, it must be profound and radical.

However, Matera – beyond being a splendid place – has been very generous to me, since it has inspired a symbolic vision of the essence of Embedded Sustainability and Sustainable Development; I therefore want to express my gratitude by sharing it. On Friday evening, strolling after dinner through this jewel city, I entered the church of San Francesco to find myself unexpectedly at a musical event: the concert of a chorus of male voices, accompanied by some instruments. Behold! No, not the church itself: an unimpressive baroque; it was the image of a choir composed of about thirty men in black tuxedos, directed with firm hand and unparalleled grace by the director, a charming and smiling Maestra with long blond hair, wrapped in a flaming red evening dress. (It was the Ruda Polyphonic Choir, directed by the Maestra Fabiana Noro)

Apart from the music, at times really powerful and inspiring, the scene was so beautiful and unusual to penetrate deeply in my conscience; little by little I found myself perceiving it as the archetypal image of Sustainability projected towards the Circular Economy. Why? Let’s describe it and discover it together. Before us the three rows of the choir, and the mighty voices of about thirty singers, represented the strength and power of Man, but also, in their tuxedos, the grisaille of the powerful that steered humanity clumsily, building on the paradigm of brute force, power and the pretended dominion over Nature, taking us to the threshold of disaster where we stand now.

In front of them, directing them towards sublime harmony, were the feminine grace and power, represented by the blond woman dressed in red. In her command, which we viewers saw in the foreground, there was neither violence nor any hint of domination, but a precise, timely, anticipatory and conscious determination, as must be that of the leader. The masculine strength, master of matter, conducted by the intuitive and visionary feminine genius, master of the pre-material creative dimension. A powerful and exciting combination, but that in itself could simply have been the representation of a pendulum game: after the male power the female domination. Indeed, it was not so. There was a decisive element alongside the Director: a male pianist, representing the man of science, the knowledge of the laws of the material world; therefore not strength but wisdom, mathematics and physics that are the soul of the sound. Perfectly synergic with the profound wisdom of harmony, i.e the integration of the diverse, and the knowledge of biology naturally possessed by the woman, the bearer of life.

Now, if you follow me a moment beyond the poetic image, you can probably agree with me that this image can symbolically represent the new paradigm of the economy and industry in the circular and sustainable world that we must achieve, or yield to our own extinction. In fact, it is time to overcome the typically patriarchal paradigm of brute force, the search for domination and prevarication, and learn again humbly from Nature. The latter does not contemplate the concept, for example, of “waste”. Not even that of “linearity”, since every path in its kingdoms is circular. Nature does not even need to invent LEAN, or the Kaizen, because each of its processes is already the highest expression of efficiency and rationality. For centuries we thought possible to affirm with violence our dissolute and reductive concepts, elevating them to a paradigm, perhaps because they were sustained by the linearity of the patriarchal and masculine dominion (the masculine phallus is a linear symbol). We raped mother Earth by filling it with waste and pollution, thinking that we had captured the secret of prosperity, while we plunged ourselves in an unconscious rush to extinction. Now we are painstakingly trying to recover the circular dimension (the female womb is round) in order to survive. Mind you: this is not at all about saving the planet. If we destroy the conditions for human survival, mother Earth will barely notice it, simply evolving itself as the indivisible and eternally transforming ecosystem that it is. What we believe to be a smart new human invention, sustainability or the circular economy, is simply the return to common sense and self-preservation by our species to remedy centuries of madness.

In this framework, the image of the woman who directs the male choir, assisted and in perfect harmony with the scientist-pianist, really seems to me the symbol that brings together in a picture what it was and what it is: madness brought back to sanity because intelligence, knowledge, creativity, strength, sweetness, integration and firmness have been restored in their legitimate roles. In addition, if we want to be even finer in the symbolic reading, the woman directs but her face is hidden from the public, and the pianist too is defiled, almost invisible. They are not looking for personal visibility and glory, but at the service (another recent “invention”: the servant leadership …) of the creation of a magnificent harmony manifested in the world of matter by the Force, to satisfy the public’s need of beauty and nourishment. How best to portray the need of our society for business and institutional leaders who return to act motivated by the superior imperative to put their Talents (capital letters like in the Gospel, yes) to good use for the creation of beauty and shared utility?

Thanks, therefore, to Matera, to the Coro Polifonico di Ruda and to the Maestra Fabiana Noro for inspiration and emotion. Although unaware, the beauty of their art has inspired me, giving me new enthusiasm and new strength for my and Exsulting’s commitment to spread the culture and practice of Embedded Sustainability towards the Circular Economy. Let’s then continue to awaken in our fellows the love for beauty and the desire to continually create new one, helping them to do it with humility, knowledge and practical sense.