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3.6 Enterprises and New Forms of Partnership

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given their size and complexity, they cannot be satisfyingly solved by the business-as-usual or other current approaches. Dealing with them requires totally new methods. And here the sustainability topic (in all three dimensions: environmental, social and economic) can provide some useful directions. On the other hand, having a positive approach to sustainability brings along immediately an introduction to social sustainability side by side with environmental sustainability. Not only because social sustainability is just as much or perhaps more urgent than environmental sustainability, but because some issues do not have any feasible solutions (therefore they are not economically sustainable), if they were not based on recreating social context and do not conclude with answers based on solidarity and participation (problems related to taking care of the elderly constitute an emblematic case here, where even traditional social services do not offer any more feasible solutions).

3.6.6 Starting from the Results In the end the final instance – consumers and users – do not ask for the products and services, but for the results they enable them to obtain8. But results can be obtained in different ways, combining various products and services (and various acts of personal participation by the user himself). It is self-explanatory that every combination has different social, economic and environmental characteristics, and also different relationships with deeper dynamics that drive contemporary society. It is about being able to operate in this contradictory context focusing on and developing different combinations of products and services that are sustainable and at the same time recognisable and appreciated by enough people to also be commercially successful (or at least make the application economically rational). In order to develop such a design capacity one has to define a strategy capable of investing in the whole business. A strategy that could mean working in a new way, creating partnerships that were unthinkable before, and considering not only the technological innovation, as companies have always done, but the social innovation too.

3.6.7 Business and Social Innovation Finally, it is noticeable that many auspicious solutions for the problems covered here have not been discovered in the laboratories or research centres, but have emerged among individuals and communities, from their capacity to “invent” new 8

This statement has its theoretical basis in the writings of the aforementioned Amartya Sen (cf. footnote 2 in this chapter and the footnote 8 in the previous chapter) and is operatively extrapolated by Walter Stahel and Oksana Mont (Stahel, 1997, Mont, 2002).

Design for Environmental Sustainability  

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