BEST - Boosting Environmental and Social Topics

The BEST project aims to develop in 2 years, starting in November 2020, a qualification programme that activates the potential of employees in companies to advance and shape social ecological change from within. For this purpose, 4 partner institutions from the countries Portugal, Italy, Germany and Belgium are working together to directly develop a European approach to an inherently global issue.
This article:
14.01.2022 / 13 Uhr

Different perspectives

The institutions bring different perspectives to the table. The AMU in Portugal is an NGO that specialises, among other things, in getting people back into the labour market. Together with Starkmacher e.V., which, for example, develops educational programmes to make it easier for young people to enter working life, they bring in the NGOs' perspective and their social-ecological approach. AIPEK from Italy, on the other hand, is a business association whose members are united by the common desire for a socially just and ecologically balanced economy. KU Leuven from Belgium is the partner that, in addition to its scientific expertise, has close ties to companies, especially from the construction sector, that want to realign themselves ecologically and supports them in doing so. Another important competence is the establishment of start-ups that implement new ideas for a socially ecological economy in an entrepreneurial way on the basis of social entrepreneurship.

The first international meeting of the partners

The partners were able to meet directly for the first time in the first international training C1 of the project. The participants from the partner institutions visited KU Leuven in Ghent and were able to get to know the partner's "sustainability biotope" that has been built up over the last few years. To start with, therefore, the focus was directly on the question of what role companies play, for example, in the current debates on adaptation and combating climate change. In his lecture "Ecosystem Edge" based on the publication of the same name by Williamson, Peter J., De Meyer, A. (2020), Alexis Versele, lecturer at the KU Leuven for socio-ecological building, used the example of the ecosystem built up by companies, municipalities, associations, universities and civil society to show how they have successfully taken on the challenges in the field of housing and social housing, through the socio-ecological approach, and led to innovative, sustainable and above all economically feasible solutions. The theoretical introduction was deepened by the presentation of the company Domus Mundi, which is exemplary for a form of enterprise that promotes socio-ecological change.

Alternative economic models

Starting from the companies, the participants devoted themselves to exemplary economic models that create a framework for socio-ecological change. For example, Karla Schimmel and Thomas Calis came to visit and gave a general introduction to the common good economy, its development, the common good economy matrix and the form of reporting. They represent the Common Good Economy Belgium. The European view was brought in by Marta Avesani (ECG - Economy for the Common Good) of the Common Good Economy Italy by presenting their model for further education/training to become a Common Good Economy consultant. This was an important impulse, as the BEST project aims to develop a training course on sustainability for employees in companies.

In this context, the representatives of the partner AMU presented the approach of the "Economy in Community - WiG". This is also an economic model that places people and their well-being at the centre of economic activities. Professor Giuseppe Argiola from the University of Sophia in Incisa Valdarno (Tuscany) presented his experiences in the field of social management in companies on the basis of WiG and drew parallels to the common good economy. The new worldwide movement of the "Economy of Francis", a call by the current Pope Francis for a humane and creation-preserving economy, was discussed, in which both approaches presented are inspiringly active.

SDGs and business

Starkmacher e.V. presented a first pilot workshop on the SDGs and the concept behind them as a preliminary stage of the curriculum to be developed by making the partners directly participants in a shortened version. The digital education method "Padlet" and "Action Bound" were presented and played through. However, the crucial question was how the BEST project can contribute to the implementation of the SDGs, in this case in the companies. This question became clear thanks to a contribution by Muriel Sacré, who is responsible for the topic of sustainability in the international construction company BESIX Group. In this context, the visit to the sustainability department of the partner KU Leuven, which has been coordinating and promoting the topic within the university for more than 10 years, was interesting. It became clear how difficult it is to sensitise all employees to the topic and to encourage them to participate. However, the positive examples presented were encouraging and showed concrete ways in which the transformation can succeed.

Impact measurement of sustainability measures in companies

An important element around the topic of sustainability in companies is the question of measuring the impact. This is the specific task of the partner KU Leuven in the context of the BEST project, to find out which practicable solutions exist for measuring the impact of sustainability measures in companies. For this purpose, Alexis Versele and Prof. Dr. Ingrid Molderez (both KU Leuven) introduced the partners to the topic of social impact and the forms of reporting that exist so far. The training was rounded off by Caroline Godts, who used the example of the Social Innovation Factory and reporting according to the principles of the Common Good Balance Sheet to show how such a measurement can look in a company.