We live in a time of crisis and collapse of the old development models connected to the conservative values businesses used to rely on. Our society is in a desperate need of alternative, viable and responsible solutions for its economy, its businesses and its daily life.
These were the words of Nikos Chrysogelos, Member of the European Parliament of the Greens, when he opened a Worldwatch business seminar organised on the 4th June at the European Parliament.

Highlights from the new report, Business Innovation in a Living Economy were presented by Worldwatch Institute Europe researchers, Eirini Glyki, Elena Niculae, and Josefine Campbell. Representatives from three of the companies featured in the report, Bas Gehlen, Managing Director of Dutch Van Houtum; Anagnosti John Tsoukalas, Head of Sustainability of Greek APIVITA; as well as Kim Tjoa, Co-founder of Luxembourg-based Floow2, joined the debate with a number of examples on how to work with a new, functional business culture in mind.

Additionally, Worldwatch Institute's State of the World 2013, Is Sustainability Still Possible? was presented by the institute's director Bo Normander.

Business Innovation in a Living Economy focuses away from 'green washing', outlining true sustainability trends at a European level, and showcasing how companies following ecological and social innovation behave. The report profiles businesses that have managed to adopt new business practices by transforming the traditional business goals of maximizing profit to a long-term viability, while respecting society and the environment.

Social prosperity and happiness lie in the heart of a Living Economy. The quest is one towards a radical transformation of business culture, to a model of production that inspires human happiness and prosperity, encourages ecological sustainability and shapes the conditions for a sustainable financial future.

It is interesting that while discussing issues such as business cases, financial prosperity and innovation, all speakers insisted on the importance of functioning with respect to specific values. Trust, respect, solidarity and cooperation were outlined as prerequisites to the path towards the reinvention of our practices. It was agreed that sustainability lies in the end of this path.

ENGAGING IN ECOLOGICAL AND SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY

Nowdays, transparency, a responsible commitment for sustainability, as well as the development and promotion of products and services that are friendly to the environment have become decisive elements into keeping a company’s performance levels high, attracting and keeping customers.

Nevertheless, the transformation towards a Living Economy, does not only involve environmental performances and targets. A large number of businesses, in Europe and other parts of the world, have begun to use indicators of sustainability as a strategic tool to their development. This way, they work towards achieving shared social and environmental and economic values, shaping a new business culture. Sustainable, ecologically and socially responsible businesses can be more that fine advertising examples; they can be a conscious choice and a tool to achieve prosperity, no longer based on ever-growing consumption but on quality.

Although there is still a long way to go, we do see a fertile ground for economic activities based on respect for the environment, which can work in favour of the public interest and society. These innovative businesses wish to reflect a new way of life, one that aims at partnerships instead of a blind competition. They develop administration models based on participatory, democratic principles, taking into consideration users of their products and services as well as employees.

It’s not by chance that businesses which perform innovation in a technological and value-added level survive the financial crisis. Business model reconstruction and safeguarding of a company’s prosperity is connected to sustainable innovation, the re-structuring of products and services, the development of collaborations with social stakeholders, as well as drastic cuts in expenses via energy efficiency, sustainable usage of natural resources, minimization of waste, increased recycling and industrial symbiosis patterns.

The transition to a durable and living economy can not just be a marketing trick followed by a "business as usual" model. A process that will open up a path to a true, radical sustainable transformation in production and consumer models is needed. Businesses have to take up true sustainable responsibility, as they play an important role in the effort for a better living, employment, environmental safeguarding and social cohesion.