Last Friday (21st November) was the 1st Annual Conference of the Business and Biodiversity Platform. Over 200 national and internationally recognised experts gathered to look at how an integrated approach is essential. Renowned sustainability expert Tony Juniper put it simply when he said that business & biodiversity working well together is a win for nature, the economy and society.
Some of the progress made in raising awareness was personified by another key note speaker, Tim Haywood. Tim is Chief Finance Director (CFO) and Head of Sustainability at Interserve PLC, a company with a turnover that tops 2 billion, and has a workforce of 75,000. As Tim himself said, the idea of the CFO and Sustainability head being one person is, in itself, a huge step. It merges two roles that traditionally would have been seen as polar opposites. The central point according to Tim was ensuring that sustainability is integrated at every level of the supply chain – from boardroom, to subcontractors, to single operators.
Being able to open this conference, organised so ably by the team in DG Environment , was a real privilege. My speech, which focussed on the message that we need to stop squandering and start managing resources is available here. I am thankful for all the positive feedback from the room and on social media.
The theme of integrated planning was there earlier in the week at the launch of the Adriatic and Ionian Strategy. The event marked the first occasion for new Italian Foreign Minister, Paolo Gentiloni to be in Brussels. With my friend and colleague Corina Cretu, European Commissioner for Regional Policy, we discussed how best to support the initiative around the 4 pillars of "Blue Growth", "Connecting the Region" (Transport and Energy), "Environmental Quality" and "Sustainable Tourism".
My own speech focussed on the fact that the biggest opportunities for the region’s economy clearly comes from tourism, in particular maritime tourism. The discussion with the Ministers from the 8 participating countries clearly echoed this sentiment.
European Week of Waste Reduction (EWWR) is up and running. After EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis and I we got some great responses. For example, the Catalan government is undertaking 782 different activities to mark EWWR. I'm looking forward to seeing all the efforts around Europe.
This week sees my first trip, with the entire college of Commissioners, to the European Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg. An obvious highlight is the address by Pope Francis to the chamber on Tuesday. But the College meeting in Strasbourg is also set to adopt the jobs growth and competitiveness package promised by President Juncker. To have such a strong opening to our mandate, only 4 weeks into office, is a sign of just how dynamic and engaged this Commission intends to be.
After Strasbourg, I will head to Venice and the Maritime Spatial Planning Conference, where I will speak about how maritime sectors need to complement each other. As you can see, the constant thread of my work at the moment is good planning. From an environmental perspective, this is not just advantageous, it is essential. I cannot put it better than Tim Haywood, in his summing up at the biodiversity and business conference; 'we cannot have a thriving economic system without a thriving ecosystem'.