It seems that the spark capable of reigniting the engine of industrial growth could well be a green one. It is a spark that the supporters of the green economy consider a powerful tool, capable of starting a new cycle of development based on sustainability and technological innovation, and having long-term effects ranging from environmental protection to the recovery of industry and employment. It is a spark glowing in the microcosm of bioplastics that is thought, by a section of public opinion at least, to be guilty of undermining the whole galaxy of the traditional plastics. In truth, the green advance can be seen wherever there is a perceived need for greater production efficiency – a need that must inevitably be addressed by reducing the consumption of non-renewable resources – raw materials or fuels – and reducing polluting emissions.
This is what is happening in the packaging sector, where weight reductions, even in the order of grams, are having a positive impact in terms of reducing the energy needed for transportation, but above all in the automotive sector, where increasingly restrictive regulations are having the effect of driving the development of materials and technologies suitable for generating solutions that represent an optimal balance between performance, productivity and cost. Thus, aluminium and carbon fibre-reinforced composite materials are beginning to replace steel, in the same way as engineering plastics have taken the place of metals and glass. It is a trend from which there will be no turning back – an evolution directed at the creation of lighter parts, designed and constructed to be used in hybrid and electric vehicles (now being proposed by an increasing number of leading car makers) in order to offset the weight of the batteries and electric motors, and also of the safety devices.
But part of the “rule” of lightweight solutions, if the goal is to be met, is that the right decisions need to be taken as early as the design stage. In some cases these are truly pioneering decisions that encourage abandonment of the consolidated, mainstream route in favour of the increasingly tricky paths of a new mindset: thinking light. In other words, an alternative way of thinking which makes us “listen” to the world, to cultural nuances and to technological innovations. It takes huge curiosity and abundant enthusiasm to approach things that are new and unfamiliar. Today, in fact, there is still a considerable discrepancy between what science knows – and translates into technology – and what companies actually do in practice. But if we really want to put an end to the present economic chaos, if we really want to obtain outstanding results in the activities that reflect the trends of the 21st century, then the solution is to stop persevering with models that are not so much established as obsolete.
We always take it for granted that structured growth demands good ideas, investment and technology, tending to forget that the strategic importance of human resources is now greater than ever. There exist minds that, to usher in a new Renaissance, need to be employed in significant projects. In my view, we no longer have any need for the stick used as a threat and the carrot as encouragement. What we really need is a new, lighter approach based on motivation – on the desire to do things because it makes sense to do them, because they appeal to us, because they are interesting, and because they are part of something important. The way I see it, this new business model revolves around three elements: purpose, ambition and autonomy. Purpose is the determination to go on with what we are doing because we are serving something greater than ourselves, ambition is the desire to do better and better in something that matters, and autonomy is the freedom to develop and propose innovative designs. These are the cornerstones of an entirely new operating system for enterprise in our country.