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“Sustainable Development”: A concept that is too inflated and used in the most varied and possible facets. Give it SD Goals placed by the united nations in 2015 up to national incentives, passing through European policies for development, this paradigm has taken on different faces and connotations that can make it nebulous and abstract. Even experts do not escape this ecological vortex that has invaded every sector of our life and it is difficult to draw a line between ideology and practical application. At the Arbitration Chamber of Milan, the experimentation of environmental mediation provided the opportunity to see a possible practical application of this development model. From experimentation it has in fact become an effective tool proposed by the Arbitration Chamber to be able to give companies, individuals and public bodies the possibility to manage environmental disputes in an alternative way.
Sustainable development and environmental mediation: some definitions
There environmental mediation is one alternative dispute resolution tool (ADR) which targets everyone involved in environmental disputes (citizens, businesses, public administrations) both national and international. Environmental conflicts are not very suitable for recourse to ordinary justice, which limits itself to establishing wrongs and reasons in often too long times. Instead, it is necessary to find, in a short time, creative and shared solutions that are effective and lasting: situations of this kind, if managed correctly, can become opportunities for growth and development. How to make this development sustainable?
The first definition of sustainable development was given by the Brundtland report in 1987: sustainable development it is a development that satisfies the needs of the present without compromising the possibilityà of future generations to satisfy theirs. This definition postulates that the resources we have are limited and scarce and that we must use them properly, but above all, we must have them thinking of future generations. This description is as fundamental as it is abstract to the citizen's ear; it is true that we need to think long term and better manage our resources so as not to exhaust them, but, concretely, how can we do it?
Many institutions have developed various manuals, such as The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. Special certifications have been created that allow you to better navigate the unknown waters of sustainability. In addition to the definition, over the years, various techniques have been developed that allow human activity to be sustainable and all of them are based on a precise mechanism: the balancing of the 3 competing interests (economic, social and environmental) that permeate any sphere of human activity. We cannot think of creating the so-called "business as usual", solely oriented to profit, without bearing in mind the impact that this activity will have on the social or environmental sphere. Even from a purely economic point of view, it is easy to understand: an activity that does not take into account the neighborhood or the surrounding environment will certainly have more difficulties in the long term to operate, exposing itself to economic losses; just think of the village shop or the farmer. We cannot even think of creating an activity (unless it is an organization that lives on funds) that is based solely and solely on ethics and social issues: without economic sustainability, even the most beautiful projects cannot go on.
The general idea is that the precepts of sustainability are followed a priori, and the hope is that all forms of business have these core principles as their basis, are based on these directives and general guidelines, becoming perfectly sustainable and guaranteeing a better future for our children. Reality is different. Even with the best of intentions, trying to follow as many regulations as possible and have the best certifications, given the novelty and complexity of the "let's become sustainable" operation, it has been shown that both public and private actors can find themselves in situations of apparent conflict linked to social and environmental issues.
The term "apparent" is not used casually, but rather acquires a very important meaning, in the sense that these conflicts arise due to a lack of knowledge, a lack of rules, a lack of transparency and, very often, because they are new and have no experience in managing them. Often, neither the actors involved nor the courts, who do not know how to resolve an issue beyond deciding who is wrong or right, have no experience with it. There environmental mediation it helps to adequately manage certain critical situations and to transform them into opportunities for growth through dialogue, the exploration of interests, discussion and collaboration to find a solution that meets everyone's interest.
The common denominator between environmental mediation and sustainable development: balancing interests
But what causes the conflicts that arise around environmental problems? The omnipresent manager is theasymmetry of interests; that is, one imbalance towards one of the 3 fundamental interests mentioned above: economic, social and environmental. In the United States, the motto is often used People, Planet, Profit, which illustrates very well how this triad is interdependent and must now be integrated into any human activity. It is very important to balance these interests not only to ensure a better quality of life for those present and a more prosperous future for posterity; but also because the activity in question, the business idea, has long legs and can thrive for a long time, and anyone who starts a path in the economic market hopes that his business can last over time.
In Mediation, a space for discussion and sharing is created in which we look at future possibilities, and by giving voice to all stakeholders we try to rebalance these 3 fundamental pillars.
Sustainable development is an idea, a philosophy, but the environmental mediation represents its practical application, the tool to restore the balance that allows you to restore adequate space to each dimension; environmental, economic and social.
Another related article of ours that we recommend you read is Environmental mediation: practical cases
Curated by Lea Di Salvatore