Stuck in silos
Silo thinking and the lack of understanding of what sustainability actually is prevent progress and cooperation on sustainability in the EU.
“The EU’s approach to working on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is to work on this in silos”, says Filip Gregor, head of Responsible Companies at law firm Frank Bold, and a member of the advisory board of the SMART project.
He points out that the different Directorate-Generals (DG), such as DG Environment or DG Climate Action are focusing on their own issues. According to Gregor, each DG primarily promotes the interests of which they are responsible.
“DG Growth is promoting the interests of European businesses, whereas DG environment is promoting the interests of the European and global environment. This way of thinking prevents people from different DGs from collaborating.”
“This is a huge obstacle to finding common solutions”, he says.
The SMART project can with its holistic approach contribute to breaking down these silos, according to Gregor. He points out that at the moment bobody is looking at the work on SDGs in the EU holistically.
“Nobody is trying to find the links between EU policy on finance, the EU policies in the area of company law, the EU policies on trade, and so on”, says Gregor.
“The SMART project has the potential to bring all this together and explain how all these policy areas interact with each other”, he says.
Promising, but insufficient
Project leader for the SMART project, professor Beate Sjåfjell at the University of Oslo, sees some promising signs of cooperation in the EU on sustainability – such as the EU action plan on financing sustainable growth, which she calls the most promising development in decades.
“The EU action plan on financing sustainable growth contributes to breaking down the silos between environmental law and policy, and between business and finance” says Sjåfjell.
The EU action plan is, however, by itself not enough, according to Sjåfjell. She points out that policy makers and business leaders do not have a clear definition of what sustainability is, and progress on the matter is too slow.
“It is time that we academics climb down from our ivory towers to define ‘What is sustainability?’ and what it means to live within the planetary boundaries” says the professor.