Voluntary Commitments from industry are one of the most promising approaches to successfully bridge corporate and government roles and make effective progress on sustainable development.
Vinyl 2010 is the 10-year programme to improve PVC production processes and products, invest in technology, minimise emissions, reduce waste and boost collection and recycling, in the framework of the European PVC industry's commitment to sustainable development. This is the only Voluntary Commitment of its kind involving the entire upstream and downstream chain – from raw-materials to post-consumer waste – in a single industry.
But industry's commitments to sustainable development, cannot only be related to the strict improvement of processes and products. The European PVC industry's commitment to sustainable development includes research, dialogue, exchange of views and education.
The ongoing frank and open dialogue with stakeholders, third parties, institutions and organisations within technical, political and social communities is of paramount importance to Vinyl 2010 to exchange views on studies, experiences and good practices. But we also believe that it is important to address and engage the younger generation. Sustainable development and climate change concerns us all, especially younger generations who will have to live tomorrow with the consequences of decisions taken today.
To encourage deeper reflections, Vinyl 2010, in partnership with a number of European universities, NGOs, student associations and media, launched its first Sustainable Development Essay Competition in November 2007. Open to 18-30 year old citizens of the European Economic Area, the first competition asked entrants to respond to the question ‘Are sustainable development and economic growth mutually exclusive?' in a 1,000-word journalistic essay in English.
In early 2008, entries were judged by a panel of leading European sustainable development experts from academia, NGOs and the media under the chairmanship of Mrs. Nadine Gouzée, Head of the Sustainable Development Task Force for the Federal Planning Bureau of Belgium. The judging panel was extremely impressed by the quality and creativity of the entries received. These showed not only a great interest from the younger generation on sustainable development themes but also a need of direct participation and contribution in the dialogue.
Collected together in a book published by Vinyl 2010, the full set of essays from the 2007/8 competition provides a fascinating insight into the views of a new generation on sustainable development issues. The essay book has been widely distributed to stakeholders and was presented at Green Week 2008 and at the UN CSD-16 in New York providing a unique platform for young people to express their opinions.
The prize-winners of this first competition – Maja Derčar (Slovenia), Daniela Jungova (the Czech Republic) and Francesco Falcone (Italy) – were also given the opportunity to join a panel of experts in sustainable development from the worlds of academia, media and politics in a 'Café Crossfire' debate in front of an industry audience organised in conjunction with the Brussels' based think-tank Friends of Europe.
Building on the success of Vinyl 2010 first Sustainable Development Essay Competition, which attracted entries from 14 European Member States, a second Essay Competition was launched in October 2008. This time open to young people worldwide with Ms. Selene Biffi, coordinator of the UN Major Group Children and Youth and founder of the Youth Action for Change (YAC) organisation, joining other leading European sustainable development experts on the panel of judges.
The 2008/9 competition poses the question ‘Faced with a food and energy crisis, how can society improve its well-being?'
And young people from around the globe have once again demonstrated their enthusiasm for expressing their views on sustainable development issues. By the 1st December 2008 pre-registration deadline, 927 people representing 89 different nationalities from across Europe and around the world had signed up to take part in the Essay Competition. Registrations were received not only from young people across 27 states in the European Economic Area (EEA), but also from 62 other countries worldwide.
By the 31st January competition submission deadline, a total of 208 essays had actually been submitted which are now been evaluated by the Judging Panel.
Besides the final decisions and winners, all participants demonstrate a real interest in food, energy and climate change issues, with strong backgrounds, and excellent work in term of research and analysis. It is shared view that a greater level of cooperation at all levels is needed to solve such major issues and often suggested that institutions should provide guidelines for a stronger cooperation among industrialised and developing countries. Personal responsibility, commitment and behaviours, including in everyday choices, are seen as fundamental. And consequently information and education of the larger population.
Among its educational initiatives on Sustainable Development, Vinyl 2010 also developed a computer game – the Vinylgame – which challenges players to manage a virtual PVC industry in a sustainable way. Players are challenged by the daily socio-economic and environmental decisions involved in running their own PVC business. Whilst fun to play, the choices made in how the company is run illustrate the challenges in balancing economic growth with sustainable development. Within the game, the consequences of playing purely for economic growth without regarding production safety, environmental consequences or issues such as post-use recycling quickly become apparent as the virtual society may opt to respond and take actions and trade unions may vote to go on strike.
In the words of one 26 year old assistant working in the European Parliament who played the game at the Green Week 2008:
‘I am really interested in sustainable business practices and this affects my consumer choices. Yet during the game, when faced with investment decisions, against a ticking clock, I managed to score a sustainability rating of only 14%. Obviously, I have some learning to do about what makes good business sense and how to create a sustainable industry.'
In October 2008, the Vinylgame was awarded the Italian prize ‘Premio Aretê 2008' for responsible communication in the videogames category by a panel of judges chaired by Italian Minister of Environment Stefania Prestigiacomo.