March 12, 2021

Introducing the Nova Sustainable Way of Life: exclusive interview with Luís Veiga Martins

The Nova SBE x TOMRA x Municipality of Cascais container deposit scheme for beverages is the first pilot project in Portugal. How trailblazing is this step for Nova SBE and also the country?

This is the Nova SBE way. We are an active agent of change in paradigm shifts, testing the different solutions and alternatives companies develop and working alongside our community in our campus's living lab. This way, we are at the service of different economic agents and the Government to analyze and test the best solutions towards a future deposit system in Portugal.

How did the partnership with TOMRA, the well-known Norwegian multinational specializing in recycling solutions, came about?

It took place quite naturally, meaning that Portugal had defined the implementation of a mandatory container deposit scheme for non-recycling beverage containers starting January 1, 2022, as a goal. It was necessary to study and think of a campus model that covered consumers, restaurants, our supermarket, vending machines, and the gym. Thus, it was necessary to establish a partnership with an agent that, like us, was an experienced market leader and sought excellence in the solutions it offered – that's when TOMRA comes into the picture. So, it ended up being a natural partnership.

How unique and important are mandatory container deposit schemes?

These deposit systems are the only way of complying with the non-recycling beverage container collection rates' goals. We are before a system with proven results in the different countries it has been implemented. Many of which have a 90 % collection rate that illustrates their efficiency. Thus, we are minimizing the number of plastic bottles that can end up in the ocean while promoting recycling and adding value, fostering job creation, and a better environment.

Nevertheless, certain requirements must be met to ensure that the goals we set out to achieve with these collection deposits add to the recycling bins' conditions for the remaining beverage containers.

The beverage containers that are part of the deposit system must be well labeled, thus facilitating the monetary refund of the consumer's extra fee when he purchased the beverage, establishing a minimum fee for each beverage deposit, among other elements.

What does this mean sustainability-wise for Nova SBE, its impact on its community, and society at large?

Introducing this pilot will allow and comprehensively contribute to the diversion of waste from landfills, which is one of the goals that Nova SBE plans to achieve. By establishing, on our campus, such a system, we are also educating the consumer to have a sustainable behavior towards waste separation on a day-to-day basis. Universities must play a key role through such initiatives – they must educate, in a non-formal way, beyond the academic programs and curriculum.

By doing this, Nova SBE assumed its commitment when it signed the New Plastics Economic Global Commitment with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. What other agreements, partnerships, or arrangements is Nova SBE doing to further its role by contributing to the knowledge and testing of alternative solutions?

When Nova SBE subscribes or participates in a network program, it actively plays its role by being an agent of change. That's why, aside from signing the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, it is also part of the UNGC, SDSN, and PRME networks. These are organizations that promote or have the Sustainable Development Goals as their foundation. Regarding PRME, Nova SBE is one of the 38 universities worldwide, from 900 institutions, to be part of the PRME Champions Cycle, thus promoting the six principles for which the PRME is known. These are the sense of purpose, the organization's social responsibility, the implementation of methods that foster a responsible leadership, research that fosters sustainable development, the promotion of partnerships, and, lastly, facilitating and supporting dialog in society.

What current projects, initiatives, and endeavors is the school undertaking to tackle current global challenges and showcase sustainable development?

To answer that question, the best way possible, you need to access Nova SBE's newest platform – Nova SBE Role to Play. There you will find all the different projects and initiatives that the Nova SBE community developed, or plans to create, to disquiet and disrupt. Nevertheless, I highlight two particular initiatives: 1. the BIOS project, which consists of an innovative system for indoor farming, using technology and data monitoring, using building's wasted energy & low carbon technologies as a production factor. And 2. The Cascais Smart Pole by Nova SBE – a developing project that intends to be an experimentation space in which stakeholders' interaction contribute towards carbon neutrality. A GEE virtual carbon market will ensure an incentive for change behavior and, consequently, accountability. This will be accessible by all stakeholders, which will allow monitoring and reducing both the individual and corporate footprint while demonstrating the different pilot projects taking place in the Cascais Smart Pole by Nova SBE area.

And how is Nova SBE addressing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and how can sustainability be a lever for the future?

The 17 SDGs are part of Nova SBE's strategy and, as an action plan, will continue to guide us through this sustainability journey. It all starts at the base. We didn't stop during the first confinement period, and staff and faculty organized workshops with over 150 people, thus bringing awareness to the 2030 Agenda. Aside from that, all of our academic programs and our faculty-led research indicate which SDG it contributes to. All the initiatives that the Nova SBE Knowledge Centers and student clubs promote aim to develop a specific set of skills but also contribute to the SDG. These are only a few examples of what we've been up to, but there's a lot more in store.

We, Nova SBE, must support society's transformation into sustainability, fostering values that can be instilled in our students, faculty, and staff, thus leading them into having more responsible attitudes in their personal and professional lives while using our campus as a sustainability showcase with a local, national, and global impact. This is our Role to Play!

This interview was originally published here

Luís Veiga Martins

Associate Dean for Community Engagement and Sustainable Impact & Chief Sustainability Officer

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