Alex Athanassoulas

Alex Athanassoulas: Progress can’t be stopped. If not enhanced by us, however, it will simply move past us, ignore us!

Greece is the Destination is an initiative by Energizing Greece which focuses on bringing together people from different industries and sectors to support and promote the brand of ‘Greece’ and to transform it into a global destination for investments, tourism and other actions. Our President, Alex Athanassoulas, commenting on the initiative writes the following:

Sustainability and innovation are concepts inextricably linked and the time has come for us all to understand and “serve” them. The interdependence of sustainability and innovation has become increasingly important in recent years as businesses, governments and society seek to address the pressing environmental, social and economic challenges facing the world.

Innovation can most meaningfully drive sustainability, while sustainability can (and should) lead to innovation, creating a successful model of organic sustainable development. As a state, if we want to contribute to environmental sustainability, we must accept that Greece contributes less than 0.2% of CO2 worldwide. To have a measurable impact at an international level, only our asymmetric contribution to innovation can be a way out and lead to solutions. Accordingly, on an economic level, the accelerated developments in the market make innovation a condition for the viability of every business, every investment. Finally, on a social level, on a purely human level, innovation every day offers solutions. A wave of start-ups with a social purpose compose a new puzzle of hope for a fundamentally sustainable society.

Greece truly has the potential to be a leader in sustainability and innovation despite its size, given its unique geographic location, natural resources, human resources and cultural heritage. With a rich history of innovation and asymmetric global contribution, from the ancient Greeks who pioneered developments in mathematics, science and philosophy, to modern Greeks who excel in fields such as shipping, tourism, medicine and renewable energy, we must intensify our efforts in this direction.

Obviously, it is necessary to create a supportive policy framework that will motivate businesses, entrepreneurs and investors to innovate and even with a sustainable manner. Moreover, the European Union works in this same context through tax breaks, subsidies, grants and other economic incentives that encourage the development and adoption of sustainable technologies, products and services. Our country’s investment in research and development, particularly in areas such as renewable energy, water conservation and the circular economy, must be done through government, academia and the private sector, to create new ideas, technologies and solutions to sustainability challenges.

But perhaps most important of all, is to effectively promote sustainability and innovation by educating and empowering citizens to understand, demand and adopt more sustainable lifestyles and behaviours. The need for public awareness campaigns, educational programs and community involvement initiatives is great. These will build a society that seeks sustainability and innovation from all its parts, accepts and is inspired by a culture of innovation, encourages creativity, experimentation, entrepreneurship, incubation of start-ups and collaborative innovation formations, the who will help create a vibrant, organically growing ecosystem of innovators, investors and mentors.

But the biggest challenge we face is to first shake off from our society the apathy, and resistance to progress. Our misapplied “romantic and revolutionary” mood. Progress does not come through demonstrations, acts of violence, vandalism of cultural monuments, universities and works of art. It comes through hard work, adherence to the need for progress, cooperation to chart a common path towards it and the recognition that the old, no matter how much it “liked” or “suited” some, is no longer among the choices we have. The river does not turn back. Progress can be enhanced by us. But it will not be stopped by anyone. It can just pass us by, however, and ignore us.

The creation of a common vision among Greeks is of immediatem vital importance in promoting sustainability and innovation in Greece. All of humanity wakes up each day and, consciously or subconsciously, looks forward to a better tomorrow. Therefore, any resistance simply comes from a lack of understanding of the benefit of progress. This means that all stakeholders – government, businesses, academic institutions, civil society organizations and citizens – must agree on a common vision for a more sustainable and innovative future. Only shared vision can provide a sense of direction, purpose and motivation for all.

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