'It’s hard to innovate how to sail around the world if you believe it’s flat'
Alumni from the fields of technology, business and arts & design as well as friends of Aalto gathered in the European Parliament in Brussels to share thoughts on the circular economy on December 10th. The event followed a series of similar meetings held around the world by the Dean of the School of Business, Ingmar Björkman.
The host of the event, Member of the European Parliament and alumna of the School of Business Sirpa Pietikäinen gave a thought-provoking speech on the alarming condition of our planet. She stressed the urgent need to collaborate across siloes, such as businesses, universities, policy-makers and other societal actors, in order to produce systemic solutions for the environmental challenges, which are growing exponentially. "It is vital to first understand the big picture and the goal that needs to be reached, and then work on all fronts to attain that goal. Biodiesel, for example, is not the solution when we actually need to rethink the entire infrastructure of mobility", said Sirpa Pietikäinen.
According to MEP Pietikäinen, the role of businesses and new business models based on circular economy – especially in the construction, food and textile industries – are key in solving the problems, as markets are more efficient in guiding consumer behaviour than political actors. The largest barrier to change is people who are unaware of or choose not to believe the alarming trajectory our planet is in: “If you think that the world is flat, it’s hard to innovate how to sail around it”. Adopting the radical measures needed could result in the uprising of such people, creating instability and even violence.
Sirpa Pietikäinen also pointed out that universities have an important role, and that “science should be the personal trainer of politicians”. She challenged Aalto to offer a whole study program on circular economy; educate executives on the topic; and open a professorship in sustainable finance/accounting.
Dean Björkman shared the latest news of Aalto University and presented examples of how the university works on sustainability issues. The alumni were happy to hear about the positive developments of their alma mater, and many promised to visit the renewed campus. The participants also enjoyed meeting each other, and the vivid discussions continued after the presentations.
The alumni event in Brussels followed Dean Björkman’s gatherings held in Seoul (in 2019 and 2018), Singapore, Palo Alto, New York (2018 and 2016), London (2017 and 2015), Stockholm, the Stanford University campus, and Moscow. The purpose of these events is to create an Aalto alumni community also outside of Finland.
There are already over 40 000 alumni from over 80 countries in the Aalto University alumni network. You can join the network free of charge at: https://alumnicircle.aalto.fi/
Jonna Söderholm, Head of External Relations, School of Business