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Technology and sustainability to enable the evolutionary process of society

An interview with Maria Cristina Farioli, Director of Digital Strategy & Consulting Services @ RED Living the Future.

Over the past few years, issues of sustainability and digitization have played an increasingly crucial role, abetted by the health and economic situation that have imposed new standards and required new means to meet new challenges. In this context, awareness about sustainable investments and ESG criteria has increased and technology has emerged as a necessary tool to enable the evolutionary process of society.

Maria Cristina Farioli, Director of Digital Strategy & Consulting Services at RED Living the Future, discusses how technology and sustainable investments combine to set society’s evolutionary process in motion. RED Living the Future is an Innovative SME that proposes the development of cutting-edge urban settings, where living finds a new dimension that places people and their needs at the center. The RED Living the Future model harmoniously combines and integrates the energy system, digital infrastructure, building features and services so as to generate a context of living well-being.

With Maria Cristina Farioli, we compiled a comprehensive overview of the new market challenges faced by the various entities involved, both to adapt to new circumstances and to keep up with innovative solutions. In this article we will analyze the above issues and try to provide useful information to better interpret this period of rapid change.

Can technology help companies embrace ESG principles and sustainable investment?

Technology is an essential element in enabling the adoption of sustainable development goals, an example being energy efficiency, i.e., smart building or intelligent buildings capable of adapting and managing systems from access control to temperature control, based on the collection of information. Smart solutions make it possible to understand and analyze energy consumption and predict what interventions could optimize energy consumption. In fact, these systems facilitate predictive analysis as well as early intervention in case of malfunctions. Consumption is thus reduced, with concomitant efficiency in operations, achieving a higher level of sustainability.

In a sustainability context, data play a crucial role: data collection and interpretation are crucial, as they allow you to monitor consumption, understand how much renewable energy you have available and how much you will need to create and capture, to offset consumption with predictive analysis. This is where the smart grid comes in, which, by collecting data in real time, optimizes the distribution of electricity.

In addition, data also enables awareness creation. As information is acquired, it can be communicated to make people aware of consumption and direct them to increasingly sustainable behaviors.

Mobility is another key piece in embracing sustainability. Thus, electric mobility allows for the distribution of renewable energy and enables energy interchanges. This is facilitated through the use of software that monitors distribution, enabling investment in sustainable land regeneration to create cohesive communities, redevelop housing stock, and create communities that support the well-being of citizens and the environment.

From the point of view of sociality, what is the impact? How can you create a context in which you are well on the level of quality?

Working on the environment and renewable is a first step to be taken to achieve social welfare. In addition, all of this also allows for the embrace of economic prosperity through sustainable and cost-cutting policies. Therefore, the key to accelerating and enabling this process is technology.

Over the past few years, the topic of sociability has been analyzed in detail, in the wake of the pandemic event many companies have been working to develop and make available services and Apps that could facilitate sociability, making it easier for people to meet each other, exchange views and help each other.

A practical example is the UAF (You Are Family) application, which was developed to increase inclusivity for older population groups. This allows older people to relate to younger people, to chat and keep each other company, and facilitates the meeting of two generations, enabling social inclusion.

From a governance perspective, what is the impact? How can we interpret the adoption of ESG principles?

A very good strategy from this point of view is to give a single view of all governance. In complex housing systems that combine energy, technology and community services, the creation of a governance system is central.

With RED Living the Future, we have adapted this strategy to gather both the opinions of citizens as well as those of the various providers; it is a system for checking and monitoring any critical issues or emergencies within the ecosystem. This therefore allows for a single, cross-cutting platform that considers all the elements that make up the neighborhood. All of these aspects are managed and monitored through key performance indicators, which provide insight into the efficiency and effectiveness of services and the performance of the system-neighborhood, and allow data and information to be collected to have control and facilitate monitoring of set goals. In this context, ESG parameters are part of it and are constantly measured.

What is the difference between ESG principles and socially responsible investing (CSR)?

ESG principles and socially responsible investing (CSR) share the same basic principles of sociality. Delineating a precise distinction is difficult because ESG principles have yet to be partly translated into real practices in real estate, plus the real estate market is still trying to embrace a digital culture.

Energy efficiency is now the key issue; after years of high expenditures, it is time to regenerate old buildings, but to do so requires new energy sources. This need is impacting the real estate market across the board, and ESG principles are guidelines to show companies how to approach sustainable investments. This issue holds great importance especially in the Italian market, which is made up of many small companies that struggle, including economically, to adapt to the proposed new standards, especially in the absence of incentives.

Therefore, it is necessary to educate people to properly plan operations and measure the results. Without measuring progress and results, it becomes complex to measure goals and verify that we are on the right path.

Thus, we can say that CSR addresses the strategic goals of companies and their social commitment, while ESG metrics will allow the measurement of concrete actions that companies will carry out.

Cristina, you worked many years in IBM and I imagine that moving to RED Living the Future was quite a change, what made you take on this new adventure?

I worked at IBM for 30 years, for half of which I had the opportunity to lead several units, from marketing to communications, from business development to sales. Particularly for five years I have been following the strategy and development of smart cities, I have touched as many as 380 of them! This experience particularly shaped me and today that I work in Real Estate represents an important cognitive asset. At IBM, I was able to shape my professionalism, play different roles, express myself and embrace my aspirations while increasing my skills.

At RED Living the Future I decided to take on a new challenge, and having already been confronted with the world of digital cities, I was ready for this new adventure. I had the opportunity to concretize a project from scratch, work with a team consisting of architects and engineers, and lead the design of digital services. It was very satisfying and challenging to practice the skills learned and to be able to apply them to the real world, the existing world, which is very disciplinary.

Another challenge I have undertaken over the past few years is as a university lecturer: since 2017 I have been in charge of the Management and Organization in Digital Economy course at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan. In this area, I have the opportunity to meet and interact with young people, help them understand the market and the opportunities that arise. I have noticed that young people today are confused, they do not have clear ideas about the possibilities after college, they need practice and less theory, to confront the real job market, to have reference points with which to compare themselves. My mission is to help them understand what avenues are available and how to embark on their chosen path, and it all starts with listening to their ideas, the concrete help I try to bring in to help them understand how to get involved in today’s market. To date, I have seen several alumni launch their idea into the market and succeed in reaping the fruits of their labor, and I hope to see more of them in the future.