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Nikolaus Berlakovich, AT

former Austria’s environment minister

The sea showcases exceptional projects in the area of sustainability. What do you think of this initiative?

The keystone on which my political endeavours are based is the conviction that ecology and economy can go together. This award puts the spotlight on examples from real life. Every company that dedicates itself to environment-friendly corporate management contributes towards erasing the idea – which used to be generally propagated – that these two principles are mutually exclusive from people’s minds.

What does sustainable entrepreneurship mean to you personally?

For me it means running a company in such a way that it achieves its business targets, while keeping its impact on the environment to a minimum.

It would seem that sustainable entrepreneurship has become even more relevant in the wake of the crisis. Why is it that it often takes a crisis for a shift in awareness to come about?

Because crises often have a financial effect that practically forces us to change our way of thinking. For example, it is often high energy costs that prompt us to make a serious effort to save energy. But whosoever saves energy also saves money, reduces CO2 emissions and follows the principle of sustainability.

How firmly rooted is sustainable entrepreneurship already in people’s thinking and, above all, in the actions of companies? What is your opinion of Austrian companies’ contribution towards SE?

I have noticed a great increase in awareness. On the one hand, there are many companies that take ecology into consideration in their daily activities, often with a great level of innovation. On the other hand, there is a growing number of companies whose actual business aim is environment protection. At present, there are about 200,000 people in green jobs in Austria. That is an increase of 3.7 percent, which is remarkable, especially for a time of crisis.

Which sectors do you think are doing the most in terms of sustainable entrepreneurship, and which have a lot of catching up to do?

I don’t think it’s possible to nail it so much to sectors as to the guiding principles and the actual behaviour of the companies themselves.

Politics, industry, society – who should be the driving force for the development of sustainable entrepreneurship?

It has to be a concerted effort. Politics lays down the framework in form of laws, regulations and subsidies. Industry has a fundamental interest in positioning its own products and services within this framework. And consumers have the power to help sustainably produced goods and services succeed on the market.

Which is the most memorable SE project you’ve ever heard of – and why?

I’ve gotten to know so many exemplary companies throughout Austria that it wouldn’t be fair to single out any particular one. At any rate, there is an impressively broad spectrum in Austria.