Sustainability and innovation: can you imagine two more relevant terms?

These key themes, which will guide business philosophies everywhere for the foreseeable future, were explored in the video interview section which saw Raffaella Cagliano, Deputy Director of the Department of Management Engineering and Professor of People Management & Organization,  Politecnico di Milano School of Management, speak to Andrea Illy, the Italian businessman, on the occasion of the Shaping a Creative Future conference held on 20 and 21 March in Milan. Illy has made sustainability his mission and strives to attribute the proper importance to the skills and potential of the people who work every day to make a better cup of coffee: the growers.
Moreover he believes that in order to become a truly sustainable business it is crucial to improve the quality standards and make the value chain transparent.

The Shaping a Creative Future event was organised by Prada Group in collaboration with Yale School of Management and Politecnico di Milano School of Management.

With one of the leading brands in the luxury fashion sector backed up by two of the most prestigious business schools in the world, the team behind the event was the embodiment of talent and success.

The goal? To define a more positive way forward for companies operating in the luxury market to incorporate the principles of sustainability into their production operations, no longer as an add-on, but as an essential part of company strategy.

The packed two-day event was a chance for students, entrepreneurs and industry professionals to share experiences and ideas with the objective of building a future where business innovation is spurred on by sustainability.

The first day saw the participants break off into Parallel Thinking Groups: work groups in which students and entrepreneurs were able to engage in direct interaction, sparking the ideas, perspectives and critical opinions that went on to form the base of the debate the following day.

Four round-table discussions took centre stage on 21 March, with each one designed to explore a specific element of sustainability for companies in the world of fashion.

1. Brand heritage and market value: in a sector suffering from outsourcing, counterfeiting and undercutting, it is vital that companies protect the authenticity and craftsmanship which represent the most valuable part of their brands. Indeed, it is the cultural and artistic side of a brand that can help to create sustainable value for a company.

2. Design for sustainability through innovation and tradition: preparing for a sustainable future means innovating to change both processes and products. A visionary, pioneering approach should be adopted from the design and planning phases, yet tradition and heritage should never be overlooked. It is a complex challenge, but it is possible.

3. Sustainability and value creation: sustainability cannot be a mere add-on for companies, but must be an integral part of their strategies. It is vital that companies explore the true value of sustainability for their clients.

4. Driving creative excellence: innovation and creative thinking should be promoted within the company culture. It is vital that we encourage leaders to develop organisational, managerial and financial practices which help to build creative, innovation environment and a company culture centred around sustainability.

There were plenty of extra incentives for the participants to strive for greatness during the event. The students of  Politecnico di Milano School of Management and Yale School of Management took each other on in a contest organised by Prada Group under the title Creating Sustainable Value Through Heritage and Arts. The prize for the best project went to a team made up of five students on MIP’s International Master in Luxury Management (IMLUX)


All in all, Shaping a Creative Future was a significant, intense event. It provided an opportunity to come together and share ideas, generating plenty of food for thought and helping to define a set of best practices with which to build a better future for companies – and for the Earth itself.