From the Editor
What has the ongoing pandemic taught the industrial world?
A term we have heard over and over again, as an obsessive mantra, in these two years is that of "resilience", a word so abused of that, lately, hearing it often stirs a certain degree of impatience.
The same thing, if you wish, also happened to other terms, like "sustainability", for instance. This is a word that we read everywhere today, used as a label you can stick on anything and, frankly speaking, often found in contexts that really do not require it, or worse, do not sound much appropriate associated with it.
So, let’s delve into "sustainability".
As many of us (especially if at a mature age, like me) will recall, years ago the adjective "sustainable" was basically a synonym for "natural", "biodegradable" or, in a broader meaning, "green". At the time, we could well accept that environment-friendly meaning it had taken – in the end, we had just only set off on the complex and lengthy journey of trying to achieve true environment protection.
Today, after a few years of debate and efforts towards designing sustainability policies, we have learned that, for instance, a synthetic product can be more sustainable than a natural product, that a glass of water filled from the tap at home can be more sustainable than a bottle of water claiming to be sourced from the purest mountain glacier, yet which has to be transported on an old, badly polluting, diesel lorry to reach us.
“Sustainability” - no intention to presume the following to be a definition engraved in stone - is a virtuous system based on forward-looking vision, environment-friendly behaviour and the adoption of state-of-the-art technologies, that is, that can enable sustainable processes. A similar example can be made for the term "resilience", used a lot today in these times of crisis, yet with the difference that, while the term "sustainability " has had time to evolve over the years, resilience is a word that appeared over a few days a the war-like toll the new pandemic emergency was causing. The enormous pressure dictated by the circumstances of the past two years has changed the meaning of "resilience" from "the ability to react positively to an adverse situation" to something else, which we still cannot really pinpoint today. However, being keen to throw in an opinion and share it informally with our readers, one meaning I would like to give to “having resilience” is " working to design a new system".
Companies from all sectors (I will not include the healthcare system, which has suffered a huge blow through the pandemic, while still being able, many times heroically, to assist parents) have been able to react strongly, first by building walls to protect their own businesses in the early pandemic emergency, then proceeding beyond those walls to establish new criteria and operational methods everyone could benefit from. The key factor in redesigning processes has been doing it by making sure solid “bridges” would be constructed, in a sort of “network-building” spirit that has involved a multitude of human and technological resources, has meant making use and interconnecting information technology systems, logistics and services which, working together, have led to shaping a new “working system”, a new way of doing things that is impacting today on all aspects of the manufacturing processes, hence also on employment.
Not everything looks bright, of course. A war-like event leads to making errors, to destruction, to ruins that will require huge and lengthy reconstruction efforts. However, reconstruction is what we need, carried out through those network-building dynamics that involve all parties and resources, with the aim of generating the driving force for business recovery and development - I am certain that the chemical and the pharmaceutical industries, as well as the nutritional sector will be leading the way to economy growth, as they have always done. Undoubtedly, technology applied to research (thus enabling improved testing, analysis and production processes), the ever-so-rapid development of electronics, information technology and artificial intelligence have triggered a global response that was unthinkable just a few years ago.
Nonetheless, the fact remains that the greatest resource will always be the "human touch", expressed especially through the ability to become a team and work as such, with motivated team leaders that, in turn, know how to motivate team members, with the ability to establish relationships, make contacts, partnerships, alliances, the ability to go beyond one’s personal points of view for the common good. We have described the pandemic in terms of a war-like scenario, while the latest news has plunged us into a scenario that sparks new considerations and shakes the very ground our beliefs stand on. However, such considerations must look at hope all the time, at keeping a light shining through darkness, at committing to fostering a vision of peace, prosperity and development, as players of that network-building processes that shape our future.
In the end, it will always be the women and men who truly commit to achieving the common good who will be able to take us from resistance to resilience and, finally, to rebirth.