A Sustainable Mind. (Episode 53)

Interview with Fabio Tentori, Head of Enel Innovation Hubs for the Enel Group to talk about energy, innovation and sustainability.

What is the most basic human need? If you have read your Maslow’s you are most likely going to say things like “food, water, shelter, etc”. Some young and visionary person might reply that “the Internet” is a basic human need.

And while that is all true, (ok, that part about the Internet is debatable), in a modern society there is one human need that stands above all of that:


Because without the access to energy we will have no food, no water, no heating. And of course no Internet.

Think about it: We have developed our modern societies to be advanced, complex and effective, but also very dependant on reliable access to a lot of energy.

Our civilisation is built on the foundation of having access to huge amount of cheap energy.

Unfortunately, for the last 100 years or so we withdrew more energy from planet Earth that we should have and now we are facing the consequences with global warming.

So it was with huge excitement that I sat down with Fabio Tentori, Head of Enel Innovation Hubs for the Enel Group to talk about energy, innovation and sustainability.

Enel is a energy company with almost 70,000 employees and with business in over 30 countries. Enel is a big company, but it has an even bigger vision: They are on a journey to transform how human energy is produced. Enel is firmly committed to renewable energy and they are part of the United Nations Global Compact Board with a commitment to make “a tangible contribution to four of the UN’s seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These are: access to clean and affordable energy, the promotion of innovation, sustainable industrialization and resilient infrastructure, the creation of sustainable cities and communities, and climate action, with a view to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.”

Enel went from being “just another utility company” to today being one of the largest players in the world in renewable energy.

Renewable energy has gone from a fringe idea embraced by tree huggers to the cutting edge of innovation drawing the attention of venture capital, entrepreneurs and business leaders.

Enel transitioned away from carbon fuels not only because fossil fuels are not sustainable from an environmental perspective, but because they are also not sustainable from a business perspective!

The push to a more sustainable energy market might be the biggest catalyst to innovation since the Internet – perhaps even bigger. 

When the Internet arrived on the scene of business 25 years ago it triggered huge waves of innovation in virtually all industries for decades. Digital Transformation is pretty much what has been pushing innovation for the last decade. Sustainability Transformation is what is now driving innovation.

Just like the people who quickly understood Digital Transformation had an advantage, so does the people who will now quickly understand and react to Sustainability Transformation.

So how to think to have the mindset suitable for the world of “Sustainability Transformation”?

I asked Fabio for advice.

He said: “Sustainability is much more than just an environmental approach to business, it’s about completely changing how you look at the role of business.”

And then he added: “To thrive in the age of sustainability transformation you need a sustainable mind.”

A sustainable mind! I liked it the second I heard it, but what is it? How does one get a sustainable mind?

Fabio did a comparison to the communication revolution: “Nokia’s slogan “Connecting People” got to symbolise the technological revolution that happened in communication, if you embraced the mindset of the Internet being about “connecting people” you were well positioned to understand the changes the world was going in the last 20-25 years.”

When I asked what the equivalent slogan to embrace would be for The Sustainability revolution, Fabio thought for a while and then replied: “The equivalent of “Connecting People” for this revolution is “People Sharing”.”

When I asked him to explain he elaborated: “It’s about sharing the resources, sharing the output, sharing the gains – sharing the planet.”

And he continued: “The goal is sustainability – you have to set up your innovation to reach that goal. It doesnt’ always have to be a big change, it can be small things, but it has to be “sustanability wise”.”

I asked Fabio how his own thinking had changed since he got a Sustainable mind: “I don’t as much try to reach only short-term goals. Now (instead) I am looking at things that really give real value, not only for me, and my company – but real value for as many stake holders as possible.”

Enel operates in 32 countries across five continents, and through its 10 Innovation Hubs Enel tries to connect with other people, startups, companies and organisations that have Sustainable minds. They call it “Open Innovability” (Innovation + Sustainability). It is in these places that the next big wave of innovation for the world of business is gaining momentum. Enel is investing all of its effortsin projects that are in line with the SDGs and they have given innovation a new purpose in the company – “To open power for a brighter future, empowering sustainable progress”. Their goal is to turn off fossil fuels by 2030.

And it is in places like that you need to be if you want to understand what will drive innovation in the next few decades, just like you had to be in the dot-com-circles 20-25 years ago to fully understand how the Digital Transformation wave was starting to change the world of business.

Do not get fooled by how the Sustainable Transformation wave might seem to gain traction slower than the Digital Transformation wave did in the 1990s – remember: a big wave takes longer to build up…

Does your company, and yourself, have a Sustainable mindset? Do you need to develop one? If so, who do you need to meet with to better understand it? Perhaps Fabio at Enel.




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