Coverage on the 10th edition of the “Sustainable Economy Summit” conference

Coverage on the 10th edition of the “Sustainable Economy Summit” conference

On 20-21 May 2024, the 10th anniversary edition of the “Sustainable Economy Summit” conference took place at the Sheraton Grand Warsaw Hotel. Over two days, nearly 500 conference participants had the opportunity to listen to six panel discussions, as well as over a dozen presentations by experts and speeches by distinguished Special Guests. Among other topics, the conference covered low-carbon construction, green energy and digitalisation, as well as ESG criteria plus responsibility in business and the circular economy. The highlight of the event was the evening Awards Gala, the “Sustainable Economy Diamonds”, during which companies and entrepreneurs who make investments according to the highest environmental and social standards were honoured.

The first day of the “Sustainable Economy Summit” was inaugurated with a speech by one of the Special Guests of the conference, Prof. Witold M. Orłowski, PhD, DSc – Economist, Professor at the Business School of the Warsaw University of Technology and the Vistula University, Chief Economic Advisor to PwC Polska, who gave a presentation entitled “ESG – necessity or marketing?”.

Professor Orłowski began his speech by emphasising the importance of ESG debates and initiatives such as the “Sustainable Economy Summit”, pointing out, however, that they are not sufficient, as reality is more complicated than the deepest theoretical deliberations can predict. Currently, entrepreneurs are, as it were, caught between the desire to pursue socially and environmentally beneficial activities and the need to generate profits, both for themselves, the company and shareholders. However, the professor believes that this contradiction is artificial, as the case for ESG is not only about moral issues. Indeed, compliance with ESG criteria also has an impact on financial returns in the long term.

The assembled guests then had the opportunity to listen to a case study presented by Prof. Rafał Ohme – CEO, Firm Mindset and Tom Pawlikowski – Global Strategic Director, Sustainable Brands. The presentation was entitled “Sustainable Transformation. It was supposed to be so beautiful”.

The speakers emphasised that although transformation efforts are usually well prepared, the results often need to be adjusted. According to the speakers, this is due to the fact that it is more important to change public attitudes and awareness about transformation than to regulate and analyse. This is where the problem of the “say-do gap”, i.e. the gap between declarations and actual actions, arises. It does not result from conscious lying, but from so-called social masking, i.e. the unconscious adaptation of one’s words and beliefs to the expectations of the recipient. Thanks to an innovative method based on artificial intelligence algorithms, the speakers created an application to estimate the size of the “say-do gap”. They concluded their presentation by listing the advantages of their system, which allows them to identify change ambassadors, recognise obstacles, increase employee engagement and improve implementation efficiency and reduce transformation costs.

Next on the agenda was the second Special Guest speech of the day, this time delivered in an online form. The assembled audience listened to a presentation by Peter McAteer, Consultant, Advisor, Teacher, Author and Managing Director of SustainLearning LCC. Its title was “Sustainability and Competitive Advantage”.

According to the speaker, competitive advantage based on sustainability is crucial for all businesses today. Taking care of the regulatory ESG requirements alone cannot build an advantage, but only the basis needed to stay in the market. It is essential to seek out new business opportunities and stay ahead of the regulations that will follow. The funds available for sustainable transformation globally are vast and companies must compete for them. The speaker concluded by paraphrasing the renowned management theorist Peter Drucker – every global challenge we currently face is really an opportunity in disguise.

After a short break, it was time for the first panel discussion, entitled “Low-carbon construction and real estate”. The debate was moderated by Bartosz Zamara, PhD, Development Manager, Trebbi Polska. Participants in the discussion included: Arne Bongenaar, Managing Partner, Acteeum Group, Anna Duchnowska, Managing Director of Investment Management, Invesco Real Estate, Maciej Korbasiewicz, President of the Management Board, Bolix, Dariusz Pawlukowicz, Vice-President of the Management Board, ROBYG, Bartosz Tokarski, Financial Practice Leader, Deputy Director of the Strategic Clients Insurance Office, EIB.

In defining the topic of discussion, the speakers emphasised that a slightly different approach and standards should be applied to low-carbon residential and commercial buildings. Simple solutions to reduce emissions, such as air recuperation or efficient heating, often do not work in residential, as their effectiveness depends on the building occupants. It is older residential buildings that are the largest source of the carbon footprint in construction. At the same time, they represent the greatest opportunity to rapidly reduce the overall carbon footprint by retrofitting them. This is the last moment to start this process, because in five to ten years’ time, buildings with low energy efficiency will no longer be rented at all – either due to lack of demand or regulations.

Discussants agreed that investing in low-emission is still a costly and risky process in Poland. When constructing low-energy buildings, developers often cannot count on higher rents. This is because tenants do not trust that energy expenses will actually be lower. Consumers’ bills should become a motivator for mitigation practices. But this is still not the case. It is difficult to say whether it is a question of lack of awareness or lack of willingness. In conclusion, however, the speakers encouraged everyone to consider even small investments in energy efficiency and low-carbon, as they can reduce emissions by up to 30% at a small cost.

After the lunch break, the next item on the agenda was a case study presented by Agnieszka Łyczak-Szymczyk, Partner, Sustainability Manager, BASF Polska. The presentation was entitled “Together for the Planet – or how a chemical company and its partners are working towards sustainability”.

In her presentation, the speaker briefly outlined the principles of the Together for the Planet programme, which BASF has developed for companies implementing sustainable development practices in order to appropriately honour and promote their actions. The programme is aimed not only at BASF’s direct partners, but also at companies working with partners of the chemical leader. The categories in which companies are awarded include: SME Sustainability Leader, Closed Circuit Champion, Net-Zero Promoter and Innovator of the Year.

The next presentation was given jointly by Ireneusz Borowski, Country Manager Poland, Dassault Systèmes and Daniel Kostrzewa, Head of Business, Member of the Management Board, Unitra. The title of the presentation was “Sustainable ecodesign”.

The speakers began their presentation by attempting to define the concept of sustainable design. According to them, sustainable design is about designing in such a way that, from the very beginning, the raw materials, water and energy required to make and use a product are taken into account throughout its life cycle, right down to assessing its final impact on the environment and the possibility of recycling it. Consumption of these elements can be significantly reduced by the serviceability of the appliance, which is nowadays extremely important to consumers. This can be achieved, among other things, through modularity and ease of disassembly and reassembly. In conclusion, the speakers reminded that every appliance will break down at some point, therefore it should be designed in such a way that it can be repaired easily and cheaply. Only after that should one think about reusing its parts and recycling it.

After this speech, it was time for the second panel, entitled “Green Digitalisation”, moderated by Rafał Mrówka, PhD, DSc, Professor at the Department of Management Theory, Director of the MBA Programme Office, SGH Warsaw School of Economics. Participants in the discussion included Łukasz Balas, VAD Sales Team Leader, ASBIS, Zsolt Fekete, CEO, Algotech Polska, Michał Grzegorzewski, Chief Business Operation Officer, Fujitsu Polska, Bożena Leśniewska, Vice-President of the Management Board for Business Market, Orange Polska, Anita Sowińska, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Climate and Environment.

According to the participants of the discussion, the main problem of implementing green digitalisation is a lack of knowledge and understanding. Another is the fear of costly investments and the threat of cyber-attacks. Few innovations are greeted warmly from the get-go by the majority of the public. This is why education and awareness-building are so important. Usually, however, it is only hard evidence in the form of financial savings that finally convinces the sceptics. Green digitalisation primarily yields results in the long term. E.g. the development of a fibre-optic network was extremely expensive and difficult, but it is much cheaper and less energy-intensive to operate.

The experts also pointed out that new solutions generate new problems, e.g. generative language models like ChatGPT can generate so much content that storing it becomes extremely energy consuming.

Finally, the debaters emphasised that there are areas where Poland has nothing to be ashamed of in terms of digitalisation. One example of this is the banking sector. A common solution of the largest banks, such as BLIK, can hardly be found anywhere else.

After a short break, the audience had the opportunity to hear a case study prepared by Maximilian Piekut, PhD, LLM – General Manager, Greeners. The title of the presentation was “How to make decarbonisation beneficial for the company?”.

According to the speaker, energy transition remains a major challenge. The main one is the financial cost. The total cost for Poland by 2040, according to EU guidelines, will be EUR 370 billion. However, economic costs are not everything. External conditions are also a difficulty, e.g. energy prices, regulatory obligations, growing consumer awareness or historical energy structure. So does the dilemma between economic optimisation and concern for social and environmental well-being really exist? Not necessarily. Indeed, the speed and manner in which a transformation strategy is implemented has a huge impact on the company’s competitiveness in the long term, and thus also on its profit forecast.

The final panel of the first day of the conference was held under the title “Green Energy”. The discussion was moderated by Prof. Waldemar Kamrat, PhD, DEng, Director of the Gdańsk University of Technology Nuclear Energy Center, Professor, Department of Electrical Power Engineering, Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Automation, Gdańsk University of Technology. Participants included: Michał Brzozowski, CEO, Metroplan Polska, Piotr Kummer, Head of Project in the Implementation Division, Polish Nuclear Power Plants (PEJ), Katarzyna Pluta, Head of Marketing and PR, Armatura Kraków, Maximilian Piekut, PhD, LLM – General Manager, Greeners, Iwona Sierżęga, Member of the Management Board, Chief Operating Officer, Polenergia.

To start the discussion, the speakers referenced Nikolai Kardashov’s famous scale, according to which the measure of a civilisation’s development is the amount of energy consumed. It applies both to the cosmic scale and to a more local level. However, the fact that more developed societies consume more energy does not necessarily mean that they are more carbon-intensive. Indeed, most energy in developed economies comes from green sources, and any potential energy losses or by-products of the heating or cooling process are reused. The key to low-carbon energy is therefore not to unconditionally reduce the consumption of energy or materials, but first and foremost to use them wisely and ensure that they come from green sources.

According to the discussants, the potential for green energy in Poland is developing at a good pace. We already have 17 GW of photovoltaic capacity and 10 GW from onshore wind farms available. RES currently accounts for about ¼ of Poland’s total energy mix and this share will grow. It will soon be joined by a huge amount of energy from offshore wind farms. The problem is mainly the issue of storing excess energy generated in favourable weather conditions. Finally, the panellists pointed out that weather-independent green sources such as hydrogen and nuclear power should also be added to the mix.

The first day of the “Sustainable Economy Summit” can be viewed via this link

The second day of the “Sustainable Economy Summit” started with the inaugural speech of another Special Guest, Kamil Wyszkowski, Representative, Executive Director of UN Global Compact Network Poland, Representative of UNOPS in Poland, who gave a presentation entitled “Climate change, species great extinction and why salvation will come from lawyers, economists and bankers”.

To begin with, the speaker explained that the title of the presentation was somewhat provocative, as the environmentalists will probably be the ones to save the world directly, but they will not succeed without an extensive and efficient financial system to support them. Also necessary are precise regulations of a global nature that have a real impact on the local landscape. According to the Special Guest, we already have many innovative solutions at our disposal that can tip the scales in the fight against climate change. However, we need to overcome the resistance preventing their implementation at the lowest levels. Finally, Mr. Wyszkowski pointed out that if as little as 20% of military expenditure were shifted to the green technology sector, this would paradoxically significantly reduce the global threat of conflict.

Following that speech was another Special Guest to take the stage, Eamon Gilmore, Senior European Diplomat, Former Deputy Prime Minister of Ireland (Tánaiste), Former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade. He gave a presentation entitled “Business and Human Rights, and the new EU legislation on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence”.

In his address, the Special Guest emphasised that while the climate change is undoubtedly one of the most important challenges of our time, it is necessary to realise that sustainability is inevitably linked to broader issues of peace and security. With raging conflicts and humanitarian crises affecting millions of people around the world, achieving sustainable goals depends on promoting peace and stability. Without addressing the root causes of conflict and promoting an inclusive, rights-based approach to peacebuilding, our aspirations for sustainable development will remain unfulfilled. Therefore, prioritising conflict prevention, conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction must be integral to our sustainable development agenda, paving the way for sustainable peace and prosperity.

After a short break, the assembled audience had the opportunity to listen to a case study presented by Paweł Żuk, Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Centrum Medyczno-Diagnostyczne. The presentation was entitled “Senior care system as a challenge to sustainable development of societies”.

According to the data quoted by the speaker, the percentage of Poles aged over 65 has already exceeded 19%. Soon it will be one in three Poles. A quarter of them live alone. All this thanks to the rising standard of living, which has increased the average life expectancy of Poles by around 13 years over the last quarter of a century. Meanwhile, there are still huge disparities between expenditure on the prevention of illness among the elderly in Poland and the EU. Senior care is all about ensuring that seniors enjoy good health and psycho-physical condition for as long as possible. Seniors are affected by multidisease, problems with coordination of treatment, depression, inappropriate use of medication and social isolation. They are also exposed to digital exclusion and exploitation. In conclusion, Mr Żuk emphasised that greater cooperation between social and health care is key to improving the state of senior care in Poland.

Then it was time for the first panel discussion of the day, entitled “Responsible business – a higher form of capitalism”. The debate was moderated by Bolesław Rok, PhD, DSc, Professor at Kozminski University, Department of Entrepreneurship and Business Ethics. Participants in the discussion included: Sylwia Bilska, General Manager, Edenred Polska, Anna Ciołak, Communications Manager, Nordkalk, Jarosław Chwastowicz, Business Services Director, Lyreco Polska, Robert Moreń, Corporate Affairs Director, Mars Wrigley Polska, Iwona Jacaszek-Pruś, Corporate Affairs Director, Kompania Piwowarska, Aleksandra Robaszkiewicz, Corporate Affairs and CSR Director, Lidl Polska.

The panellists unanimously agreed that we are approaching the point at which social and environmental aspects will actually become an active part of the market economy. Capital is still the driving force of business, but it is no longer enough on its own. Capital is a necessary tool for investment, but it is we who decide what we will invest in. Still, the market expects companies to maximise their profits and often actions that limit this objective are perceived negatively by shareholders.

On the other hand, speakers pointed out that companies cannot simply stop growing and focus on pro-social activities. The world is constantly rushing forward. If a company chooses to stand still, it will not stay in place, it will fall behind. Concluding the discussion, all the panellists stressed that profit margins in business are necessary and that profit and sustainability are not alternatives. Business must be run in both directions.

After the lunch break, the next item on the agenda was a case study presented by Marcin Ujejski, President of the Management Board, BeLeaf. The presentation was entitled “There was a forest there was no us, there will be a forest there will be no us”.

In his presentation, Mr. Ujejski outlined the assumptions of the project, which is accompanied by a publication under the same title as the presentation. According to the speaker, the world is currently facing a number of challenges about which too little is being said in public, whereas the time has come to start thinking about the next generation more than ever. A growing population raises a number of issues that were not present hundreds of years ago – increased demand for raw materials, epidemiological crises, rising water levels that threaten the world’s low-lying cities. These are just some of the challenges that humanity will face. The project aims to talk about these challenges and show examples of companies that are aware of them in order to inspire others to do the same.

After this presentation it was time for the second panel, entitled “ESG in business”, which was moderated by Ewa Mochocka, Partner, Leader of Consulting in the field of Obtaining Financing and Restructuring, EY Polska. Participants in the discussion included Rhonen Azoulay, General Manager Sales Poland and Czech Republic, Lufthansa Group, Ireneusz Borowski, Country Manager Poland, Dassault Systèmes, Agnieszka Gutowska, Director of Communication, Marketing and CSR, Nhood Services Poland, Mario Zamarripa, Director of Sustainable Development, ERGO Hestia, Andrzej Zduńczyk, Director of the Financial Institutions Market, BIK.

A key point made by the speakers is that ESG cannot be limited to reporting alone. While it is important, a holistic approach needs to be applied to ESG, covering the whole life cycle of a product, repairability, reusability and recyclability. It is the role and responsibility of manufacturers to educate on what actually makes up a product’s environmental footprint and how the consumer can make an informed choice. We need to look at the full life cycle and the entire value chain.

According to the participants in the discussion, not only can ESG pay off, but it simply does. However, it cannot be looked at from the perspective of closing one financial year. Yet in business to make money, you have to invest and ESG is no different. Climate factors and the associated risks will soon be taken into account by all banks in their lending policies. They will try to get their customers to comply with them so that they do not have to give up working with those customers.

After a brief intermission, the audience was treated to a presentation by another Special Guest of the conference, Prof. Hans-Otto Pörtner, PhD, DSc, Marine Biologist, Former Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II, Member of the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU). The title of the presentation was “Sustainable Development in Times of Multiple Crises – Key Findings from the Sixth IPCC Assessment Report”.

In his presentation, Prof. Pörtner focused on discussing the findings of the sixth report of the International Panel on Climate Change. At the beginning, he pointed out that the report is in fact not one document, but several. In addition to the general one, there are also reports focusing on the oceans, the physics of climate change or a summary of the report.

According to the speaker, we are currently living in a world of three macro-crises and challenges: climate change, declining biodiversity and pollution. All three crises are intertwined and interrelated. At the same time, they are directly linked to human activity and human survival. This year we have already crossed the psychological barrier of a 1.5 degree average increase in global temperature. In conclusion, the Special Guest stated that we need to stop this process and then adapt to the changes already occurring. To achieve this, we need to develop pathways for climate-resilient development.

The final panel of the conference was held under the title “Circular economy”. The discussion was moderated by Prof. Krzysztof Pikoń, PhD, DEng, Professor on Faculty of Energy And Environmental Engineering, Head of Department of Technologies and Installations for Waste Management, Silesian University of Technology. Participants: Andrzej Losor, Member of the Board, Director of Sales and Marketing Development, Górażdże Cement, Heidelberg Materials Group, Michał Mikołajczyk, Proxy, Sales and Marketing Director, Rekopol Organizacja Odzysku Opakowań, Beata Osiecka, President of the Management Board, Managing Director, Kinnarps Polska, Prof. Hans-Otto Pörtner, PhD, DSc, Marine Biologist, Former Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II, Member of the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU), Grzegorz Skrzypczak, President of the Management Board, ElektroEko Organizacja Odzysku Sprzętu Elektrycznego i Elektronicznego, Anna Zalewska, PhD, Advocacy Manager, BASF Polska.

There was a consensus among the panellists that the key to building a circular economy is genuine cooperation between producers and retail chains, consumers and recovery organisations. The healthiest thing for the environment is to be able to use, repair, rework and recycle products for a long time. A change in public awareness is also necessary. After all, responsible purchasing is the basis of circularity. The first question we should ask ourselves before each purchase is “do I really need this?”.

Summing up the debate, the speakers stressed that elements of a circular economy must be environmentally positive. The reuse and recycling of products should always ultimately lead to decarbonisation and a positive environmental impact.

The second day of the “Sustainable Economy Summit” can be viewed at this link

Honorary Patrons:

Ministerstwo Klimatu i Środowiska, United Nations Global Compact Network Poland, Instytut Ochrony Środowiska – Państwowy Instytut Badawczy, Generalna Dyrekcja Ochrony Środowiska, Główny Inspektorat Ochrony Środowiska, Marszałek Województwa Mazowieckiego, Narodowy Fundusz Ochrony Środowiska i Gospodarki Wodnej, Polska Federacja Producentów Żywności Związek Pracodawców, Polsko-Kanadyjska Izba Gospodarcza, Polska Agencja Rozwoju Przedsiębiorczości, Grupa PFR, Polskie Stowarzyszenie ESG, Pracownia Zrównoważonego Rozwoju, Polskie Stowarzyszenie Zrównoważonego Rolnictwa i Żywności, Stowarzyszenie Architektów Polskich, Jego Magnificencja Rektor Szkoły Głównej Handlowej

Content Partner:


Social Patrons:

Fundacja Mam Marzenie, Fundacja Odzyskaj Siebie, Fundacja Integracja, Niepeł, Polska Akcja Humanitarna, Polski Czerwony Krzyż

Technical Partner:


Main Media Patrons:

Executive Magazine, HalePrzemysłowePlus, Biznes i Ekologia, Kapitał Polski, PAP Media Room

Media Patrons:

Biomasa, EcoEkonomia, EcoMiasto, EcoNews,, Ekonatura,, ForceNews Wrocław, Fundacja Polski Dom Mediów, Manager Report, Poradnik Biznesu, Obserwator Gospodarczy, Polska Ekologia, Poradnik Przedsiębiorcy,, Teraz Środowisko, Warsaw Business Journal

Organiser: Executive Club

Author: Krzysztof Kotlarski, Editor at Executive Magazine

Photos: Bartłomiej Wójcinski

Last Updated on May 28, 2024 by Krzysztof Kotlarski