Prada’s Lorenzo Bertelli Speaks of Environmental and Financial Sustainability

Luisa Zargani
·3 min read

MILAN — “The ocean is not too big to fail and too big to ignore,” said Vladimir Ryabinin, executive secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and assistant director general of UNESCO. He was speaking at the digital award ceremony on Friday that concluded the “Sea Beyond” education program launched last year by Prada and the commission.

The winning campaign among those developed by international secondary school students and dedicated to ocean preservation was produced by the Portuguese school Agrupamento de Escolas de Vialonga in Vialonga, Lisbon, with the short cartoon “Redes circulares: Cerco ao plástico no mar” (Circular nets: a sea of plastic), showing the catastrophic plastic pollution endangering the ocean ecosystems and how to collect plastic waste for upcycling opportunities.

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Lorenzo Bertelli, Prada Group head of corporate social responsibility and marketing, admitted the difficulties the program encountered, launched just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but “we all committed to stick to the plan. This is a very important moment for me personally and it’s the end of a journey.”

Bertelli underscored that his efforts are channeled into “doing something that is both environmentally and financially sustainable.” Prada’s use of regenerated nylon exemplifies this goal. “We are not producing capsules or small quantities. Its impact is big and proves it is economically sustainable.” Sharing this mind-set with the future generations is key, “showing that a more sustainable future is possible. There is no reason not to fight for it.” He said Prada is succeeding in fully converting to Re-Nylon (regenerated nylon) by the end of 2021, as announced.

Prada will bestow 5,000 euros to the winning school to be invested in educational materials.

The Shanghai High School International Division in Shanghai, with the board game “Environopoly,” which aims to provide entertainment and environmental knowledge to students, ranked second, followed by Colegio Latino, Villahermosa and Tabasco, Mexico, with an awareness campaign titled “Sea Beyond,” dedicated to the impact of microplastics on the ocean.

The top three campaigns will be uploaded on Prada and UNESCO social channels and websites.

Jury members included Italian writer Alessandro Baricco; aquanaut, oceanographic explorer and environmental advocate Fabien Cousteau; environmental artist Anne de Carbuccia; marine scientist and social entrepreneur Kerstin Forsberg, and Italian gold-medalist free diver Alessia Zecchini.

“We need to stop saying things are impossible and use that as an excuse not to do something,” said Cousteau. “Nature is my teacher. No ocean, no life. Nature needs a break from our impact and COVID-19 has showed us [that].”

“Art has a big responsibility, almost a civic duty to talk about this,” said de Carbuccia, whose striking works prompt viewers to reflect on the damage mankind has done to nature and animals. Art, she believes, is “a tool to people’s hearts, it’s a shortcut to pass on messages, even scientific ones. I have experienced the ocean during all my childhood. I really started to see the changes, because the big changes had really started in the ocean. And so I try, as much as I can, through my work, to show you, to share with you that underworld, and that love.”

For the Prada Group, the promotion of culture is “an integral part of our sustainability strategy,” said Bertelli last year, launching the project.

Prada has been raising the bar on its sustainability goals and in February signed a new sustainability linked, five-year loan with UniCredit banking group for 90 million euros — the third such loan.

The loan is linked to key performance indicators: the regeneration and reconversion of production waste and Prada’s ability to increase the share of self-produced energy.

The Italian company has invested in reducing production waste in clothing, leather goods and footwear and it is committed to transferring these waste materials to third parties for their introduction into other production cycles, either through their regeneration or conversion into fertilizers or energy. Prada has also invested in the construction of photovoltaic systems in the group’s industrial and corporate sites.

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