Partner Interview May 18- Eco4Clim

Ecopreneurs for the Climate

The ROCK project brings together 32 partners from different countries and different backgrounds. This month we learn more about Ecopreneurs for the Climate (Eco4Clim) with Jesus Iglesias Saugar who tells us about green economy and the involvement of SMEs in environmental and cultural sustainability.

  • Why are you taking part in the ROCK project ?

Through urban living labs, ROCK will deliver new ways to access and experience cultural heritage, stimulate business creation and employment opportunities; all while ensuring environmental sustainability, civic awareness, bottom-up participation, and engagement; in order to enhance livability, social cohesion, and safety in the areas involved. In line with these goals, ECO4CLIM’s contribution to ROCK will revolve around fostering an SME-based, inclusive green economy in the target cities (Bologna, Lisbon and Skopje), along 3 major areas of work:

  1. Reinforce local green economy ecosystems, engaging all major stakeholders
  2. Boost eco-entrepreneurship
  3. Facilitate the transfer and exchange of sustainable innovation among cities, across Europe

Sustainable SMEs constitute and essential pillar of ROCK, given their capacity to preserve cultural heritage, and dynamize local economies; all in pursuit of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Broadly speaking:

  1. They offer financially-sound business solutions to environmental challenges, which raise awareness and increase appreciation of the environment and natural ecosystems, a fundamental form of cultural heritage, diversity, and social identity. [SDGs 7, 11, 12, 15]
  2. As climate champions, they provide low-carbon alternatives to our economy (mitigation of CO2 emissions), and help adapt to the challenging effects of climate change, making communities resilient, especially the most vulnerable ones. [SDGs 11, 13]
  3. Being local businesses, the traditions and knowledge of their communities are deeply embedded in their value proposition, thus strongly contributing to preserve, promote, and provide access to cultural heritage. [SDG 4, 11, 15]
  4. By creating green, quality, fair-trade jobs, they boost economic equality and opportunity; empowering communities and enabling social cohesion, and ultimately democracy and peace, by consequence. [SDG 8, 10, 11, 16]
  5. Their small size and flexibility are ideal ingredients to spark creativity and innovation, maximizing their communities’ capacity to adapt to a changing world, retain local talent, and attract international one. [SDG 9]
  6. Naturally, to compensate for their limited resources, SMEs tend to cooperate with like-minded organizations, in search of complementarity and added value. [SDG 17]
  • What are for you the challenges of cultural heritage in cities at the moment?

There are various, but all linked to globalization, concentration of capital, migration patterns, and climate change. Firstly, the globalization of a certain "western" culture has implied the erosion or loss of others, and as a result communities have been diluted into the mainstream, with the disappearance of the social fabric, local commerce, and cultural heritage that entails. Moreover, a global, deregulated economy has further accelerated this process, as small enterprises -cultural carriers- lose ground to multinationals. Besides, massive amounts of population are migrating towards cities (it is estimated they will encompass 70% of the population by 2050), leading to overcrowding, environmental degradation, social conflict, food distribution and water management challenges, and all sorts of sustainability-related issues. On top of it all, while they only occupy two percent of the world’s landmass, cities generate more than 70% of global carbon emissions, and will suffer some of its most dramatic consequences if unabated, particularly given the fact that 90% of the world’s urban areas are situated on coastlines, therefore highly vulnerable to rising sea levels and powerful coastal storms.

  • How do you see the future of cultural heritage?

To preserve cultural heritage and at the same time turn it into a driver for sustainability and social inclusion, the scope of our activities, as a civilization, probably needs to be narrowed down to the human scale, that is placing the focus on communities, where personal bonds flourish and the connection with nature is strong, both core values (empathy and environmental awareness and appreciation) of more responsible societies. This doesn’t mean all there is to globalization is negative, our capacity to communicate with peers around the world is a major asset, a tool we should take advantage of, always in pursuit of the common good. In economic terms, we are talking about re-localizing the economy, empowering communities towards food, energy and democratic sovereignty, by strengthening local commerce, small economic agents (SMEs), collaborative networks, all grounded in open, multi-stakeholder, participatory processes. And then, bringing together communities to exchange best practices and effective solutions to common challenges. In short, to us, the future of cultural heritage comes down to living by the good old saying: “Thinking global, act local.”

  • What creative districts/cities inspire you at the moment?

At the moment, personally [Jesus Iglesias], I am really inspired by and involved in my own neighborhood and city: Malaga, in southern Spain. Despite massive tourism and a dangerous real estate bubble, a growing number of people are getting organized in civil society groups in their neighborhoods and around concrete challenges affecting their lives, all while creating alternative economic mechanisms (farmers’ markets, cooperatives, etc.) at a local scale.

Regarding global interconnection and cooperation, networks of cities and municipalities for the climate are truly leading the day in terms of climate innovation, including ICLEI, or C40 Cities. From our end, our global network of city-based climate innovation labs ( already counts 29 cities from 19 countries, cooperating around join initiatives like the Young Ecopreneurs Climathons, including Bologna ROCK Hackathon (, the San Francisco Climate Innovation Journey (, or the Global Week of Ecopreneurs and Cities for the Climate (, already on its 4rth edition, and concluding as usual at UN Climate Conference (COP24), where high-impact eco-entrepreneurs present their business solutions to climate change to world decision makers and stakeholders.

Thank you Jesus !

Find out more about the first ROCK Hackaton organised by Eco4Clim in Bologna.


Author: Cotel Kelly - ICLEI