Project “Top of the Pop” ranks eleventh in Financial Times’ Responsible Business Education Awards

2 February 2023

The team of Alumni behind the project developed through the Executive Master in Sustainability and Business Innovation at BBS has earned an eleventh place in the Financial Times’ Responsible Business Education Awards.

Sustainability is a holistic mindset, a philosophy, and a crucial objective for the future of our planet and its people. At BBS, sustainability is not just a concept but a continuous drive toward innovation and practical implementation. The goal is to transform production processes and business models towards a circular economy, leading the way in sustainable practices. 

Francesco Fullone, Giorgia Stancari, Cristian Paravano, and Valentina Ridolfi, participants of the Executive Master in Sustainability and Business Innovation at BBS, have set a new standard in the sustainable production of Point-of-Sale product displays, also known as POP materials. Their innovative project, “Top of the Pop,” ranked eleventh globally in the Financial Times Responsible Business Education Awards.

The project resulted from the Master’s course’s final project work under Professors Matteo Mura and Flaviano Celaschi. The Hera Group’s subsidiary, Aliplast, and Sarno Display – Gatto Astucci were key partners in this initiative, thanks to the participation of Giorgia Stancari, Technical and Administrative Support Manager at Gruppo Hera, and Cristian Paravano, leader of Sarno Display – Gatto Astucci.

How did you develop the idea for your project work, and what factors inspired you?

The origin of the project “Top of the Pop” was a combination of serendipity, intuition, and passion. On the first day of the Sustainability and Business Innovation and Business Innovation Design Masters course at BBS, Cristian Paravano, Managing Director of Sarno Display, and Giorgia Stancari, from the Environmental Services Department of the Hera Group, met over lunch and discussed their respective companies. Cristian sought an innovation strategy to adopt ESG practices throughout his supply chain. At the same time, Giorgia was interested in spreading Circular Economy principles and models to various sectors. From this conversation and Cristian’s idea of creating a sustainable POP, the two decided to turn it into a concrete project and present it as their Master’s project work.

Valentina Ridolfi and Francesco Fullone joined the team, bringing diverse backgrounds and skills to the project. The group’s heterogeneous composition and passion for sustainability helped refine the initial concept, resulting in an integrated project that covered everything from eco-designed products to logistics analysis and waste disposal regulations to social and governance aspects. The project led to Sarno Display’s certification as a B-Corp, a testament to the team’s success in creating a circular economy chain with Sarno and the Hera Group as its leading players.

How important was it to attend the Master in Sustainability and Business Innovation at BBS to focus on the issues, and consequently the needs, related to sustainability in the retail world? 

Francesco: Attending the Master’s in Sustainability and Business Innovation at BBS was crucial for me. My prior background and experience in social and governance issues were augmented by the course, giving me new tools to make a positive impact. The program deepened my understanding of sustainability in the digital world, allowing me to effectively blend my roles as an Innovation Manager and a Sustainability Manager.

Giorgia: The Master was essential for acquiring the mindset and tools needed to drive an innovation process. Our project aimed to bring both product and process innovation. In its development, we explored the needs and expectations of all stakeholders, from end customers to the entire supply chain. The support and guidance from Professor Celaschi were instrumental in shaping our project approach.

Cristian: Continual training is vital for a manager to seize new opportunities and tackle emerging challenges. Sustainability is one such challenge that affects all aspects of the business. The Master’s course equipped me with a method and mindset to approach sustainability in my work with rationality and enthusiasm.

Valentina: The Master was a transformative journey and a highly generative experience. As someone from a background in strategic territorial planning, the program challenged many of my prior assumptions about sustainability and business innovation. I embraced the opportunity to explore new territory. With the support of my fellow participants, I gained a deeper understanding of the multifaceted challenge of sustainability, where everyone can contribute with their unique profiles, sensitivities, and skills.

Do you remember the challenges you encountered during the realization of the project and how you overcame them? 

One of the most complex challenges we faced was understanding the reverse logistics of bringing used cosmetic products into our circularity. During the analysis of this issue, we realized how little some manufacturers knew about the sustainability of their products and how complex the subject was. During the course, Professor Mura told us that the circular economy “cannot be done alone,” so taking this as a starting point, we began to actively involve both a cosmetics producer and HERA. The involvement of HERA and later its subsidiary Aliplast gave us a series of helpful information to direct the project better and create a set of guidelines for the producer that made concrete what until then was only project work on paper. Even the eco-design redesign of the Sarno Display POP found an acceleration in collaboration with HERA/Aliplast, identifying the correct (recycled) plastics to use. Indeed, also thanks to other experiences we have carried out as a result of the Master’s degree, one of the fundamental challenges remains that of raising widespread awareness among companies so that they adopt a sustainability approach within their supply and value chains, starting from equipping themselves with tools for measuring and analyzing their current impacts and then developing thoughtful and punctual processes acting on the various links in the chain: from the choice of suppliers to communication to the end customer, to the service provided to the customer from a circular perspective.

Two years have passed. What would you change if you had to design it from scratch today? 

We would invest more in the design of the POPs, as we learned at the end of the project, and especially in quickly building a pilot project while seeking feedback from a series of different cosmetic producers and starting a test in the GDO. This would increase the spread and, therefore, the profitability and appeal of the project for the entire chain. 

What recommendations would you give to other students who want to make a difference with new ideas in the sustainability sector? 

To try without fear of failure or not doing something great. No matter how small the projects may seem, they will always positively impact everyone. Always ask oneself, what impact will this have on future generations? Changing one’s mindset is necessary to tackle the complex challenges of sustainability in the best way possible. So get out of your comfort zones and think innovatively, expanding your horizons as much as possible and having the courage. Sustainability is not a “light” transition but a fundamental paradigm shift that, as much as it requires trade-offs, pushes us to profoundly transform the way we think, act, produce, and consume. And to do it urgently because time is running out. That’s why it takes courage to experiment, even at the cost of making mistakes. The courage to question ourselves and confront different points of view. The courage to try again. Always. Because the future is at stake.


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