In New York, Danish and US Institutions Launch ‘Transatlantic’ Conversation on Sustainable Design

Design hub. First-mover on the green agenda. Denmark’s legacy as a global leader in these two areas puts it in a unique position to answer the questions surrounding the planet’s sustainable future and uncover the choices designers around the world face when addressing the sustainability agenda.

So, how does design impact the way we build the sustainable societies of tomorrow? And how do we build upon past design legacies while enabling a broader understanding of value creation, collaboration, and inclusive practice? These questions have provided the driving thrust behind Denmark In New York’s three-year partnership with New York’s prestigious Parsons School of Design and have set the table for the partnership’s latest public symposium — Into the Stratosphere.

A Transatlantic dialogue bringing together an array of partners including the Danish Design Centre, Design Denmark, Design School Kolding, Designmuseum Danmark, and Cooper Hewitt, among others, Into the Stratosphere has broken ground on a conversation of increasing relevance — how can design help build sustainability into production and consumption ecosystems?

We caught up with Consul General Anne Dorte Riggelsen ahead of the November 18th Into the Stratosphere symposium where she delivered closing remarks to discuss the impact design can have on the Sustainability Agenda and how Denmark can help the world by leading the way.

Denmark In New York: Tell us a little bit about Into the Stratosphere, Denmark In New York’s partnership with Parsons School of Design and how it speaks to how businesses, academia and design practitioners are confronting SDG12 challenges.

Anne Dorte Riggelsen: The Into the Stratosphere symposium certainly marks the high-point of our multi-year partnership engagement between New York’s Parsons School of Design, Denmark In New York, and a broad group of key Danish stakeholders, including the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Design School Kolding, Design Denmark, Danish Design Center and Design Museum Denmark.

In fact, the symposium is yet another visible result of our ongoing efforts to develop new international dialogues and Transatlantic exchanges aimed at addressing the difference design can make today and the Future Design Can Make tomorrow, both locally and globally, all the while confronting some of the most complex design challenges facing our 21st century societies.

At Denmark In New York, we hope that Into the Stratosphere functions as a conversation-starter for designers to accelerate the action and change needed to design the world differently and bring about a transformation of both mindset and practice as we charge towards the 2030 deadline for a more sustainable planet.

In the past year, we’ve seen a number of Danish companies leading the charge in sustainable production. Carlsberg comes to mind with the numerous efforts to reduce water waste at their breweries and diminish usage of plastic packaging. How is Denmark pushing SDG12 to the forefront of the 2030 Agenda?

Anne Dorte Riggelsen: Denmark and the Danish private sector have really stepped up their commitments to achieving SDG 12 and, frankly, these commitments are needed. Danish citizens are among the largest emitters of CO2 based on consumption due to high standards of living and frequent travel.

However, the high level of climate consciousness among Danes has also created various movements for making our consumption sustainable. New Nordic Cuisine, for instance, has inspired many chefs and households to explore locally-sourced food products. The Danish consumer organization Stop Food Waste (Stop Madspild) has equally motivated consumers to waste less. At the same time, large retailers have introduced new initiatives including Initiativet Danmark mod Madspild (Denmark against Food Waste), which is creating more transparency on the amount of food waste from retailers such as Salling Group and producers such as Arla while also setting a target of 50 percent reduction by 2030.

In the garment industry, meanwhile, we have other great examples with companies such as Bestseller increasingly looking into circular production and design in order to create more sustainable products.

Climate change remains the most urgent global challenge of our time. We know that the clock is ticking. And we know that all parts of the world will be affected in different ways. For this reason, fulfilling the objectives of the Paris Agreement and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals must go hand in hand.

Denmark remains a green pioneer — pushing the boundaries of innovation and policy to reach our climate goals — and we’re proud that we can spotlight the importance of Danish leadership in this area through events such as Into the Stratosphere.

A picture from the talk at Into the Stratosphere

How important a role do designers have in addressing SDG12 and what can they do to push the world a little closer to the 2030 objectives.

Anne Dorte Riggelsen: It is clear that we need to radically re-think design education, as well as our business models and consumer patterns. I look to the designers of the future — the students at Parsons and from our Danish partners — who have presented here at Into the Stratosphere bold, innovative, forward-looking, playful and hopeful ideas for how design should impact our sustainable planet.

This partnership with Parsons comes amid a busy year for Denmark In New York in pushing the sustainability agenda. Tell us a little bit about Denmark In New York’s sustainability mission.

Anne Dorte Riggelsen: At Denmark In New York, we too are fully committed and focused on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals for a healthier, safer and more sustainable planet by 2030. But we are also acutely aware that we cannot achieve long-lasting success on Agenda 2030 without our friends, our allies, and our partners.

That’s why this past September we hosted our annual UN General Assembly event with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, President Moon of Korea, and former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, right alongside our key partners in the fight for the SDGs.

Because only by winning together, through collaborations and partnerships, can we make a sustained impact on the lives of those who need it most, in those communities that are most vulnerable, and find solutions to the most pressing challenges of our time by designing the sustainable solutions to tackle the climate crisis.

Denmark In New York works with many of the largest Danish companies leading the green transition and we will continue to do so in order to inspire engagement and new partnerships. In 2020, we expect to continue pushing for the decarbonization of energy sources, as we have great solutions that create jobs and a greener economy. We will also looking into circularity in the garments industry, design and food production because we know that there is much to be done, but also great experiences to be shared and learned from.

Andrew Zaganelli Giacalone is the Head of Strategic Communications and Press at Denmark In New York.

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Denmark in New York

Denmark in New York

The Official Medium Blog for the Consulate General of Denmark in New York. For all things Danish, #DenmarkInNY.