With climate change in full swing, and with land and ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss increasingly recognized as real threats to human survival, it’s time to innovate for the planet and start building ecosystems for the Symbiocene.
“The Anthropocene is generating despair and desolation; the Symbiocene represents the opposite,” wrote Australian environmental philosopher and former Professor of Sustainability Dr. Glenn Albrecht, envisioning the Symbiocene as an era in which “human action, culture, and enterprise will be exemplified by those cumulative types of relationships and attributes nurtured by humans that enhance mutual interdependence and mutual benefit for all living beings (which is desirable), all species (essential), and the health of all ecosystems (mandatory).”
More than two decades after Albrecht originally coined the term in 2011, climate change, biodiversity loss and environmental degradation are well underway, and the need to shift away from human-centric thinking and embrace an approach that pursues growth and prosperity for humankind in balance with natural systems and environmental conservation has never been more pressing. Companies around the world are adapting to the demands of the new reality—some merely greenwashing and some adopting a new approach altogether. Among the later is the Greek ecosystem of companies EY ZHN LIFE, whose work and language echo Albrecht’s ideas.
One of the first businesses in Greece to evolve its approach from human-centric into life-centric, EY ZHN LIFE is an ecosystem of companies and initiatives that leverages ESGs to transform and enhance the longterm wellbeing of organizations, brands, communities, and destinations, driven by the belief that their wellbeing is intricately connected with the wellbeing of all beings. The company’s ecosystem is steadily expanding, most recently with the addition of two innovative multidisciplinary projects that connect tourism, environment and education and include ESG applications as well.
The two new projects, CELL of LIFE and XPLORE BLUE, were officially unveiled in late 2022 at a special event at Ellinikon Experience Park in Athens, with the launch including video presentations, a message from Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, and a speech by Alexandra Mitsotaki, Co-Founder and Chair of the World Human Forum. Other speakers included Periklis Terlixidis, Executive Officer of AHEDD Digital Innovation Hub at the National Centre for Scientific Research (NCSR) Demokritos, as well as Giorgos Kylitis and Giorgos Tzorgopoulos, project managers in production and outfitting at Rafnar Hellas. Addressing the audience, Yannis Sotirakos, President and CEO of EY ZHN LIFE spoke on the need for a large-scale transition away from the human-centric Anthropocene and toward a new era centered around Life and the wellbeing—the ef zin—of all living beings. Introducing EY ZHN LIFE’s ecosystem, he discussed the company’s mission to create and invest in sustainability and presented the new projects: CELL of LIFE, a specially designed dome adapted to its local destination, which serves as a tourist, environmental, scientific and educational hub; and XPLORE BLUE, a hybrid platform available as XPLORE BLUE Spots (for beaches, marinas and coastal destinations) and XPLORE BLUE Boats (for marine vessels), which aims to turn every beach, marina and boat into an oceanographic observatory and a center for marine life action and education. Both projects introduce the logic of Smart Nature, building on a significant arsenal of innovative new technologies and digital applications and utilizing citizen science to both generate new data and drive citizen engagement and environmental awareness.