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At European level, there is agreement on the need to promote a new economic model to avoid compromising future generations based on smart, sustainable and inclusive growth (Strategy Europe 2020). This need is not new, in the Lisbon Agenda (2000) and in Gothenburg (2001) socio-economic sustainability and environment respectively were identified as a requirement for growth. Later, the renewed Gothenburg Strategy (EU Sustainable Development Strategy, 2006) reinforced the objectives and provided recommendations for the design of policies among which was the involvement of business to foster cooperation and common responsibilities to achieve sustainable consumption and production. However, progress in recent years has been insufficient and as such sustainable development remains a priority in the new EU 2020 strategy. Furthermore, the need has been highlighted for a holistic approach to the three perspectives: economic, human and environmental. The most effective way of implementing the strategies and achieving these objectives is transferring them to regional policy and instruments. The regions have the necessary capacity for dialogue with the agents of change. Among these driving agents there are businesses, mainly SMEs who employ about two thirds of European workers and account for 99% of all enterprises (European Commission October 2010). The SME face two major challenges in the immediate future. On the one hand to survive in an increasingly demanding economy and, on the other, contribute to sustainable development in the region where they are the main actors of economic activity. The concept of Sustainable Development consists of three elements:
  1. the Environment or Planet,
  2. the Social Environment or People,
  3. the Economic Environment or Profit.
These three elements coexist in a delicate balance which is often difficult to maintain and which affects the development of the region. Public authorities should help the SME achieve this balance in their activity. With this in mind, they have to provide tools to facilitate the necessary support to enable the SME incorporate the three elements of sustainability in a balanced way by adopting strategies of “Corporate Social Responsability.”

Without this public drive just a few businessmen/businesswomen will feel committed to their environment and of course take this approach. The approach of DESUR Project represents a departure from the approach in other projects already under way as it is not limited to purely environmental issues (Planet) but it incorporates the other two elements -People and Profit- without which this balance is not possible.