Sustainability, large enterprises on track with the United Nations


When it comes to sustainability at least, all roads lead to Rome. The sixth Salone della CSR e dell’innovazione sociale (conference on corporate social responsibility and social innovation) was held in the capital, as part of its journey round Italy. Rome and its surrounding area (or province) boast the country’s second highest number of companies that have invested in green products and technologies. One finding in a wide-ranging survey carried out by CSR Manager Network, Assonime (an Italian business association) and ALTIS (a management school) turns the spotlight on listed companies: over 70% of these companies have included socio-environmental strategic objectives, an increase of 40% since 2013, when the previous survey was completed.  

The boom has been led by the large enterprises which took part in the CSR event at Rome’s LUMSA University on 8 March. For the occasion Enel, Ferrovie dello Stato (Italian Railways), Generali Italia (a large insurance group), P&G Italia, Terna (an energy company) and DNV-GL. They presented their sustainability policies, inspired by the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) and developed on the basis of a series of key words: diversity, mobility, value, citizenship, communication and market.

Patricia Navarra, Enel’s Sustainability Innovation and Stakeholder Engagement Manager, focused on diversity and inclusion (SDG 5). She described them as “two fundamental values in Enel’s corporate culture – an open approach, Open Power, which highlights every individual’s contribution, sharing values, ideas, experiences and passions.” She recalled our Group’s “path of inclusion,” from the publication of the human rights policy in 2013 to the inclusion in the Strategic Plan of a special driver for the management of human capital. “Diversity management is a business factor,” Ms Navarra concluded after explaining how respect for diversity and inclusion within companies is monitored every three months through key performance indicators (KPI) at a group level.

“In large enterprises sustainability is now integrated into the industrial plan,” explained Lorenzo Radice, Director of Sustainability for the Ferrovie dello Stato (Italian Railways). “It’s a relatively recent development,” says Giovanni Buttitta, Head of External Relations and Special Projects for Terna. “Up until 10 years ago only five Italian companies would complete an integrated report. Food and energy are the sectors where the need to do so was felt first.”

The potential scope for action is now very broad. Lucia Sciacca, Head of Communication and Social Responsibility for Generali Italia, described the Valore Cultura (“culture value”) project, a programme launched in 2016 with the aim of raising awareness of the arts and culture among an increasingly wider and more diverse audience. “Arts and culture are a national heritage to be preserved and passed on to the next generation.”

The CSR’s last National event in Milan also reflected the dynamism surrounding developments. The problem is how to involve the small enterprises that make up over 90% of Italy’s industrial fabric. “It’s Italian citizens who shape market demand. The important thing is that they direct their choices towards sustainable companies,” says Giovanni Battista Costa, President of the Next–Nuova Economia per Tutti (“the new economy for everyone”) association, a network of organisations involving public bodies, consumers, companies and the third sector that promotes a more sustainable economy. Mr Costa unveiled, an instrument for “promoting an economic model built from the ground up with the aim of rewarding companies which respect the environment.”

“Altruism in itself isn’t a sustainable reality for managers, we need qualitative and long-term incentives,” said professor Luigino Bruni, coordinator of the doctorate in civic economic science at LUMSA University. The university is also organising a Master’s in the UN SDGs, in collaboration with the World Bank. LUMSA hosted the CSR conference for the second year running. The event’s tour of Italy continues – the next stop is Perugia on 14 March, followed by Genoa, Florence, Bologna, Cosenza and Verona, culminating in the national event in Milan on 2 and 3 October.