Seventeen is a meaningful number on many levels. Not only for the superstitious in Italy who see the number as an omen, but also for those who care deeply about the future of the planet and know they have the power to build a better world for the generations to come. The United Nations, in fact, set out 17 SDGs, Sustainable Development Goals, with exactly that aim in mind. Furthermore, over 17 days between May and June of this year, ASviS (the Italian Alliance for Sustainable Development, an umbrella group comprising over 220 entities from the business world and civil society) organised, with the support of Enel, an Italy-wide festival of over 700 events to raise public awareness and help us all make our personal contribution to achieving those goals by the 2030 deadline.
An extraordinarily important event was the presentation of the ASviS Annual Report on 4 October in the Parliamentary Group Hall in the Italian Chamber of Deputies. The document does not just provide an overview of the current year, it is also a useful tool for analysing our nation’s progress towards achieving the 17 SDGs, defining the areas of intervention to strengthen the economic, social and environmental sustainability of the Italian development model, and, ultimately, for the creation of policies to combat inequality, improve the lives of the population and the quality of our environment.
During the presentation, ASviS spokesman Enrico Giovannini underlined that the report contains “reasons to be incredibly positive as well as some more depressing features.” Looking at the global picture, he continued, it is clear that there have been huge strides forward: for instance, 112 countries, including Italy, have outlined precise sustainable development strategies, there has been conspicuous investment from the private sector, renewable energies are now widespread, the worldwide battle against plastic is afoot, and there is a growing focus on sustainable finance.
Yet Giovannini warned that all of this is simply not enough because “an attitude of denial concerning climate change persists, there is still substantial land take, and the number of the world’s population living with hunger is increasing. Inequality has grown too: there are now 40 million people living in conditions of slavery, 70 per cent of whom are women, and there are also 28 million environmental migrants.”
With regard to Italy, the association’s spokesman described a scenario not too dissimilar to the rest of Europe: although the report indicates widespread social mobilisation and “significant progress” in certain areas such as renewable energies, we are still well off the targets which are themselves often not clearly-enough defined. What’s more, the media generally fail to pay sufficient attention to the issue and, in short, “we need to work much harder to change our way of thinking.” Giovannini did, however, mention one positive factor: the drafting of laws put before Parliament that will write the concept of sustainable development into our Constitution, a step already taken by countries such as France, Switzerland and Belgium, and one set to ensure that future generations are protected. But again, more needs to be done. “We need to develop models that can take into account ecological, environmental and, most importantly of all, social variables with the necessary attention to equality and inclusion. In this regard, the report contains a number of policy proposals and useful indicators on both a national and regional scale. That said, goals such as these cannot be achieved solely through legislation but also require a change of mentality from individuals, businesses and finance. However, we are starting to see that change already, particularly in large companies, although there is still a need to communicate and spread these ideas as widely as possible.”
With exactly that in mind, the second part of the morning was dedicated to a round table on the theme of “The Commitment of Cities and Regions to 2030 Agenda.” Participants included Undersecretary to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers Stefano Buffagni, Mayor of Bologna Virginio Merola, Deputy Mayor of Turin Guido Montanari, Deputy President of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia regional administration Riccardo Riccardi, and the Presidents of the Liguria and Lazio regional administrations, Giovanni Toti and Nicola Zingaretti.
The words of Minister for the Economy Giovanni Tria were especially significant. He emphasised the need "to drive growth forward but it has to be an inclusive growth, not in order to be righteous, but because otherwise in the long term there simply would not be any growth.”