Circular Economy, Green Cities, Energy and Climate, Natural Capital. These were the four macro-themes at the heart of the 23rd edition of Ecomondo, the green technology expo held in the pavilions of Rimini Expo Centre on 5-8 November. The fair, a point of reference for sustainable industrial and technological innovation, is not only a showcase for Italian and international exhibitors but also a rare opportunity for industry professionals to engage in a conversation that intertwines skills and experience at international levels.
The second day, for example, opened with a plenary session dedicated to “Clima e green new deal: un patto tra imprese e governi (Climate and Green New Deal: worldwide trends and role of companies)”. The event, organised in collaboration with Italy4Climate, included leading figures from institutions and the academy as well as key players in the green economy. In particular, a round table outlined the challenges, strategies and solutions adopted by businesses in their path towards decarbonisation. Participants included representatives from Acea, Ferrovie dello Stato, Gruppo Hera, Philips, as well as Fabrizio Iaccarino, Head of Central Institutional Affairs at Enel Italia.
“If we increasingly bring renewable sources into the production process, we will really make electric vehicles an engine for a sustainable transition,” Iaccarino explained. According to the report presented with The European House - Ambrosetti at Cernobbio in September, over one million new jobs linked to these new energy sources will be created in Europe by 2030. Iaccarino thus emphasised the need to invest in the industry, so that it can keep its competitive edge while a transition towards more sustainable solutions occurs, and also in order to “redirect” workers losing their jobs in sectors being phased out. “No-one must be left behind in this process: we need ministers, businesses and local institutions to work together to overcome real difficulties, including those regarding authorisations, so that this journey does not take longer than needed”.
In the afternoon, the filled-to-capacity Sala Ravezzi hosted a “beacon conference” – one of the headline events of the 2019 Ecomondo – titled “Circular economy: The 21st-century economic paradigm to redefine growth and development”. International speakers, some via videoconferencing, outlined the current trends in the energy market and the opportunities available in times of energy transition. The discussion was introduced by the two chairs of the event: Massimiano Tellini, Head of Global Circular Economy at Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center, and Fabio Fava, Professor of Industrial and environmental biotechology at the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture at the University of Bologna. A round table dedicated to the private sector compared the experiences of three different companies: Accenture, Eni and Enel. Luca Meini, Head of Circular Economy and Environmental Strategies at Enel, presented the path towards circularity first undertaken by Enel six years ago to accelerate the process towards carbon neutrality. “For the past three years, we have been using tender indicators to measure the life circle of the products we buy from our suppliers”, Meini explained. “This allows us to carry out training within our supply chain, and allows our suppliers to rethink their products in order to find more circular solutions.”
Today, this international project engages approximately 60% of Enel’s 8,000 suppliers, whom Meini refers to as partners of the Group, because “you can’t do circular economy while leaving behind those who are at the beginning of the value chain”. When it comes to assets’ so-called end of life, Enel’s approach is to incorporate this aspect into the initial design phase, taking into consideration how materials will be managed upon disposal. “This will be especially relevant for assets in peak growth, such as wind and photovoltaic solutions,” Meini emphasised. Meini also presented the Futur-e industrial requalification project, which is repurposing 23 decommissioned power plants to benefit the environment and local communities. Discussing the next challenges for the Group, Meini pointed to circular cities and models for the definition of circularity metrics. These are issues in which Enel is already leading the charge, as confirmed by the following day’s panel – which again included Meini – dedicated to “Circular economy good practices: panel of the Italian circular economy stakeholders platform”.