Sustainable rebirth is possible

Published on Tuesday, 19 October 2021

ESG LAB: large companies and SMEs together for a sustainable growth model

Sustainability has also become a strategic factor for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The event took stock of the progress made by ESG LAB, a project created by the SDA Bocconi School of Management and Fondazione Sodalitas in collaboration with the Enel Foundation and Falck Renewables. By interviewing the leaders of large and small businesses, carrying out analyses and surveys, the initiative is developing a model to foster the development of SMEs by fully integrating Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) issues into their governance structure. “We are very pleased to have been part of this work,” said Alda Paola Baldi, Head of Procurement Italy. “We expect our Partners to ensure our same commitment in adopting the best practices when it comes to human rights and work conditions, health and safety, environmental and social responsibility. We support them with various tools along a path of growth and change towards sustainability, which can generate value for their businesses.”

Human rights and sustainable development

For a business model to be sustainable, it has to properly manage the entire production process, ensuring, first of all, respect for human rights. The panel discussed different companies’ approaches to the subject, comparing various policies and management models. As Giulia Genuardi, Head of Sustainability Planning & Performance Management and Human Rights, said, we are on the front line: “Human rights are a focal point for our Group. Our goal is to consider this issue not only from an ethical point of view, but also on a company culture level; this is in order to make sure that respecting human rights is always at the center of every choice we make and that every kind of evaluation is carried out in complete transparency in each of the 50 countries where we operate, which span across different cultures and sensibilities.”

New skills for a new job market

According to the World Economic Forum, by 2025 one person in two won’t have the necessary skills to do their job. It is therefore necessary, on the one hand, to provide new tools for continuous training, and, on the other, to find efficient ways to certify new skills. As Nicoletta Novi, Head of CSV & Sustainability Projects Italy, explained: “It’s obvious that what we need now is to take a path leading to a cultural shift in which skills are no longer unchanging for long periods of time: they have to adapt quickly to the ever-changing socio-economic and technological contexts. This rings particularly true in the case of the energy sector, which is grappling not only with decarbonization, but also with electrification of consumption, urbanization, and smart grids; it also plays a crucial role in sustainability and in innovating the business model of companies like Enel. For these reasons, we will increasingly need more people who have the technical skills but can also understand society’s needs and translate them into technological innovations.”

How sustainable fashion is changing with a new holistic vision

What aspects should be taken into consideration when talking about sustainable fashion? Consumers’ attention has shifted, but there is still a lot to do to make this sector even more sustainable. The panel members talked about the need to develop a new “holistic” approach, one that is more concrete and credible, but also about the well-being of the animals involved in the production process and how to measure the industry’s environmental performance. Nicola Tagliafierro, Head of Sustainability at Enel X, spoke about this very issue: “At Enel X we believe that every action, in order to be truly sustainable, has to be measurable. Being able to accurately evaluate the results of an initiative makes it possible to focus on the ones with the greatest impact, beyond their narrative. For instance, energy affects over 60% of the decarbonization process in the textile industry and therefore represents the main path to follow in order to achieve the European targets. This can be done using the technologies we already have at our disposal, like photovoltaic and electric mobility. Not only do these two lower the emissions of CO2, but they can also have a positive economic impact on the business.”

Towards ecological transition

From cutting CO2 emissions by 55% by 2030 to committing to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050: these are some of the objectives that institutions and companies are trying to reach in the challenge of ecological transition. It’s a difficult but necessary path, involving challenges and opportunities for people, institutions, and companies of all types and sizes. “The full collaboration of different subjects is the only way we can get results,” said Gonzalo Juarez de la Rasilla, Head of the Group’s Sustainability Stakeholders Engagement. “Putting sustainability at the forefront as an essential part of our recovery plans, strengthening multi-stakeholder cooperation, and ensuring that the transition is brought about in such a way that it doesn’t leave anyone behind: that is the only way we can have a positive change of pace in order to create a healthy economy that is inclusive and respects the environment.”

Public-private: partnerships in evolution

The question of public-private partnerships is very topical these days and its importance also became clear during the pandemic emergency. The collaboration model between companies and local public sector organizations is changing: if the objective for companies remains strengthening their relations with the community, the public sector aims to facilitate the creation of networks that can foster the sustainable growth of the area. We brought our experience in public-private collaborations to the Fair through the speech given by Filippo Rodriguez, Head of Sustainability Italy. “We are working more and more in an ecosystem rationale with cross-sectional partnerships, in synergy and harnessing one another’s excellence. This makes it possible to develop new solutions. It’s no coincidence that the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal no.17 (“Partnership for the Goals”) promotes partnerships between governments, the private sector, and civil society in order to have a concrete impact on the global challenges and achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda.”

The buildings of the future? Increasingly green

The construction industry is responsible for emitting 36% of greenhouse gases and for consuming 40% of energy, 50% of the raw materials extracted, and 21% of water. We can’t have a sustainable approach unless this sector is involved. The “green” transformation of the building industry is already ongoing, as we can clearly see in the urban changes taking place in our cities; but there is still a lot to be done as we head in a direction that can have a positive impact on people’s health, on the quality of life in cities, and on the country’s economy. In the words of Angelo Gava, Head of Services Italy, “Building ‘green’ isn’t a fad, it’s a necessity. We always have to bear in mind that there are people who live and work in these buildings, so the quality of life inside homes and offices, as well as in the surrounding neighborhoods, is crucial. Just like any other business, working with effective protocols and reliable certifications is fundamental: and that is why five years ago we embarked on a journey that is leading us to the creation of state-of-the-art buildings.”

The supply chain: comparing large businesses and SMEs

The question of collaboration between companies and suppliers is particularly important when it comes to defining the most effective strategies for a common path towards sustainability. The dialogue between some companies and their partners was a key issue for the panel, which covered various subjects, from digital innovations that allow even small companies to reach new standards, to ways of improving the efficiency of processes: this type of collaboration can help all the companies involved in the supply chain in designing new business models. In her speech, Alba Paola Baldi, Head of Procurement Italy, reiterated our company’s commitment in this direction: “We want to be a leader in sustainability and circularity, but also a guide for our entire supply chain, selecting the best partners and accompanying them along the path of sustainable growth.”

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