The ASviS Festival: let’s invest in a sustainable Italy
Ten years. That seems like a long time, but it’s actually tomorrow. Ten years to build a sustainable Italy. During the opening event of the second Sustainable Development Festival, which was held at the MAXXI (National Museum of 21st Century Arts) in Rome, a countdown was launched: “Innovate, reclaim, invest, transform. 10 years to build a sustainable Italy.”
The extraordinary success of the 2017 Festival is the starting point for looking into the future. This year’s Festival, which runs from 25 May to 10 June, will see 700 events, spread over 17 days, the same number as that of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The Festival, which is organised by ASviS - Alleanza Italiana per lo sviluppo sostenibile (Italian Alliance for Sustainable Development) with the support of Enel and other important national partners, has become “much more than a Festival,” to quote Enrico Giovannini, a spokesperson for ASviS. This is partly due to the fact that it now embraces many other events, which have grown up spontaneously in many cities across Italy, from North to South (from Parma to Bari), but mostly because it has become a common platform for the key people who are working to take the country to a sustainable future.
We don’t start from nothing
To quote John Maynard Keynes, “Successful investing is anticipating the anticipations of others.” Having a regard for the long-term, without fixating on the status quo of the present, allows for thinking ahead. In the wake of ASviS’s activity, which involves over 180 organisations nationwide, there have already been many tangible results. One was the approval of the National Strategy for Sustainable Development (October 2017) and the Prime Minister’s Office’s acceptance of a guiding role in activating ASviS’s 10 calls to action (March 2018), which were “agreed upon by almost all the political candidates in the electoral campaign.” Giovannini recalled two other particularly important gains: the transformation of CIPE - Comitato Interministeriale per la Programmazione Economica (the Cross-ministry Committee for Economic Planning) into Comitato interministeriale per lo Sviluppo Sostenibile (the Cross-ministry Committee for Sustainable Development) and the Urban Agenda scheduled by ANCI – Associazione Nazionale Comuni Italiani (National Association of Italian Municipalities) to make sure “that mayors are not neglected and to coordinate environmental policies in the cities.”
European politics are also now focused on sustainability. As Beatrice Covassi, Head of the European Commission’s Representation in Italy, remarked, 2018 is a crucial year. A bundle of legislation for the circular economy was approved in April, including stringent terms regarding recycling (the aim is to recycle 65% of waste by 2035) and the reduction of food waste. In October, a strategic paper will outline the introduction of the Sustainable Development Goals into European politics.
“Today people who work together are stronger, not weaker,” explained ASviS President Pierluigi Stefanini. And it is precisely teamwork that is the real secret behind the Festival’s success. As Patrizia Grieco, Enel Chairman, pointed out: “The challenge for sustainable development is so great that not even an Group like Enel can do it alone.” A Group that today is the largest producer of renewable energy worldwide and one of the first to include the United Nations aims in its corporate strategy, outlining formal steps to tackle four SDGs, measuring and integrating them into the Group’s operations using a transparent and structured benchmarking system.”
Patrizia Grieco invited people to consider other aspects of sustainable development, such as jobs and transparency in corporate governance: “By 2030, according to the McKinsey estimates, 400 million jobs will be lost to automation. We have to create a circular economy for this sector today, that is, a virtuous cycle of training, employment and further training.”
The National Secretary of CGIL - Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro (Italian General Confederation of Labour, an important trade union), Susanna Camusso, addressed this theme further: “Security is a part of sustainability. Why do the changes and transformations of jobs scare us so much, creating so much insecurity? Sustainability is not just an economic measurement and innovation is not sustainable alone, it has to be created with and for people.” People-centred, as the Festival slogan makes clear: “Senza di TE lo sviluppo sosTEnibile non c’è,” that is “without YOU there is no sUstainable development.”
Respect for the environment is now a fully accepted given. The pendulum of the conversation swings between two points, the economic aspect on the one hand and the social on the other. A distinction that everyone states they want to overcome. Ermete Realacci (of Fondazione Symbola) and Carlo Borgomeo (of Fondazione con il Sud – Foundation for Southern Italy) agree that social capital is the necessary starting point for development, not a simple corollary, and that the paradigm needs to be overturned. Giovanna Melandri, host of the Festival in her capacity as MAXXI President, but also as a guest as President of the Human Foundation and Social Impact Agenda for Italy, insists on the need for “social impact” in financial investments.
After all, the year 2018 began with the annual letter from Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, the largest investment fund in the world. His letter was often referred to during the Festival’s opening event to emphasise that sustainable growth is not simply a slogan, but a process that requires the investment of time and resources to create long-term value. And Italy must certainly continue on the road it has already started down.