Businesses as ambassadors of sustainability

Businesses as ambassadors of sustainability


Just a few short years ago, a sustainability strategies event would have attracted only a few ardent devotees. That picture has changed radically as demonstrated by the influx of visitors to Milan’s Bocconi University for the seventh edition of Italy’s largest sustainability event, the Corporate Social Responsibility and Social Innovation Fair (1-2 October). Most of those attending were university students aware of the increasingly important role sustainability is now playing in our society but there was also a large number of sustainability managers, business people and business strategy experts attracted by this edition’s theme: “Fields of Sustainability”.
In all, the fair offered over 100 events addressed by more than 400 speakers who provided a wide spectrum of different perspectives on how companies can contribute to a more sustainable future. As the Enel Group was institutional sponsor of the Fair, a large number of our representatives and executives took part in the discussions, such as Giulia Genuardi, Sustainability Planning & Performance Management, Maria Cristina Papetti, CSV, Sustainability Projects & Practice Sharing, Raffaella Poggi D’Angelo, People Care & Diversity Management, and Filippo Rodriguez, Sustainability Italy.

From mission to business purpose

Giulia Genuardi participated in the round table discussion “Da strategia di sostenibilità a piano strategico integrato (From sustainability strategy to integrated strategic plan), which saw executives from large groups and SMEs explaining how a focus on the environment and important social issues, such as inclusion, has become an increasingly central part of the creation of industrial development plans.  

That awareness, Genuardi explained, has been facilitated in the Enel Group in part by the management’s exceptional openness to such issues: “For a multinational operating in a large number of different countries, applying the concept of sustainability means engaging with local realities to find concrete solutions to suit each individual area,” she stressed.

In other words, it is important to set a goal and then find the best way to achieve it on a case-by-case basis. This can happen, however, only if it is underpinned by a solid, shared “business purpose”, as it is now known: a term that does not merely express the company mission but its very raison d’etre.  

Genuardi told her audience that we started out from a concept of philanthropy and environmental compliance but went on to realise that sustainability had to be a fundamental part of our business. We became convinced that sustainability cannot be achieved without innovation and vice versa, so we introduced the concept of innovability®. She explained that this in turn led to a sea change in our in-house culture with the result that today sustainability has become a financial asset both because it contributes to reducing financial risk and because it actually creates value.

Partnerships for social innovation

The subject of innovability® also cropped up as part of the round table discussion “Innovation as the driver of sustainability in which Maria Cristina Papetti took part. “In our strategy,” she explained, “one key element in sustainability-focused innovation is partnerships. We have struck up over 800 partnerships across the world with startups, social enterprises, research centres, universities and NGOs which are extremely active on the ground and are thus key allies in helping us to understand how we can operate on a local level.” A good example of this virtuous cycle of collaboration was the creation of the only geothermal plant in Latin America, which is run by Enel in Chile’s Atacama desert, one of the world’s most complex ecosystems. “First and foremost,” said Papetti, “we realised that the local people could start up small businesses to provide services to the tradesmen on the building site and we provided them with training to do that. They started up transport companies, laundries, catering kitchens and then, once the work was completed, continued to work for other building sites, some independently, because the Atacama Desert is also a major tourist destination.” 

In short, a group’s business purpose can have a positive impact from a financial perspective in addition to positive, tangible knock-on effects for both the environment and local communities. But none of this would be possible without the contribution, conviction and concrete action of people at all levels.

This message emerged very strongly in the two days of the Milan event during which the organisers urged all participants to become “sustainability ambassadors”. How? Simply by making five practical commitments: to eliminate single-use plastic, to reduce food waste, to repair, gift or sell but not simply bin, to limit car use, to break down walls of all kinds, including cultural barriers. Try it because if you do, it will mean that each of us in our own small way is taking a practical step towards creating a future that is more environmentally friendly and more human friendly.

This is the same goal that Enel X and Enel Green Power are also working towards. The two companies were represented at the Fair by Marco Gazzino and Giovanni Tula, Heads of Innovability® at Enel X and EGP respectively. During the seminars on October 2, they also shared the Group’s commitment to supporting sustainable evolution of the world’s cities through Enel X’s Circular Economy Boosting Programme, and also the growth of renewables by showcasing EGP’s most innovative projects.

Responsible business communication

At the end of the two-day event, Enel was declared joint winner of the In-house Communication category of the 2019 Areté Prize for Responsible Business Communication for its corporate volunteering programme.

The initiative was launched last March with a highly engaging communications campaign aimed at Enel staff in Italy. In the first six months, more than 600 of our people took part in 20 days of volunteer work across the nation. But over 1,800 applied to take part and 20 suggestions for possible volunteering activities were received through the project’s dedicated innovative online platform.

This year the experience was staged with four not-for-profit organisations: Legambiente, Marevivo, Moige and Quartieri Tranquilli. Over the course of the programme, the volunteers have been actively involved in urban and coastal clean-up operations, as well as taking part in cyber-bullying awareness-raising activities in schools. The "Illuminiamo le tavole" (Lighting Up Tables) project helped families in need from the Milan suburbs by collecting and then delivering foodstuffs using company e-vehicles. 

Business purpose, innovability®, partnership and corporate volunteering are all part of our inclusive revolution for a sustainable transition that leaves no one behind.