Jeffrey Sachs: “Italy puts the world economy on the right track”

Great interest in the online forum on sustainability organised today by San Patrignano and Confindustria

“We must see this pandemic crisis as a clear message to companies, corporations and governments. What we have done up to Covid is not good, we have not protected ourselves, we have destabilised the natural environment, we have created increasing inequality. In the post-Covid era, we will have to think about true sustainable development, with social inclusion and environmental sustainability as crucial elements”. World-renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, was among the keynote speakers this morning at the third edition of the Sustainable Economy Forum promoted by San Patrignano and Confindustria and moderated by Sebastiano Barisoni, deputy executive director of Radio 24. We need a collaborative and cooperative approach among countries towards a common vision of sustainable growth, guided by investments on the pillars of the European Green Deal, the approach that Europe has chosen to build a more sustainable society,” said Sachs. “There is a way of living in a fair, inclusive way, based on equality: the European Green Deal is the approach we need. Europe has always best combined the desire for economic and environmental sustainability in a prosperous society. Italy’s G20 leadership is an opportunity to put the world economy back on the right track. We must act cooperatively and avoid new conflicts to build the future we need”.

As many as 1,500 people followed the online forum with Intesa Sanpaolo as institutional partner. Accenture, Eni, Gruppo 24 Ore and Hitachi Rail were the event’s top partners; partners were Acqua Alma, IGP Decaux and Lavazza.

Closing the proceedings, Carlo Clavarino, president of the San Patrignano Foundation, remarked that the Forum had “emerged even more strongly that, after the pandemic, sustainability is a shared responsibility, a strategic competitive factor that cannot be ignored for the harmonious economic, social and environmental development of all countries, as well as the importance for companies and institutions to set themselves objectives in the long term and in a wider area”.

A responsibility also recalled by Maria Cristina Piovesana, vice-president of Confindustria. “Confindustria feels a strong responsibility to make its own contribution to the institutions for policies geared towards sustainable growth and the creation of widespread well-being. The future holds important goals in store for us, and the role of enterprises is confirmed as fundamental as an instrument of democracy and social inclusion, themes at the heart of this edition of the Sustainable Economy Forum. If we want economic and social sustainability, we need to grasp the challenges we face and support our companies by accompanying them on this virtuous path. The issue of technological innovation remains strategic, also for the transformation of the production system in key 4.0. These are profound changes that require a modern corporate culture”.

The proceedings began with a keynote speech by Mario Monti, President of the WHO Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development. “We need to rethink policy choices in light of the pandemic, which has shown the unpreparedness of the international system. It is necessary to change the international governance of health, in particular with the creation in the G20 of a “Global Health Board” on the model of the “Financial Stability Board” created after the 2008 financial crisis. Alongside this, in Italy we need to take care of the sustainability of public debt, or our young people will be penalised in terms of comparative quality of life and competitiveness’.

John E. Scanlon, chairman of the Global Initiative to end Wildlife Crime, then in his keynote speech highlighted the connections between wildlife and environmental protection and pandemics. “The current international regime for regulating animal trade and wildlife crime is inadequate, deciding only on the basis of biological criteria, but paying no attention to the risk to animal or human health. Regulation must have a one health approach and a new agreement is needed. We call on Italy to lead the way in adopting a new protocol on animal crime.

The round tables addressed the issue of sustainability linked to health, environment, economy, finance and innovation. Maria Paola Chiesi, director of Shared value & sustainability at Chiesi, illustrated how environmental sustainability fits into the agenda of the pharmaceutical sector. “The lack of preventive investment in healthcare systems can have devastating effects on society and the economy in the long term. Health spending is not a cost, but a strategic investment in social sustainability. We need a long-term systemic approach that also requires investment in the European pharmaceutical industry so as not to be dependent on other countries for the supply of treatment: the example of vaccines is emblematic”.

Gianfelice Rocca, chairman of the Techint Group and the Humanitas Group, went on to emphasise: “The pandemic has brought us face to face with the certainty that we need to build a stronger health and welfare system in Europe. In order to live better we need to bring together economic and scientific expertise in an innovative way: never before has data on genetics and virus sequencing been made available to everyone, and this has led to unimaginable results. At the same time, however, the pandemic is forcing every single citizen to pay greater attention to their own health, without expecting immortality on the part of the State.

In the panel dedicated to economics, Mauro Gallavotti, CEO of the Celli Group, illustrated how to contribute to environmental protection in the beverage dispensing sector, showing how it is possible to do business and win international competition by innovating and investing in sustainability. “The consumption of beverages in the world is still through the single bottle or can, which is no longer sustainable and unbalanced, especially in Italy. Changing this model means obtaining great social, environmental and economic benefits. We need to make the most of tap water and companies must spread a culture of responsible consumption.

Andrea Illy, co-president of the Regenerative Society Foundation together with the economist and essayist Jeffrey Sachs, has set himself very ambitious goals for 2030, aimed at changing the current unsustainable economic and social model in favour of a new paradigm capable of regenerating people, the economy and the environment: “Homo sapiens did not behave differently from locusts with respect to the exploitation of soil and resources. The good news is that biological plant capital is regenerable. We must now accelerate this regeneration and try to restore biodiversity. Healthier ecosystems mean healthier lives.

Speaking on the subject of the environment, Anna Zegna, president of the Zegna Foundation, explained how it is possible to succeed in combining industrial enterprise and community, as well as a harmonious coexistence between man and nature with the Zegna oasis. “Each of us walks through life leaving a footprint. Our task today is to leave a better place for future generations”.

Luca Travaglini, co-founder of Planet Farms, talked about the positive impact that vertical farming brings to the environment, thanks to better management of water resources, reduced land consumption and a significant reduction in CO2 emissions: “You have to produce where there is a need to consume, not where the conditions are.

Technological innovation is intertwined with sustainability in various sectors, as illustrated by Giuseppe Lavazza, vice chairman of Lavazza, Andrew Barr, vice chairman of Hitachi Ltd and CEO of Hitachi Rail Group, and Roberto Colaninno, chairman of Piaggio.

Rail transport improves mobility, strengthens the community and makes a great contribution to sustainability, it is a green alternative that is already available,” Barr said. We are investing in hybrid technology to reach long distances and our regional trains use battery technology that replaces diesel, eliminating the wiring above the trains. This is a big change in terms of the environment and sustainability, even for trams and historic towns”.

Giuseppe Lavazza showed the path of integration of economic, environmental and social sustainability pursued by Lavazza for many years, along with continuous innovation with partnerships of excellence in the academic, institutional and business spheres. “In order to create an impact, competences and experiences must be networked. We have done this for aspects related to climate change and social sustainability, basing our approach on four points: awareness in the organisation, very close monitoring of activities to be kept under control, actions to limit obstacles to CO2 reduction, and offsetting activities for emissions that we will not be able to eliminate completely”.

A mobility that will have to increasingly take into account a model of widespread urbanisation, as Piaggio Chairman Roberto Colaninno recounted, along with some futuristic solutions developed by Piaggio’s Fast Forward research centre in Boston. “Piaggio has changed its DNA over the last ten years. The problem of mobility depends on the country you’re in, but at the same time you need to think about a new mobility. And we are studying a new idea to support pedestrian mobility”.

The final round table was devoted to sustainable and socially responsible finance, where investors’ greater sensitivity to ESG (Environment, Sustainable and Governance) issues was discussed. Fabio Benasso, CEO and chairman of Accenture Italia, highlighted the enabling factors capable of fostering real sustainable finance and its fundamental contribution to the development of Italy’s productive fabric. “There are three accelerators of sustainable finance: technological innovation; data; and ESG culture associated with skills and talent. Those who know how to combine digital transformation and sustainability are able to emerge earlier from the crisis and play a competitive role. Ninety per cent of Italy is made up of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs): the issue at the level of the country system is to build platforms that help supply chains and clusters of companies to transform themselves with a view to sharing and sustainability.

Carlo Messina, CEO of Intesa Sanpaolo, also emphasised the importance of sustainability: “We were the first Italian bank to issue the first green bond and subsequent bonds linked to sustainability and the circular economy, but sustainability aspects are independent of the type of business carried out. Most companies have strong pressure from shareholders for the company to aim at sustainability and their approach must take ESG into account. Intesa Sanpaolo already had the idea of operating in the world of sustainability in its DNA, building on the experience of the banking foundations.  Today Intesa Sanpaolo is the operator that in Italy carries out the largest project against poverty, donating more than 17 million meals to people in need and in difficulty. Today in our country there is a social emergency of poverty and we have to face it as a country system”.