The spread of the corporate social responsibility culture has given rise, over the years, to an awareness that, in doing business, companies must put not only shareholders but also stakeholders at the centre of their decision-making. As a result, it is now widely acknowledged that it is necessary, as well as ethically correct, for a company to increasingly engage with all the various parties with which it interacts, including the end users of its services, the businesses that make up its supply chain, its workforce and, in a wider sense, the communities and geographical areas within which it operates. This process, which began at the start of the 1990s, was initially driven by a desire for a more ethical approach to business. However, over time we have seen that a company that engages more closely with its stakeholders, and is thus more sustainable, is also more profitable, at least over the medium to long term.
In recent years, the process has accelerated as a result of external events that have progressively widened the scope of companies’ traditional activities, the most significant of which being linked to a range of factors. Above all, the difficulties encountered by many advanced economies in maintaining the level of welfare achieved in the 1970s, reflecting increased global competition and demographical change in their home countries, have meant that companies have had to assume a role that is complementary to that of the welfare state, and at times a replacement for it. This has been accompanied by a growing awareness of the dramatic impact of climate change and the need to combat poverty, which has put economic operators at the centre of efforts to reverse a process that threatens to have a destructive impact across the world. In this sense, the Sustainable Development Goals approved by the United Nations in 2015 mark a turning point, having explicitly acknowledged the role of industry and called for an integrated approach to development.
In addition, the 2008 financial crisis highlighted all the weaknesses of the models applied up to that point, with an impact comparable only with the crisis of 1929 and resulting in the realisation that we need to look beyond a short-termist view. This has led to growing demands for investment to be channelled towards economic operators capable of guaranteeing sustainability over the medium to long term.
EU institutions have also played their part in promoting change and guiding companies towards more sustainable models of business. In addition to the above Sustainable Development Goals, from 2018, European public interest companies are required to report their non-financial results, goals and policies. This has confirmed the formal link between business activity and aspects relating to the social, environmental and governance dimensions, which have now become a means of assessing the outlook for a business itself.
In recent years, Autostrade per l'Italia’s pursuit of growth has been aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and we have structured our business with an ongoing eye on the needs of all the communities and stakeholders we serve. The tragedy that struck the city of Genoa on 14 August this year, involving the collapse of a section of the Morandi Bridge and causing the deaths of 43 people, now stands at the heart of every short- and long-term strategy and commitment.
The actions taken to help Genoa overcome the impact of the resulting emergency were, in fact, given absolute priority as part of our corporate social responsibility.
Immediate assistance was provided to families forced to abandon their homes, to which Autostrade per l’Italia gave financial support to help them pay for basic necessities. The company then voluntarily began the process of compensating victims’ families and met the financial needs of shop owners, small businesses and firms affected by the collapse of the road bridge. The aim of the help provided to local businesses, which is now in its second phase, is to safeguard the local economy and protect jobs in the area.
In collaboration with Genoa City Council and Liguria Regional Authority, the Company also took action to improve traffic in the city, working with Pavimental to provide alternative arrangements (such as the Via del Papa and Via 30 giugno 1960) and exempting road users from the payment of tolls on motorways serving the Genoa area. Then, on 15 October 2018, the Company sent the Special Commissioner a plan for demolition and reconstruction of the bridge, drawn up in accordance with the provisions of its Concession Arrangement. The work is to be carried out within nine months of the plan’s approval and of gaining access to the related areas. The plan provides specific guarantees with regard to timing, with penalties of €20 million for each month the project is delayed.
Finally, Atlantia prepared its accounts for the nine months ended 30 September 2018 taking into account Autostrade per l’Italia’s initial estimates of the costs directly linked to the collapse. Specifically, these costs regard the cost of demolition and reconstruction of the road bridge, with the related costs of expropriation and of compensation payable to people, businesses and firms directly affected by the collapse, and compensation payable to victims’ families and to the injured. The above initial estimates, amounting to approximately €350 million are reflected in the accounts for the nine months ended 30 September 2018 in the form of provisions for liabilities totalling approximately €345 million, and of expenses of approximately €5 million already incurred and recognised in operating costs.
Genoa and its people are at the centre of the company’s thoughts.