The Atlantia Group’s commitment to sustainability goes back almost twenty years, with Autostrade spa’s first environmental and social reports being published in as far back as 1997. Since then, a great deal of progress has been made, including the following key steps:
Changes to reporting, and to the way in which sustainability is reported and presented to all the various stakeholders, has been accompanied by a far-reaching change in the related content and its role within the Atlantia Group. From being a means to communicate our philanthropic initiatives or, more generally, our social and environmental performance, sustainability now plays a strategic part in the various areas of business and is integral to the way in which we do business.
This commitment has received major recognitions from a number of external bodies, starting with the Group’s annual inclusion in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. At global level, this is perhaps the best known financial index to measure sustainability and certainly one of the oldest, with the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index dating back to 1999 and representing the first, historic global benchmark for investors seeking investments that meet sustainability principles. The Group is also a member of certain regional indexes, such as DJSI North America, DJSI Europe, DJSI Asia Pacific, DJSI Korea, DJSI Emerging Markets, DJSI Australia and DJSI Chile. The approach to assessing performance is reviewed every year, with the aim of accurately measuring the business’s environmental, social and governance performance (ESG). In 2016, Atlantia was included in the World and Europe indexes for the eighth year running, with a global score of 82, up on the previous year (76) and registering improvements across all three areas of assessment.
Aside from the results achieved, companies will be required to respond to new “Sustainability” challenges in the coming years.
The first has been launched by the United Nations, which, in September 2015, set 17 new sustainable development goals, consisting of 169 targets, which must be achieved by 2030. The new goals have set the bar much higher than the United Nations’ previous Millennium Goals, acknowledging the role played by economic operators. In line with the UN goals, Atlantia has drawn up a “Charter of commitments”, designed to form the basis for the Group’s sustainability initiatives each year, focusing on the goals that are more relevant to our business. Our commitment aims to: promote sustained economic growth (goal 8); build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation (goal 9); make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable (goal 11); ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns (goal 12); take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts (goal 13); revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development (goal 17).
The review conducted by the Group’s own “Sustainability Committee” last November showed that the Group is delivering on its commitments.
The second challenge is represented by Directive 2014/95/EU, which is in the process of being implemented in Italy. This has introduced the obligation to integrate non-financial with financial disclosures. Companies with more than 500 employees, not including those in the voluntary sector, must report on a series of non-financial aspects, such as the use of land, occupational health and safety, the use of energy resources (renewable and otherwise), emissions, the use of water resources, policies designed to safeguard human rights, relations with communities and territories, anti-corruption and diversity policies.
The reporting standards applied by Atlantia put the Group in a positive position with respect to these changes. However, in order to guarantee even greater accuracy of the non-financial data gathered and processed and ensure the certifiability of the procedures used, as required by the legislation soon to come into force, the Group has, in 2016, developed an integrated IT system that will enter use in January 2017. We expect introduction of the system to bring a range of benefits, including the following: the automated processing of data from various sources, a reduction in the time taken to publish the integrated report, interoperability with other corporate systems and simplification of the review and audit processes.
To the two challenges described above, we can add a third: the extended scope of sustainability initiatives. As the reader will be aware, the concept of sustainability was initially linked to social aspects, as they related to philanthropy, before being expanded to include aspects relating to the environment and governance. Many people now believe it is time to add a fourth dimension: the exploitation of cultural heritage as a key part of sustainable development. Here, too, the Group has responded quickly.
Autostrade per l’Italia has for some time promoted the Sei in un Paese Meraviglioso initiative in an attempt to take advantage of the many beauty spots located close by the motorway network, which are, however, off the beaten tourist track.
Since 2015, Aeroporti di Roma has also launched the Navigare il Territorio project, run by the Benetton Research Foundation, under the patronage of the Special Department for the Colosseum and the archaeological area in the centre of Rome, with the aim of opening up the remains of the Imperial Ports built by Claudius and Trajan to visitors.
Finally, Atlantia, together with other companies belonging to the Associazione Civita, is working within the “Arte&Impresa: corporate cultural responsibility” committee to create guidelines to be used in measuring the impact of companies’ investment in culture. The aim is to extend the existing approach used in relation to the social and environmental spheres to the cultural sector, aware of the fact that new measurement tools are needed in order to enhance and optimise companies’ commitment to the cultural sphere.