L. Caruso, Communication Director, discusses sustainability path taken by the Group and comments most recent developments in the area of non-financial disclosure
For several years, Prysmian Group has been carrying out a process towards growth and enhancement of all areas of sustainability. In particular, in recent months the Group has implemented a number of initiatives, such as improved governance of sustainability, a more detailed analysis of the impact of its activities, the adoption of new KPIs for measuring actions, enhanced disclosure and multi-stakeholder engagement initiatives. In an interview with ETicaNews, an Italian magazine dedicated to the sustainability issues, Lorenzo Caruso, Corporate & Business Communication Director, discusses the path taken by the Group and comments upon the most recent developments in the area of non-financial disclosure.
It had got the market talking (in a good way) about it, with its programme YES (Your Employee Shares), allowing employees to buy shares on special terms, with the aim of increasing their engagement, participation, sense of belonging and understanding of the business. Yet Prysmian Group has also taken other steps towards governance with a focus on CSR and stakeholder relations (in addition to its Sustainability Report drafted according to the G4 guidelines). The world leader in the energy and telecom cables and systems industry held its first multi-stakeholder engagement event on sustainability issues in Milan, where it identified priority areas of commitment and themes for external stakeholders. The results achieved through this event and a similar internal survey allowed the first materiality analysis to be conducted. From the standpoint of economic-financial responsibility, relations with the financial market were particularly intense, involving more than 400 meetings with institutional investors. In addition, the Group has adopted a Code of Business Conduct, aimed at spreading responsible business practices throughout the entire supply chain through the definition of principles of economic, environmental and social responsibility.
Mr. Caruso, how will CSR and the role of the sustainability manager change due to the non-financial directive that is to enter into effect next year?
I believe it is important to start from a premise: sustainability — in both civil society and business — is more than disclosure, more than reporting what is being done or ought to be done; rather, it is an approach that should lead you to improve your way of doing things, with benefits for the community, and should not be dictated by legal obligations. The new directive on non-financial information will help less structured companies to implement a reporting system and already organised firms to strive for constant improvement by defining approval processes and assigning responsibility within their organisations. This legal obligation may be viewed as a driver for the future and will contribute to providing investors with a wider range of key company information.
How are CSR and the role of the sustainability manager changing due to the impetus from investors?
For any listed company, investors are key stakeholders, certainly among the most important. They therefore have a very strong voice and the process that has come to light in recent years bears witness to increasing interest in business sustainability from both socially responsible and traditional investors. I personally believe that this is a key aspect: those who are committed to creating financial value, such as investors, show interest in non-financial reporting issues. This demonstrates the strong relationship between these two worlds and shows that a sustainable company has greater opportunity to create value over time than others. Proof of this may be found in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, which is increasingly becoming a benchmark of financial and non-financial performance, and in the tendency to include non-financial analysis in many major financial indices such as Bloomberg or Thomson Reuters.
What is the company’s level of awareness of the strategic importance of variables of a non-financial nature (environmental, social and governance)?
Prysmian Group has a long-standing awareness. As a multinational group that operates in various markets worldwide, we began to discuss these issues around ten years ago, with our first initiative at the reporting level in 2009 in the form of an environmental report. Over time, we have constantly developed this structure, increasing our commitment in terms of processes, actions and therefore reporting. Today, sustainability at Prysmian is linked to all of its operating and business activities, from governance to innovation, from operations to finance, and its strategic nature is also demonstrated by a governance structure in which the Board of Directors is responsible for deciding the actions to be taken. Our sustainability plan is directly inspired by the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and incorporates medium-/long-term qualitative and quantitative objectives that lay the foundation for a strategy that seeks to achieve increasingly ambitious common results year after year.
How are CSR and the role of the sustainability manager changing due to the impetus from consumers?
As I stated, social responsibility permeates the entire company, and, increasingly, the entire supply chain. It is not just a consumer issue, which in the case of a B2B company can stop with another industry rather than being extended to the end consumer; instead, it is an issue that involves the supply chain, the prospects, the community, those who work for a company and those who are considering doing so in the future. It is a question of perspective and points of view. Clearly, like the investors, a customer’s vision is absolutely fundamental, and not just because sustainability represents a business opportunity: for example, one aspect relevant to our industry is the application of life cycle assessment to the various types of cables, with monitoring of the environmental impact of the product’s full life cycle, thus addressing the needs of customers such as utilities, which bury cables underground or use submarine cables and thus need an environmentally sustainable product. However, I think it is important to note that in this scenario the customer is not the main driver, or the prerequisite that triggers certain processes. Sustainability is a table with seats for all of us, companies and their stakeholders, but above all for us as individuals in a personal capacity. The responsible pursuit of sustainability, from the smallest personal action to the most complex industrial process, is the only path open to us.
What level of integration has the company achieved in reporting non-financial variables (human, intellectual, social and territorial capital)?
Today, sustainability is an element that is fully integrated with all company functions and involves various aspects of the business. To Prysmian, being sustainable means taking a comprehensive approach that closely involves the various aspects of the business in sustainability issues and including non-financial variables relating to the various types of company capital in its reporting. The benefits of a sustainable approach can be measured both in environmental terms and at the level of benefits for employees, the community and the territory, as well as the development of the company. This interconnection allows us to best assess our risks and opportunities relating to non-financial performance and to focus increasingly on a full-fledged sustainability strategy.