For Italians, the energy transition will increase companies’ earnings

84% of respondents would spend more on sustainable products

The energy transition-earnings conflict does not exist, on the contrary. For 71% of Italians, the actions that would make companies truly sustainable would bring companies an advantage not only in terms of image but also tangible economic return.

This emerges from the survey “Italians, sustainability and businesses” (carried out on a sample of 1,000 Italians aged over 18), commissioned by FpS and presented on the occasion of the launch of the Sustrain project, an agency specialized in accompanying businesses along their sustainable transition path.

The opinion of Italians on the transition

Among the three aspects of the ESG area (environmental, social and governance), Italians feel the environmental one is closest to them. Sustrain research offers several insights of interest, including:

– Reducing CO2 is the most important commitment that companies can make with a view to a green transformation for 71% of those interviewed;

– the company’s social commitment, i.e. the introduction of welfare plans for workers and family members and projects that have a positive impact on the community and the territory in which the company operates is relevant for 51% of those interviewed;

– according to what the interviewees say, the transition effort will be rewarded: 84% of those interviewed say they would be willing to pay more respect for a product that is truly more sustainable than its competitors.

89% of those interviewed said they preferred brands considered sustainable.

The sectors where sustainability is most perceived

The Sustrain survey highlights that Italians are willing to spend more in exchange for greater sustainability, especially for fresh food (62%), followed by domestic infrastructure, such as heating, air conditioning, fixtures (36%), health products (35%) and household products (35%). Followed more distantly: clothing (29%) and means of transport (car, motorbike, bicycle, 25%) while only 18% of those interviewed agree to spend more money to make sustainable trips.

These data indicate that the devastating impact that fast fashion has on the environment is not yet clear and that people are still unwilling to make sacrifices on mobility.

In reality, choosing sustainability does not just mean choosing a certain product, but also asking yourself whether that is really a useful purchase or just a way to make your brain happy at that moment, only to then put the new purchase aside in the closet.

Or, worse, throw it away as happens with almost a thousand tons of food a year. According to reports from Unep, the United Nations Environment Programme, in fact, they were produced in 2019 931 million tons of food wasteof which the vast majority (61%) are domestic.

26% come from the restaurant world and the remaining 13% from retail. Impressive numbers, despite the improvement recorded by the latest Waste Watcher International report which in 2023 highlights a decisive reduction in food waste in several countries, including Germany -43%, Spain -40%, USA -35%. There is a reduction, even if it is less evident, it also occurred in Italy with -12%.

The impact of Covid

It is often said that the pandemic, which is and remains one of the darkest moments of recent decades, was an accelerator of processes. This is also supported by Gianluca Schinaia, Head of Sustainability at Sustrain, according to whom the survey data “confirm a trend born in the post-Covid years, namely the growth in Italian consumers’ attention to the quality and social value of a service or product .

In fact, sustainability is no longer a ‘nice to have’, but a intrinsic characteristic of a product. Today sustainability means quality on the market: both of the product and of the company that offers it. And this cultural process is accompanied by the increasingly stringent regulatory obligation triggered by the latest European directives. In short, to remain competitive, it is time to become sustainable”, comments Schinaia, echoing the studies that show that decarbonisation costs, but not doing it costs more.

Also according to Istat’s “Business Report 2021”, the ecological transition is liked by Italians, who consider it not only necessary and urgent, but also convenient from an economic point of view. In fact, 86% of those interviewed believe that the ecological transition reduces environmental and climate risks and promotes investments, innovation and employment. Furthermore, 85% of Italians think that not implementing the ecological transition would mean paying high costs for the damage caused by pollution and global warming.

On this point it should be noted that by the end of this year the obligation for companies to have insurance against natural disasters will come into force, a measure which demonstrates once again how environmental sustainability and the economic aspects of companies are connected.

A relationship not unknown to Italians who, underlines Lorenzo Bordoni, Business Developer of Sustrain, “seem to be aware that for companies, investing to be sustainable has a positive impact on financial statements and corporate reputation. 96% – continues Bordoni – believe that sustainability has a role image return for the company and for 81% even an economic gain. These data seem to be an encouraging sign for companies determined to pursue a path of economic, social and environmental innovation”.

How to implement change

Finally, the research investigates how the transition should be implemented according to Italians. And here too the answer is clear: change must start from the topby the top figures of the company.

In fact, 85% of those interviewed believe it is very or somewhat necessary to create training plans for managers and executives, while training for employees collects only 15% of preferences

Greater discrepancy, however, on the role of tax incentives: 41% of those interviewed agree that it is necessary to provide tax incentives to support companies in their change, while 39% consider tax incentives a factor to be considered only as long as they bring relevant and measurable results .

This last aspect represents a crucial point of the Pnrr and can be the key to bringing all stakeholders on the side of the transition which will have to pass first and foremost through the companies. A necessary result, even if not easy to achieve as demonstrated by the postponement of the vote on the Supply Chain Act.