«The time has come to develop a strategy of strictly interconnected behaviors and actions, the private with the public and individuals with the communities. Even in this way, sustainability will fully become part of our lives. And create value, ”he says Marina Caprotti, 42 years old, Executive Chairman of the Esselunga Group since June. In his first interview he calls for responsibility in a difficult time for the country. She is one of the very few women at the top of a group of large retailers but also of Italian industry in general. With the delegation of all Corporate Social Responsibility activities, he has now designed the strategies to achieve the new sustainability objectives of Esselunga, an increasingly food company and leader of a supply chain of 8,500 local SMEs and other suppliers. At the center, customers, people, the environment, suppliers and the community, five “pillars” that have been the compass of the group for 60 years.
How can the sustainability of a company help the recovery of the economy?
“Sustainability has proved to be a fundamental pillar in this year that has disrupted the lives of all of us and the world economy. Esselunga has rediscovered its role of essential service to the community and has implemented an extraordinary plan aimed at social. A company strongly rooted in the territory in which it operates must be aware of the economic value and well-being it generates, thus putting in place a conscious economy “.
What is the model behind your first Sustainability Report?
“We have crystallized the founding values of the company that we talk about extensively in our Sustainability Report which allows us to transparently describe our performance, our social and environmental objectives and above all to make a pact with all stakeholder and in particular with the people with whom we enter into daily relationships: customers, collaborators and suppliers ».
How are you already a sustainable business?
«We are increasingly aware that if companies do not make sustainability one of the cornerstones of their strategy, it will be difficult for them to prosper in the long term: it is the consumers themselves – increasingly sensitive to social and environmental issues – who ask for it. Today there is a lot of talk about sustainability but Esselunga’s path started a long time ago. For years we have dedicated ourselves to the promotion of culture and education, also with the Amici di Scuola initiative, to help scientific research and to contribute to numerous solidarity initiatives. Furthermore, we create state-of-the-art facilities with particular attention to technological innovation for energy saving, architecture and the redevelopment of the territory ».
What will Esselunga be like in 2025?
«A technologically advanced company, even more innovative, attentive to the irreplaceable value of people, to customer expectations, more sustainable and ready for new challenges, those of 2030».
You have reshaped governance with a view to sustainability, new responsibilities have been entrusted to managers. How did you move?
«We have formed a executive team, supported precisely by the function of responsibility corporate and social. It constantly monitors the progress of the Sustainability Plan and evaluates the actual achievement of the objectives, integrating it with new projects. The dedication and enthusiasm with which, in a few months and with the difficulties caused by the pandemic in progress, we drafted the Sustainability Report have brought great energy and awareness ».
There is a program dedicated to women with roles of responsibility, in the coming years it will be aimed at a wider audience. How is it articulated?
“We have increased the presence of women in key roles and we will continue along this path. It is a theme that is particularly close to my heart, aware that in life as in work we must always give something more to overcome prejudices and earn the recognition and respect we deserve ».
It is an ambitious plan, it will require major investments …
«We have set out to work seriously on each of the five focal themes of the plan and we want to achieve all the objectives set by 2025. It is clear that the environmental issue is the one that is particularly important due to its size and urgency. We will continue to invest significantly in renewable energies, in the minimization of waste and in the development of increasingly sustainable packaging ».
In a period of crisis, does sustainability continue to have a central value?
“Although we are experiencing the most difficult moment since the post-war period, it is essential to continue to be far-sighted. Sustainability remains at the heart of our corporate strategy. In English there is a term, “purpose”, which is something deeper than a “mission”, it gives the sense of the positive commitment that must inspire us ».
The profile of the company of the future?
«The transformations are already underway and companies must do their part. Much will also depend on how the legislator will be able to understand and guide the changes to come. I believe that the time has also come to elaborate a plan for the modernization of the country with actions strictly interconnected between the private and the public ”.
You are increasingly a food company, a food manufacturing company through your proprietary brands. What is the recipe for recovery?
«Just two numbers: we have more than 400 suppliers of branded products with around 2,000 references of local excellence. We believe in enhancing the local economy. It is no coincidence that over 80% of Esselunga brand products are Italian ».
There is also the issue of the supply chain to be safeguarded in a complex economic phase. Could you invest in small agri-food companies to support their growth?
«We have worked with Unicredit to support suppliers by providing them with 530 million euros of credit lines dedicated to advances for the payment of trade receivables. For some time now we have been enhancing and promoting regional productions and small communities, thus favoring the growth of the local economy and made in Italy ».
It’s been an unprecedented year for trading. What challenges did you face?
«It is clear that dealing with the impact of a pandemic such as Covid-19 has not been easy; they have been very hard months. We found ourselves in an unimaginable situation and we had to take extraordinary measures for the safety of both our people and customers and, at the same time, satisfy the exponential demand for e-commerce ».
What do you expect for next year?
«We are in a phase of great uncertainty and in constant evolution. We had to adapt to a new rhythm of life and tiring but necessary rules of conduct to preserve everyone’s health. I hope that from this situation there will be opportunities for the innovation of the infrastructural system, which we dramatically need, and the relaunch of our country’s economy. While being prudent, we continue with all our development projects and a significant hiring plan. Creating work is the best way to generate new trust ».
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