Positive Economy Agenda 2014-2015

10 Actions to Boost the Positive Economy in Italy : A stocktaking one year later

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The Positive Economy Agenda developed after the first edition of the Positive Economy Forum San Patrignano, June 2014, aimed to suggest to the Italian Government the main areas of intervention and the key targets for boosting the development of a Positive Economy in Italy.

10 Actions have been expressed: which ones have been realized during the year? How the positivity of Italy has been improved?

Reminder : AGENDA 2014-2015

The various actions in the Positive Economy Agenda all fall within six key areas of intervention that are considered fundamental:

  • The person
  • Finance
  • Contribution to the Economy
  • Enterprise
  • Public Administration
  • The environment

The six areas of intervention break down into a series of actions:

+     The person

  1. To promote the values of the Positive Economy through:
  • Family and demographic policies
  • School and university policies
  • Development of the professional skills required

+     Finance

  1. To support the development of social finance instruments (ethical funds, social bonds, social impact bonds, microcredit, etc.)

+     Contribution to the Economy

  1. To measure the contribution the third sector and voluntary work makes to GDP and include the added value of voluntary work in the calculation of GDP
  2. To use the economy’s positivity index as a tool for planning and evaluating the Government’s economic policies

+     Enterprise

  1. To develop a system of social credits, similar to that of green credits, to award to businesses in order to encourage positive behaviour in the economy; to set up models for evaluating and measuring the conduct of businesses and reward systems for long-term corporate investments and policies
  2. To include the positive mission of enterprise in company law
  3. To encourage long-term enterprise ownership, including via plural voting for long-term shareholders

+     Public Administration

  1. To include positive economy criteria in assessments for the award of public tenders (e.g. job creation, renewable energies, positive solidarity, social corporate governance, etc.)
  2. To encourage the reduction of public expenditure on welfare by using third sector social structures, measuring and monitoring outcomes

+     The environment

  1. To encourage the introduction of methods for classifying the social and environmental impacts of products and services in order to orient purchasing choices (social and environmental impact stamp)

Actions Implemented under the Positive Economy Agenda

The following actions were implemented in 2014-2015:

+     University Programmes and the Positive Economy (Action 1)

There were various developments in the school and university programmes in the first area, which relates to the person and to promoting the values of the Positive Economy (Action 1).

The workshop organised on April 8th 2015 by the CRUI on the university of the future at the Positive Economy Forum focused among other things on training citizens and professionals of the future to take a more long-term view in their daily lives.

This kind of awareness is becoming increasingly important in the Italian academic world, as can be seen by the many university courses that have introduced innovative programmes incorporating themes of the Positive Economy Movement into their various disciplines.

Leading universities such as the Bocconi University in Milan, LUISS University in Rome and Trento University (the social enterprise management master’s degree course) are all examples.

+     Text for the Amendment of Law 155 (Action 5)

Changes to the law regarding social enterprise are ongoing but of capital importance. This comes under Action 5.

Just a few weeks ago, on March 18th 2015, the Chamber of Deputies Social Affairs Committee approved a bill to revise the law on social enterprises that contains some significant changes.

An especially positive development is the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy’s inclusion of guidelines for social governance reports and social impact assessment methods.

  • Positive – the single register of third sector entities.
  • Positive – the establishment of a system to monitor, assess and regulate third sector entities.
  • Very positive – the inclusion of “forms of remuneration of social capital and of profit sharing” that guarantee the distribution of profits prevalently for achieving social objectives.

For reasons of completeness, it is worth underlining a point that remains critical. Restricting the areas of social utility activities has meant that, instead of moving in the direction of eliminating any reference to sectors of business at the root (by choosing to apply EU principles of identifying social enterprises on the basis of their measurable social impact), the sector-based logic has remained in place, with the risk of having to update the list again in the future.

+     Private Enterprise and International Cooperation, Law 125/14 (Action 6)

As regards the Enterprise area, Law 125/2014 has recognised the positive mission of enterprise, at least in terms of international cooperation.

This is the first time an Italian law has explicitly recognised that private enterprise has the capability to create inclusive, sustainable growth. As a result, it has identified private sector enterprises as one of the key players in the implementation of the strategies and overall architecture of Italy’s international cooperation.

This is a very positive signal as regards the objective of Action 6 of the Agenda.

+     Introduction of Plural Voting (Action 7)

Also as regards enterprise, we have seen a substantial and extremely important novelty change with regard to Action 7 on the introduction of plural voting.

Last year’s Competitiveness Bill, presented by the current government and converted into law by Parliament, introduced the possibility of plural voting for joint-stock companies.

This is an important step because, for the first time in Italian company law, it introduces an exception to the “one share, one vote” rule, opening the doors to “loyalty shares” in particular. These are a reward to shareholders that have held their shares for a specific minimum predetermined period of time.

This is a specific, practical measure that responds to the fundamental principle of introducing the criterion of the long-term view, which lies at the heart of the Positive Economy. It rewards “patient capital”, which can invest in the knowledge that enterprises often need time to develop their organisation and the people that work there, their processes, their products, and consequently also their profits.

+     Project of the Municipality of Naples – Banca Prossima (Action 9)

The initiatives by the public administration involving the third sector and voluntary workers in an effort to reduce public spending (Action 9) include an important innovation in Naples.

In January 2015 a project was presented that brings together local, national and international entities. These are cooperatives, construction firms and companies in possession of advanced waste processing technology.

Innovative technologies will be used in the area identified to create a small-sized, modular plant capable of processing 20,000 tonnes of organic waste a year, 30% of the total volume.

Banca Prossima was involved in the practicalities of the Scampia Plant project. This is the first time that a TRIS (Public Spending Reduction Bond) has been used.

In the case of Scampia, Italy has taken the concept of a Social Impact Bond a step further. It has moved beyond the generic creation of social value to a different, more practical objective: to achieve a measurable reduction in public spending by creating jobs in the social enterprises that will implement the various stages of the waste conversion cycle. The name of the project has not been chosen by chance, and translates as “Scampia: from Waste to Social Regeneration”.

The saving in public spending is guaranteed: €40 per ton of organic waste, €800,000 a year. If it succeeds (i.e., if the waste processing cost reduction targets are met), the return for investors will be in line with the return from government bonds. This is an example of how a reduction in the use of public resources, creation of new jobs and environmental sustainability can be achieved by close cooperation between the public and private sectors, the profit and non-profit sectors, and the banks.

+     Article 24 of the “Sblocca Italia” (“Relaunch Italy”) Law (Action 9)

Again with regard to Action 9, which aims to reduce public expenditure by involving the third sector and the voluntary sector, it is hoped that a recent initiative will be the first of many.

The Municipality of Massarosa in the province of Lucca was the first Italian municipality to implement the change introduced by the Relaunch Italy Decree (article 24 of Law 161/2014 approved last November), which reduces the tax burden on citizens involved in voluntary work.

Volunteers for duties such as road cleaning, maintenance work in schools/sports facilities and accompanying children on school buses will receive a 50% reduction in their waste disposal bills.

+     Ministry of Agriculture Bill for Social Farms (Action 9)

Finally, a further ongoing change is the reduction of public expenditure with the aid of third sector entities.

A new Bill is currently being prepared for presentation by the Ministry of Agriculture that deals with social farms, among other things.

Article 6 of the Bill illustrates all the benefits and economic support the law will provide:

  • Priority for the introduction of food and agricultural products from social farming in procurement tenders at state kindergartens, school canteens and hospitals
  • Promotion of products by municipal councils
  • Priority criteria in the sale of agricultural land owned by the state and public bodies and in the granting of agricultural land confiscated from criminal organisations.