Letter from the Chairman
In personally considering the most suitable idea with which to start this letter that I have the pleasure of writing to open - as Chairman of Cattolica - the 2021 Sustainability Report , I thought back to a widespread cultural practice among the Native Americans known as “seventh generation thinking”: before they make any decision, they consider the impact it may have on individuals and the community over time, until the seventh generation comes along.
In a world that is still overly focused on the present and on a short-term perspective (and the ongoing pandemic situation has reinforced this phenomenon), my aim is to outline a few thoughts on the future, as the future is the natural horizon of sustainability and it is in its name that the planning of the present, both on an individual and collective level, acquires its most authentic meaning.
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations deserve immediate mention, which also provide an excellent benchmark for “a world in which all are guaranteed food, health, work, education, rights and personal fulfilment, but not at the expense of the planet and other forms of life”. However, I believe that 2030 is too close a horizon to adequately represent the idea of the future.
I want to imagine a future that is more distant and radically different from the present in which we currently find ourselves. Above all, I like to envisage a more positive and human-friendly future than the one we will be forced to face if we are unable to propose innovative methods for corporate organisation and production, and instead continue with a collective vision that sees business as usual as the only viable option.
Imagining and implementing new and original solutions to redefine the economy and society is not a long shot, but a strong, pressing need today, one which affects everyone: individuals, businesses, institutions.
Let me provide an example. Many still assume that economic interests and environmental priorities are conflicting and almost always irreconcilable, and the notion of development, which includes that of unlimited growth, is viewed suspiciously.
However, I believe that the approach of those who place the dual concept of development and conservation at the centre of the debate is not only unrealistic but above all counterproductive to both objectives. I imagine a sustainable future as one able to combine a scenario of greater well-being for human communities together with respect and care for the environment and ecosystems. This requires deeper, more forward-looking, rapid thinking.
Simply consider how only a few years after the global diffusion of the idea of sustainability, the era in which companies operate solely to integrate environmental, social and governance principles into their strategies already seems to be in its twilight: what yesterday seemed to be the frontier of entrepreneurial innovation is now an approach that has already been overtaken by a new paradigm that sees companies as social actors engaged in redesigning and transforming markets to make them sustainable mechanisms in themselves.
From a phase that can be defined “incremental sustainability”, i.e., the first phase that characterised corporate responsibility, we are moving towards a perspective of “transformational sustainability” in which companies position themselves as active players in shaping a new market structure, which in turn reshapes an organisation’s conception of itself.
From waiting for the market to consolidate changes that would make the development of sustainable practices possible, we are moving towards an approach that asks companies to be the enablers of new market forms.
I am also thinking of a future in which the measurements of a company’s success are radically different from those of today, one in which creating new conditions of sustainability - but also immediately mitigating unsustainable conditions - is as important (I like to think, more important) than making an economic profit.
I am thinking of a new perspective, one that focuses on causes and not on symptoms; one that does not limit itself to considering the prosperity and growth of business but widens its gaze to a broader horizon, encompassing the vitality and quality of society and the care of the natural environment as our one common home.
Lastly, I am thinking of ambitious, forward-looking and equally transformative leadership which does not confine itself to managing merely what exists, but takes up the task of prefiguring and implementing the transition to entirely new ways of thinking and acting.
“Changing the way we do business” is not an expression to preserve the status quo: it is a vital necessity to prevent the future - and with it the lives of future generations - from being only a tempus nullius, an empty time that belongs to no one, a wasteland. This is why the idea of sustainability is essential and must be taken seriously by everyone, by a company like Cattolica but at the same time by each and every one of us.
Thanks to the path taken in recent years focusing on sustainability, Cattolica presents itself, along with the Generali Group, as a credible company with consistent and straightforward planning choices, free from any purpose other than the pursuit of an idea of sustainability aimed at generating positive economic, social and environmental effects according to a concept of the future that focuses on people’s quality of life.
Therefore, sustainability as a redesign of the future. And the necessary courage to question many of the existing socioeconomic paradigms. But also transparency, as an essential condition for generating trust and fostering a new conception of corporate purpose. For the present, certainly, but especially for the seven generations to come, whose future depends on the choices we make today.