Letter to the stakeholders
2021, which has just ended, was a crucial year for the successful overcoming of the most acute phases of the health emergency and the gradual economic and social recovery of the country and the rest of the world. If it were possible, just for a moment, to divert our thoughts from what is happening in Europe today, a conflict that marks a deep furrow of discontinuity with respect to the previous world political and economic balances, generating numerous unknowns about the future, we could, on the contrary, highlight the clear and coherent path of the European Union that is strongly characterised by the issues of sustainable and inclusive growth. This was also the case for the Acea Group in 2021.
The year began with the issue of Acea's first Green Bond, also aligning the financial strategy with the industrial and sustainability planning defined in 2020. The green projects eligible for funding through Green Bond are attributable to 4 particularly significant areas for the common challenge of sustainable growth: management of water resources, energy efficiency, circular economy and green energy. The initiative was very much welcomed by the market and initiates, for Acea, a gradual expansion of the use of sustainable finance instruments.
We wanted to promote a stronger rooting of sustainability issues in corporate governance by equipping the Group with policies and tools with transversal, internal and external impacts. Among these, for example, the definition and adoption of the Principles and Values of Stakeholder Engagement, through which we wanted to take on wider responsibilities with respect to the efficient management of the business and related to the ability to contribute to sustainable development of the territories in which we operate, increasing attention to the well-being of our people and of all the stakeholders with whom we interact. With this in mind, the principles and procedures for involving interested parties will increase the ability to listen and the effectiveness of dialogue and will facilitate the construction of a solid relational network. The evolution of the Group’s vendor rating system and the partnership with Ecovadis, both implemented, also respond to the same logic, which will contribute to promoting and enhancing sustainability along the supply chain, fostering increasingly virtuous collaborations, with the utmost consideration for the health and safety of all workers.
Of equal importance during the year was the signing with the Trade Unions of a Protocol on Diversity and Inclusion, operational at Group level, which emphasises the centrality of the principles of gender equality, social inclusion, contrast to all forms of discrimination and the enhancement of diversity, and the definition of a Diversity & Inclusion Plan, for the development of initiatives dedicated to employees, and a dashboard dedicated to measuring and analysing trends relating to the variables of interest.
A particularly important step was the choice of integrating quantitative sustainability objectives into the medium-long and short-term incentive remuneration policy. Both the new Long Term Incentive Plan (LTIP), referring to the three-year period 2021-2023 and reserved for some top positions, and the annual incentive plan, Management by Objectives, applied to senior and middle management, include, in fact, starting from 2021, a composite sustainability indicator, the achievement of which affects the performance evaluation system.
The 2020-2024 Sustainability Plan in force, approved by the Board of Directors, was prepared in accordance with the Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda, with the values of our Code of Ethics and the principles of the United Nations “Global Pact”, to which Acea confirmed to adhere to again this year. The specific objectives set out therein find a key to understanding not only in relation to the main stakeholders, but also around some drivers that qualify our sustainability strategy, and in particular: resilience and modernisation of infrastructures, customer care, the circular economy, sustainable water management, the decarbonisation of the energy system, sustainability along the supply chain, the reduction of environmental impact, the contribution to smart cities and the containment of impacts on the urban context, innovation, the centrality of people and involvement in the territory. During the year, both the state of progressive pursuit of the sustainability targets set for 2024, the annual final balance of which is published in this document, and the amount of investments envisaged in the industrial plan and related to sustainability targets were monitored. Determined to go further, we have already activated working groups that will lead us to define even more ambitious longer-term strategic planning. We are in fact convinced that business management capable of pursuing sustainable success, jointly evaluating economic growth and impacts on the environmental and social context and therefore directing the business development prospects so that they also generate a positive contribution for the territory, is, particularly in our time, the only way forward to preserve and develop the common good.
The Chief Executive Officer