We would like to present our 12th Sustainability Report referring to 2021, a year of transition for our sector. We ended 2020 aware that the sustainability process we had undertaken was the right approach even when facing the unpredictable challenges brought about by the pandemic. It represented our way of being: in our opinion those whose intention is to remain in a business following a long term approach cannot exempt themselves from contributing towards a low carbon economy, from putting people, their health and safety at the centre of their own way of working, from acting in an ethical manner in decision making and towards all those they dialogue with, ensuring at the same time that their structures are more attractive than ever following an approach based on cooperation with all stakeholders, even in local contexts, like those in which we ourselves operate. In short, we maintained our belief in our strategy which we called «Becoming GREAT», considered today as being as contemporary as ever, even in a period of uncertainty like the one we are currently experiencing.
Our awareness was heightened even further in 2021. All around us we noticed an increase in focus placed on sustainability issues at global level (the echo from COP 26 was something that no similar event had ever experienced), at European level (with the new Taxonomy and other regulations with an impact also on our sector) and at national level (with the approval of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan in which substantial investments are allocated to the transition towards a more sustainable economy from an environmental and social perspective). Furthermore, we have noticed, whilst dialoguing with you, our stakeholders, how increasingly close to your hearts these issues are.
2021 was the year in which we planned our future commitments, with the definition of our new 2022-2024 Business Plan.
When drawing it up, we took into account both the regulatory framework and your recommendations.
Because of this, when we started we were certain of one thing: a Business Plan that intends to see IGD through the post pandemic period could only be based on a decision to allocate a very significant part of its investments in order to make its business even more environmentally and socially sustainable. For this reason, the new Business Plan envisages an investment of approximately 13 million euros to finance the 41 targets introduced. These targets are measurable and every year we will report on the level of achievement for each of them. We also felt it was necessary to clearly lay out the directions we intend to take and our priorities up to 2030. We have called them «ambitions» and they represent 22 guidelines which we will work on so as to make our contribution to the sustainable development strategies defined by the United Nations with the SDGs.
Furthermore, in this Sustainability Report we have also included a detailed account of the last 3 years. Indeed, 2021 was the last year of the 2019-2021 Plan.
When we defined the contents, we could not then have imagined that 2 of the 3 years would be marked by a global pandemic, with significant repercussions both on the company’s investment capability and on the possibility to organise events with gatherings in our Shopping Centres. For this reason we were not able to reach all the targets which we had set ourselves. However, we have undertaken the commitment to work on them in the next Plan. We consider it important, however, to highlight the level of achievement for each target we set so as to be transparent and open with all of you: sustainability, in our view, also means this.
Our strategy also involves the management of risks related to sustainability. Every year we monitor them, analyse the results obtained and describe them in the Report. Year after year we have perfected the so-called «dashboard»: in 2021 we added new risks related to contingent factors (like for example the increase in energy costs) and we defined, for each risk, the related opportunities.
At the same time, we consider it appropriate to set our sustainability process within the framework of international best practices.
Our Report is carried out in line with EPRA and GRI standards. On this topic, in 2021 we received for the 7th year the «EPRA sBPR Gold Award» for our Sustainability Report and for the 4th year the «EPRA BPR Gold Award» for our Consolidated Financial Statements.
Furthermore, after joining the United Nations’ Global Compact in 2020, in this Report we have included «Communication on progress», the annual report on the policies and the actions carried out in 2021 in reference to the Principles identified by the United Nations regarding human rights, labour, the environment and the fight against corruption. Likewise, for the third year, we responded to the recommendations of the Task Force on climate-related financial disclosures (TCFD).
Overall, we are satisfied with the results we obtained in 2021. Also our performance, especially environmental performance, when compared to the pre-pandemic period, improved considerably.
On this point, with regard to climate change, in 2021 we continued to invest in energy efficiency, as described in section «Green».
With the 1.2 million euros which we invested in Italy in energy efficiency improvement (in addition to the 620,000 invested in Romania), we reached an overall investment equal to 5.8 million euros over the 3 year timespan of the Plan, exceeding the target we had set ourselves (5 million). Thanks to these structural investments, as well as greater focus placed on management and the constant monitoring of performance, there was a fall in energy consumption during the year, which was not a result of the Malls being less operative due to the restrictions. Indeed, we are pleased to report that in the last 7 months of the year we reduced energy consumption by 14% compared to the same period in 2019. One of the results of the investments carried out was the continuous increase in the proportion of energy produced from photovoltaic panels, installed in 8 of our Shopping Centres, currently standing at approximately 7% out of the total energy consumed during the year (it was 3.4% in 2019). LED lighting, which is installed in 19 of our Malls, also enabled us to reduce energy consumption: if we had not invested in this, in 2021 we would have consumed 6.5% more (the energy saved is equal to consumption in a medium-large Shopping Centre).
In addition, starting from this year, our reporting includes the so-called Scope 3, that is, emissions indirectly linked to our business. The assessment of these emissions, alongside the assessments of Scope 1 and 2 emissions which we have been reporting for several years now, will enable us to be fully aware of our environmental impact.
In 2022 we will assess our performance and, in line with international best practices, we will identify specific reduction targets which are «Science-Based», or rather, those aimed at limiting global warming to 1.5°, as recommended by the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. We will work, therefore, so that the targets are validated by the Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), one of the most distinguished international networks active on this issue.
In addition to the environmental aspect, our sustainability strategy places people at its core. For this reason, we intend to act in a responsible manner both with regard to our employees and to the people that are present in our structures.
In section «Responsible» therefore, we report not only on employment stability and quality which we continued to guarantee over the year, but also on investments which we carried out both with regard to the establishment of the new Information Technology corporate role and with regard to the development of our employees’ skills. On this topic, we would like to highlight how focus on training, especially in a rapidly changing context like the one we are witnessing now, is strategic for the near future. For this reason we decided to increase our investment in training, focusing on soft skills and digital skills.
We also continue to place great attention on the issue of wellbeing, both that of our employees (100% of them made use of the advantages offered by corporate Welfare) and that of those who work in or who visit our structures. With regard to this, in 2021 we decided to follow the Bio Safety Certification scheme developed by the accreditation board RINA, the first management model introduced into the market which is designed to prevent and mitigate the spread of infections to protect the health of individuals from biological agents, like, in particular, those connected to the current Covid-19 situation.
Up to now, 7 of our Shopping Centres, in addition to the headquarters, have been certified. By the end of 2024 this certification process will involve all our Malls.
Once again in 2021 we confirmed how ethics and legality are two ineradicable factors in our approach to business («Ethical»).
After obtaining ISO37001 certification, the international standard of reference for anti-bribery management systems, during the year we audited our actions and we identified, amongst the adjustments to be made, one with regard to the purchasing process, with a view to achieving an increasingly responsible management of our supply chain (one of the targets which we will be working on in the next Plan). Our commitment to ensure our governance is in line with the best practices at national level was acknowledged during the year by two important recognitions: our «governance risk» was awarded the best score possible in the ISS (Institutional Shareholder Services) assessment and we were included in the first 5 of the extra top 100 listed companies in the Integrated Governance Index, developed by Etica News.
We also continued to be committed to making our Shopping Centres even more attractive («Attractive»). During the year we implemented several new aspects which are also features of our new Business Plan: new merchandising mix to adapt our retail offer (34 new brands introduced, the highest number in the last few years); focus on people’s health, with the opening of the first medical clinic in one of our Shopping Centres and with the creation of two vaccination hubs which gave approximately 400,000 people in Ravenna and Palermo the possibility to be vaccinated; implementation of opportunities offered by digital evolution so as to constantly increase interaction with the visitors, putting into practice what had already been envisaged in our Digital Plan.
In order to handle this phase in the best way possible, we continued to engage with you, our stakeholders, constantly communicating and working with you («Together») following an approach based on cooperation. The over 1,000 meetings organised with our tenants, the 17,000 visitors and non visitors that were heard by means of specific surveys, as well as the 89 investors met (25 of these new ones) all bear witness to our commitment on this matter.
Undertaking a sustainability process, for us, has also always meant participating in debates on these issues at national and international level, with particular focus on what is happening in our sector. For this reason, in 2021 we promoted and participated in the «Sustainability Manifest» of the Consiglio Nazionale dei Centri Commerciali (National Association of Shopping Centres), in virtue also of the roles we have in this Association, which are both the general Chair of the Association and the Chair of the ESG Commission. We continued to be a member of the Sustainability Groups of both EPRA (European Public Real Estate Association) and ECSP (European Council of Shopping Places), overseeing the proposals of European legislation so as to analyse them, assess them and, with the cooperation of the other companies in the sector, propose together any amendments.
At the end of our third Business Plan, where we worked to integrate sustainability into the way in which we conduct business, we can consider ourselves satisfied with the results obtained.
Being assessed in 2021 by 11 Rating companies focused on ESG parameters, whose appraisals of us continue to improve year after year, is a sure indication that we are on the right track.