Ethical Performance
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Enel proposes to tackle third world energy gap

April 2011

Multinational power company Enel is to focus its efforts on bridging the ‘energy divide’ that prevents poor people around the world from accessing electricity.

The Italian group, which distributes and sells electricity and gas in 40 countries, has made the mission one of its key sustainability goals. It estimates electricity is still inaccessible to 1.5 billion people around the world, and believes it is well placed to help tackle the issue.

Chief executive Fulvio Conti told delegates at the company’s recent Sustainability Day event in Madrid that Enel ‘can definitely contribute leadership and expertise in terms of the tremendous challenge of the energy divide’ – although it would need the help of other utilities companies and governmental authorities.

He added: ‘No other corporate social responsibility activity in these countries could achieve longer-term results than the collaboration between governments and utilities in the implementation of electrification programmes in rural and
under-developed areas.’

The company has already begun work on increasing access to electricity in areas surrounding the capital of Peru, Lima, and in the 2.5 million population city of Fortaleza in Brazil. Conti said such programmes had shown ‘the social transformation that takes place when electricity arrives, generating economic activity and bringing prosperity to the location’. Other projects have concentrated on helping poor people cut energy costs – as in its Spanish subsidiary Endesa’s ‘Ecoelce’ project in Brazil, where participants can exchange recyclable waste for discounts on their energy bills.

Enel, which is Europe’s second largest listed utility by installed capacity, can also gain business benefits from energy divide projects, because it increases the size and reach of its markets. It says it efforts in this area will go hand in hand with plans to increase its renewable energy capacity in Europe and the Americas. It already generates more than half of it electricity free of greenhouse gas emissions.

Enel recently joined the Global Compact LEAD, a United Nations initiative that brings together 54 major companies from around the world to act as exemplars in the sustainability field.

The Enel Sustainability Day was the second of its kind, after an inaugural event last year, and is now expected to become an annual occurrence. The company invites experts and company affiliates from around the world for a day of discussion and presentations on CSR topics.

Among this year’s speakers was Emma Howard Boyd, head of SRI at Jupiter Asset Management, who told delegates that companies wishing to talk to mainstream investors about their CSR achievements need to find a new vocabulary if they are to get their attention. ‘There’s a need for a different language,’ she said. ‘For a start, the word sustainability” will often put investors off. As a niche interest we’ve got to come up with a new approach. We need to look at how we can speak to the investment community in their own language.’

Enel | Global | Sustainability

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