Professional training, health promotion and social integration, cultural activities to redevelop the area: design companies and social responsibility projects

Many Italian furniture companies are engaged in ethical-social and cultural regeneration initiatives in their home regions. Such operations go well beyond “team bonding”. They not only see employees personally involved, but are also capable of generating positive and long-lasting externalities for the local community in general. Called corporate social responsibility (CSR), a substantial item in the B-Corp certification, it sees companies as responsible for performing their civic duty to promote a balance between economic growth and the well-being of society and the environment.

Promoting training means perpetuating know-how and affluence across the region, encouraging the culture of work and the sense of belonging. And, if the value of the ‘Italian brand’ was estimated at approximately 1,776 billion dollars in 2020 (The Annual Brand Value Ranking of Brand Finance), investing in people and the traditional skills of Italian manufacturing is a growth strategy. In this way Bottega Intreccio, the small company from Mogliano (MC) that produces furniture made of hand-woven wickerwork, in 2014 relaunched the lost tradition of the local district with the foundation of the Carteca school. (Its name means “press and join”, referring to the manual gesture.)

The school aims to preserve the knowledge of the remaining artisans and to train the new generations by making an ancient art contemporary. It is organized like a medieval workshop, in which the expert craftsman supports the apprentice, instilling a passion for manual skills and precision. Carteca is free, being financed by Bottega Intreccio together with other local companies. The most deserving and gifted pupils are then generally hired by the artisans who work with the same companies.

The Municipality of Meda, together with the Giuseppe Terragni Vocational Training Center and twelve companies in Meda, including Busnelli Corporate, BertO, Cassina, Flexform, Flou, Giorgetti, Paola Lenti, Minotti and Riva, have inaugurated the professional orientation project I Mestieri del Design. Its aim is to increase enrollment in professional schools in the area, for example in the classes of upholsterers and carpenters. The project includes orientation activities to enable the students to understand the organizational models of the sponsoring companies and the training and employment opportunities in the creation of design products.

Similarly, Cristina Rubinetterie (Caleffi Group), together with seven of the largest companies in the Novara area, is supporting the new course in mechanics, automation and robotics at the Omar Industrial Technical Institute in Oleggio. It is equipping the laboratory with the most innovative industrial equipment to train highly specialized technicians possessing the technological skills needed in an increasingly evolved industry. Caimi shares its seven futuristic laboratories (Caimi Open Lab) with universities, research organizations, institutions and foundations, dedicated to theoretical and applied research in the fields of technology and acoustics, new materials and advanced prototyping.

Realizing that shared knowledge will become a collective training ground for developing new ideas and advancing research, not only into products but more extensively into people’s psychophysical well-being, B-Corp Florim has set up the Florim Health & Training Center, the first in Italy within a private company to be certified by the American Heart Association. A center of excellence of over 600 square meters is devoted to the training of medical and paramedical personnel, managed by the Sassuolo Hospital, with advanced simulation technology humanoids that reproduce human functions.

The dignity of the person also passes through the work ethic. For the cording of its products, Roda has been collaborating for five years with 7 Laghi Cooperativa Sociale based in Bodio Lomnago (VA). This involves some forty people, including able-bodied, disadvantaged and mentally disabled employees, ensuring that each has a job, social utility and the dignity of work. And for its Made in Carcere project, Egoitaliano supplies the inmates of Lecce prison with the fabrics to make its Tote Bags. These bags are distributed free of charge in the Egostore, but the other products made as part of the same initiative retail in the e-commerce store of the same name, involving the prisoners in activities to support local initiatives.

With the Fondo Giovanni Alessi Anghini, at the Verbano-Cusio-Ossola (VCO) Community Foundation, since 2009 Alessi has supported projects of social utility, directly involving its employees, who decide which causes to fund. This year they have supported Art Therapy courses promoted by the Association of Volunteers in Aid of Psychiatric Patients in Verbania, as well as recreational courses for people with Parkinson’s Disease and local hospitals during the Covid-19 emergency.

The theme of social inclusiveness also passes through sport, a virtuous practice that strengthens the ties between the able-bodied and the disabled. In this respect, Saib has recently become a sponsor of the Vanoli di Cremona baskin (inclusive basketball) team. It already supports the Fondazione Sospiro based at Cascina San Marco in Tidolo (Cremona), which cares for children with intellectual disabilities and autism. A number of Italian design companies act as sponsors of local teams or professional athletes. Emu, the Gruppo Euromobil, Protek and Terratinta, to name only a few, have been involved in this way for twenty years or more.

In 2019, Mapei inaugurated the Sassuolo Calcio sports center of excellence, which also organizes numerous initiatives for the local area and young people. Receiving an honorable mention at the Italian Architecture Award, the Mapei Football Center, designed by Onsitestudio, covers 45,000 square meters with six playing fields, one of which has a covered stand for 200 spectators. The main building is located between two soccer fields, in memory of the ancient barchesse (granaries), and hosts the public functions and offices of the first team and youth teams. The most innovative products and construction systems of the Mapei Group were used to build it.

Developing and promoting the micro-territorial heritage of a place by developing an environmental awareness. This is the idea behind the activities that the Guglielmo Giordano Foundation promotes in the Wood of Piegaro, 146 hectares of forest owned by the Margaritelli family between Perugia and Lake Trasimeno. The dance show Le cirque de la forêt was performed in the woods, with three dancers/acrobats performing suspended from the trees, and the performance of the sound artist Federico Ortica, who animated the forest by skillfully playing with the resonances of the trees between acoustic waves and natural vibrations. Even the Festa dei Boschi 2021 – with workshops, readings and artworks – took place in the most high-tech forest in Italy. Here 30 trees were fitted with a packet of sensors, developed by Cmcc, which measured parameters such as water flow, diameter growth, foliage quality and health in response to human and climatic factors. For research purposes but also to foster environmental awareness.