Il presidente di Confindustria, Giorgio Squinzi, durante gli Stati Generali del Nord organizzati dalla Lega al Lingotto, Torino, 28 settembre 2012. ANSA/ ALESSANDRO DI MARCO
Giorgio Squinzi – President of Confindustria (Confederation of Italian Enterprises) during his speech at the convention “Adriano Olivetti e Jacques Maritain per un’economia più umana. Persona industria e sviluppo industriale” (Adriano Olivetti and Jacques Maritain for a more human economy. Industrial Persona and Industrial Development) held in Rome on March 26th, 2015 at UNESCO. 

“A refection on the current role of corporations, in the phase we are living—one of evolution, after a long period of crisis and turbulence linked to globalization and geopolitical change—cannot stand without a careful evaluation on the needs of mankind, and should refer to the values we inherited from two men with very different roles and biographies, Italian industrialist Adriano Olivetti and French philosopher Jacques Maritain, whom I consider deeply contemporary and close to my personal beliefs.

Throughout history, corporations have certainly not been the sole producer of material wealth ever known. But in the places and eras where it developed, welfare, growth of social capital and wealth in the broadest sense of the word, have been more abundant and stable than elsewhere.

In fact, corporations are not (and must not be) seen only as a system able to produce goods and services, through an efficient combination of resources and limits.

A corporation is the place where the relationship between individuals, between individuals and organization, and between individuals and external environment—a relationship around which the economic destiny of an entire society gravitates—is fueled at the highest possible level.

Never before were the life of the corporation and that of the individual so tightly intertwined. Individuals’ behaviors, lifestyles, cultures and skills model those of the production system. The system’s behavior and governance, in return, influences that of individuals.

The crisis reminded us that the economy is a complex system, in which every disturbance, even peripheral ones, reflects everywhere, in which understanding diversity is fundamental for balance; it also reminded us that the market is certainly in need of trust, but also of fairness, responsibility and civic virtues. Residues of “economic materialism” still do not allow us to fully comprehend how finely tuned the relationship between man and the economy in which he lives is.

If we stop and limit ourselves to grasp only the emerged tip—the contribution to the creation of economic value—we risk neglecting an essential component of modern evolved society, which tries harder and harder to build the pillars of social fertility starting from delicate premises, such as quality of relationships and shared knowledge.

If we look at Europe’s most developed areas, the administrations and the corporations are solidly committed to building the best possible life conditions in order for citizens to build stable relations with the communities and attract talent and knowledge. Think of the great interest attracted by the social economy or the new frontier of the evaluation of the social impact of investments.

This new awareness, clearly foreseen by the analyses of Olivetti and Maritain, is generating very interesting experiments and new communities made of corporations, citizens and territories. I think of experiments on second welfare, safety and health that are underway in many countries.

In short: economic resources, alone, do not solve problems: they do when they are able to effectively activate responsibility, the capacity to produce something, trust, and social capital. A concrete example of this are the British intra-municipal foundations, which put together values and solidarity-based services.

Today, it is therefore logical, dutiful, as well as socially profitable, to govern the system by writing rules that take into account micro social behaviors, directing them, as much as possible, towards the growth of the common good and social capitalization. It is a complex obstacle course.

The economic crisis has led to a deterioration of the general conditions of life, it produced social lacerations and loss of jobs, it increased distances between people and social groups. People who were already vulnerable are now more exposed to the risk of poverty and social exclusion.

A growing inequality is emerging: and a remedy must be found.

I will remain on the example of the welfare systems, which caught the attention of, and triggered extraordinarily smart statements by Adriano Olivetti. These will have to confront the new challenges coming from a changing demand—a consequence of globalization processes and of the new way of production; the new family profiles; the progressive aging of the population and the growing number of people with reduced autonomy; the presence of new subjects who need to be accepted and integrated in the realm of our citizenship.

As Olivetti understood, welfare is exactly one of the ways to build a more balanced and fair society. The field of the challenge, here, would be social innovation—an issue that was also dear to Maritain. Yet the necessity for welfare policies to snap out of the traditional cost-efficiency vision and assume a more modern position that links social yield to investments, implies a leap of quality in the management of budgets and of public intervention that has to be sustained by strong thought and political will.

We are seeing promising signs of exit from this extremely long crisis: from the variations in the exchange rates to the cost of some crucial raw materials, such as oil. Yet, the restart remains slow, fragile and, most importantly, asymmetrical. Economic difficulties and geopolitical uncertainties seem to have led us to the threshold of a new middle ages period, in which the present is made of entrenching and fear.

We need a bout of pride that would finally give some oxygen to European and Western values.

We are not just a currency and a bunch of budget rules. We are much, much more—something the world knows and must continue to enjoy. We are cultured and civilized cohabitation, welfare and technological/scientific thought. We are civilly and religiously tolerant.

Our response to these risks is to work on values that, today seem to be foggy and fading away. At stake is a strong implementation of social responsibility in the economy, along with the capacity of corporations to pursue a kind of efficiency that has, as a point of reference, certainly the production of economic value but, at the same time, also a great attention to the common good. It is not about reproducing models that had their life and their innovative energy in a different historical era, but rather about recuperating the spirit that inspired them and the vitality they were supported by.

My vision of corporations is tightly connected to the idea of the social community it is based upon, with values that must be patrimony and heritage for the entrepreneurial and social fabric of our country.

Ours is a country that, despite the difficulties, can once again open up and hope, provided it will fuel an entrepreneurial culture, feeding and growing on merit and responsibility, placing once again at its core the importance of work and a modern and innovative business ethics, consistently—and not just formally—lived and practiced.

I think that many difficulties and fragilities we perceive and that make us shy when it comes to facing the future, come from the fact that we are not fully aware of the great values of reference that we can base our lives upon. In the reality of daily life we are rich—extremely rich—with quality, extraordinary relationships, and excellence.

To elevate our excellences to the rank of system, make them settle in the collective sentiment is the task we should devote ourselves to—as men and women as well as entrepreneurs. Such values as merit and responsibility are in our DNA, but they must return to the center of the general focus if we want to overcome a crisis that before being economic and political is, most of all, a moral one.

The entrepreneur, today, must feature a higher ethical tension and social sensitivity and commit to acquiring all the skills that enable us to face and dominate increasingly complex horizons and challenges as well as increasingly difficult situations.

The entrepreneur must participate in public life as a protagonist, give his/her contribution of ideas and experiences to public life, suggesting all possible solutions, as far as market, industrial policy, jobs, taxes, education, welfare and anything else he/she deems as necessary to make the life of our businesses and of our social fabric richer. He/she should act with full responsibility in order to point market economy in a social direction. This is what the times we are living in require from us.

It is an active and positive vision—not a static one—of the mechanisms of supply and demand, through a continuous, ethical, construction of human dignity; it demands, today—in this period of crisis we are going through—more than ever, to be heard and understood, if we do not want to run the risk of sacrificing economic dynamism on the altar of anarchism of individual interest—the byproduct of neglect for the “civitas.”

At the center of the market, of networks, of businesses—whether public or private—of production, of the economy, is the person and its dignity, the protagonist and the builder of progress and economic development not only aimed at profit but rather at social capitalization.

The entrepreneur must participate in public life as a protagonist, give his/her contribution of ideas and experiences to public life, suggesting all possible solutions, as far as market, industrial policy, jobs, taxes, education, welfare and anything else he/she deems as necessary to make the life of our businesses and of our social fabric richer. He/she should act with full responsibility in order to point market economy in a social direction. This is what the times we are living in require from us.

This is the lesson that I learned from Olivetti and Maritain. This is the scenario that I refer to when I speak of good politics, in other words the connection and balance between freedom of enterprise and public regulation.

Adr OlivThis is the way that, in different forms, roles and capacities—yet with a common basic inspiration—Olivetti and Maritain showed us, to which we should devote every possible effort, if we really want our future to be better than the times we are living.

That way is steeped in the very Christian roots of Europe we often tend to forget. Christian humanism does not rule out error, but rather saves the fragments of truth contained therein and brings them to the attention of consciences with an authentic spirit of dialogue.

One of the founding traits of this dialogue is work, the love of work and of workers. Let me quote one of Olivetti’s most moving lines: “Can industry have goals? Should they be searched only in the size of profits or isn’t there, in the life of the factory, also an ideal, a destiny, and a vocation?”

I dare to give the same answer he gave and that can be found in most of Maritain’s reflections: the continuous commitment to improve the life of men and women and, ultimately, society.

This is the deepest inspiration they passed on to us, the essence of their thought and their work. We are left with the task of not forgetting it, defending its heritage, make us ours, and propose it—as alive as ever—to future generations.”

Food for thought…