B prepared for change

Edinburgh Napier prides itself on being an applied university, where research and teaching are focused on making a direct impact on communities. Tommaso Cattaneo took this to heart; his dissertation achieved an international impact even before he graduated in the summer of 2021!

Tommaso arrived in Edinburgh in 2020, to begin his MSc Business Management. “Part of the reason I applied was because I wanted to study in Edinburgh, having done my undergraduate degree at home in Italy.” But due to Covid, he spent just six weeks in the city before a lockdown was declared, and he chose to return home to complete his studies online. “It was unfortunate. But when I applied, I also knew that sustainability would be a core module in my programme. That had also attracted me.

“What I didn’t understand then was exactly what B Corp status means. I was introduced to it through the programme.”

B Corps are a global movement – with their own web presence at Certified B Corporation. Edinburgh is at the forefront of developments, having been named the first ‘Can B’ city in the UK in 2020. Edinburgh Napier was instrumental in the partnership of academic organisations, private businesses and public bodies that applied for this Cities CAN B designation.

“Certified B Corps are a new kind of business that balance purpose and profit,” explains Tommaso.

There are more than 4,000 businesses now operating in 70+ countries. Each has changed its corporate statutes to legally require them to consider the impact of any decision on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. “For my dissertation, I decided I would investigate the history of B Corps in Italy.”

Tommaso discovered the rapidly expanding influence of this global movement. “Four years ago, there were just 20 B Corps in Italy; now there are more than 100: and it was clear from my research that these companies see real benefits.

As part of his research, Tommaso did an initial B Corp assessment for Lazzati Industria Grafica srl, one of Italy’s leading luxury print and packaging firms. “It was founded nearly 200 years ago by my great grandfather.” Today, the business employs 50 people and is run by Tommaso’s mother and uncle.

“Both were happy to support my idea from the start. They’ve been investing for many years in technologies and solutions that significantly reduce the environmental impact of our activities,” he explains. “We were one of the first to install a photovoltaic system to produce clean energy, and now generate 70% of the firm’s energy requirement from solar panels. We were quick to use FSC certified paper; abolished the use of chemicals for the development of plates; and now we use non-polluting means for deliveries.”

But B-Corps must also consider their supply chain and wider partnerships in any impact assessment. “I finished the impact assessment with a score of 90.5 points, which is good, but there was still room to improve.”

Tommaso presented the opportunities and persuaded his mother and uncle to carry through some changes. “We worked to change our statute to become a B Corps over the summer. So, it’s fair to say I found my MSc very interesting and useful! It has helped our family business to improve its sustainability values, and more importantly it has changed my own approach to business.”

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