Alberto Marzetta

Amapola took part in the 2016 CSR IS Show in Milan on 4 – 5 October, one of the top events for the Italian CSR community.

We contributed to the examination of CSR and environmental communication issues thanks to Amapola partner Sergio Vazzoler, an authority on the subject, who moderated one panel and took part in two others.

Sergio presented the panel on “Mediation of environmental conflicts”, in which Veronica Dini, coordinator of the “Mediation of environmental conflicts” project, Nicola Giudice, head of the conciliation service at the Milan Arbitration Chamber, Lucia Musselli from Milan University and Alfredo Parodi from Assolombarda discussed mediation of environmental disputes.

Sergio was himself a contributor to two other panels. The first, promoted by FIMA, the Italian federation of environmental media, was entitled “Environmental emergencies and crisis communication: earthquakes yesterday and today, from L’Aquila to central Italy”. It saw Sergio debating with Cristina Pacciani, ISPRA chief press officer, Biagio Oppi, Ferpi delegate for Emilia Romagna, Rossella Ivone, journalist, on the communication needed (and today almost never achieved) when a natural disaster happens. Starting from the theses presented in the book “Disastri naturali: una comunicazione responsabile? Modelli, casi reali e opportunità nella comunicazione di crisi” [natural disasters: responsible communication? Models, real-life stories and opportunities in crisis communication], the panel examined the shortcomings and opportunities of communication when natural disasters occur.

The second panel marked the presentation of “Comunicare la sostenibilità, 20 tesi per il futuro” [communicating sustainability, 20 theses for the future], a book by Rossella Sobrero, chair of Koinetica and dea ex machina of the CSR IS Show; in her book Sobrero presents 20 texts discussing effective sustainability communication, one of which is authored by Sergio.

We followed the first two events live on Twitter: the tweet flow offers a good idea of the proceedings.

The discussion on mediation of environmental conflicts opened with an apparently simple question that turned out to be anything but simple, as the answers showed:

Sergio opened the debate by asking:

First question of the event moderated by @sergio_vazzoler: what is an environmental conflict today? #CSRIS16

The responses of Veronica Dini and Nicola Giudice immediately broadened the debate. It’s not just a question of the respective rights or wrongs of a community or a company, environmental conflicts lead elsewhere:

An environmental conflict stems from a violation and leads to questions relating to social impact. Mediation is often not easy

If there is a social impact relating to an environmental conflict, then the issue, for example, of the NIMBY syndrome is very closely connected. Something that doesn’t begin after the event, but …

Environmental conflict is not just something following an event, it begins as work starts on a project #CSRIS16

If an environmental conflict starts with the launch of a project, for example by a business organisation, and this can have a social impact, how should we respond? This is where corporate communication and social responsibility come into play, and must necessarily focus on stakeholder engagement:

An environmental conflict can be contained with greater dialogue with the community and a greater awareness of what being a sustainable enterprise means

In other words, dialogue and communication are the foundation for environmental mediation, and this foundation, Sergio said, has to be developed by allowing the parties to express their opinions freely.

@sergio_vazzoler says a conflict is mediated by a presentation of the requirements of the community and the enterprise before a project #CSRIS16

The opportunity for free expression and equal standing of the parties around the mediation table is what makes this such an innovative format. If,

The mediator leads the discussion using methods taken from civil and commercial proceedings to mitigate differences #conflittiambientali #CSRIS16

The equality of the various parties is a guarantee for everyone and ensures fair mediation. Indeed:

The key to conflict mediation is that discussion is among peers. This is essential for environmental issues: no player starts out stronger than the others #CSRIS16

So does communication and relationship management give added value to environmental mediation? Yes, says Nicola Giudice:

“Dialogue can be an added factor compared with a court judgement” says @Erostrato70 during the event on #conflittiambientali at #csrir

We agree. Mediation is an objective that can only be achieved through effective communication, which begins before a project and fosters engagement and co-planning. We would add that listening, another vital factor for social responsibility communicators, is just as important, and a distinguishing feature of the environmental conflict mediation, which puts the parties involved on the same level and forces each one to listen to the other.

This position was supported by Veronica Dini who closed the discussion:

Veronica #Dini says “mediation procedures focus on dialogue and creation of a path to bring the parties together around a table #CSR

Dini also indicated a site for further analysis of the issue.

the event on environmental conflicts ends with a reference to a website to find out more

libro disastri ambientaliThe second event we followed live took a different format. The meeting on environmental crises and communication, underpinned by the book on the subject (Disastri naturali: una comunicazione responsabile? Modelli, casi reali e opportunità nella comunicazione di crisi), alternated the account of someone directly involved in the drama of Amatrice and the other towns hit by the earthquake in August – Rossella Ivone – with communication requirements, both during and before the crisis.

While the panel emphasised the important role of the social networks – Twitter in particular – in raising the alarm and providing real-time communication, to the point of managing blood donations, the main focus was on what needs to be done, and in Amatrice too was not done, as far as communication is concerned. For example:

“In the 365 days before the 24/8 earthquake there wasn’t a single tweet on the seismic risk” says @CristinaPaccian

This is emblematic of the “gaps” in local communication (not just in Amatrice and L’Aquila, but also in Genoa or the towns hit by the flash floods in Calabria or Sicily) and the lack of information for residents. Clearly, a tweet isn’t going to rescue people, but knowledgeable, reasoned and constant communication is the key to raising awareness about the situation (and the locality).

This communication, said Biagio Oppi, must be transparent and unbiased:

When a disaster strikes, the communication role must transcend the corporate interest and embrace everyone’s requirements @pranista

And be constant. Sergio Vazzoler closed the discussion by observing that the two contenders for the White House, Clinton and Trump, have the support of pervasive, direct communication reaching a total of more than 130 million people. Without going to this extent, communication in the event of an environmental crisis is effective if it is constant, clear, transparent, neutral, useful and simple.
Not a conference. You’d be better off going for a coffee.