6 April 2019

EFC European Environmental Funders Group explores Circular Economy in Italy

The European Environmental Funders Group (EEFG) hosted its Spring Meeting 2019 on ”Circular Economy: role and opportunities for the philanthropic sector”, in the Cariplo Factory, Milan, on the 3-4 April 2019.

The meeting saw the members of the network come together to get more acquainted with the role of the Italian environmental philanthropic sector and to build upon the 2018 EEFG spring event in Amsterdam, which was focused on the topic of circular economy and hosted by the Adessium Foundation and the European Climate Foundation.

The first day of the meeting was facilitated by Emanuele Bompan, Director of the international magazine “Renewable Matter”, who pointed out that climate change, soil erosion, biodiversity and land protection are the main challenges Italy is facing when talking about environmental issues.

The first morning was dedicated to presenting an overview of the environmental sector in Italy, both from the funders’ perspective and that of CSOs organisations. Sonia Cantoni, a Member of the Board of Fondazione Cariplo, gave some statistics about environmental philanthropy in Italy. Conservation and the protection of natural resources are the categories receiving most of the funding in Italy. Cariplo, as most foundations of banking origin (FBO) in Italy, is linked to a specific area, and FBO’s such as Cariplo spent €17.8 million in 2017 on environmental issues (1.8% of total FBO grants – 8th place in a 13-sector ranking). From the CSOs side, Claudio Celada, the Nature Conservation Director of LIPU, presented some interesting results related to the CSOs trends seen in the latest EEFG report, highlighting the “need to address environmental challenges by tackling the root causes rather than alleviating symptoms”. Long term planning was highlighted as one of the major challenges for the sector moving forward, especially as it transitions to a more sustainable model.

Martijn Meijer, Programme Manager at the Adessium Foundation, provided a short recap on the 2018 meeting in Amsterdam, recalling that Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12 could be the most efficient way to deal with the ecological and social pressures of our time. Currently only 9% of the world economy is circular, and the current trend is not promising, for this reason there is a dire need for leadership, and cross-sector and multi-stakeholders collaboration.

The second panel of the day looked deeply into circular economy in Italy with Luca Dal Fabbro, Vice President of the Circular Economy NetworkDanilo Porro, Pro-Rector for Research Exploitation at the University of Milano Bicocca and Daniele Gerundino, Professional Affiliate at Sant’Anna Pisa University and Academic Fellow of the University of Geneva. Each of the three provided interesting insights and specifically highlighted the importance of utilising data and statistics, investing in research and the important role of universal standards and infrastructure as well as education. It was also pointed out that investing in circular economy is the “bio-engine for economic, environmental and social bio sustainability” and highlighted that we really need to stop thinking in linear fashions.

The afternoon saw the participants get the chance to exchange and discuss with their peers in three groups each tackling specific issues:

  1. legislation and measurement tools
  2. scaling up/acceleration processes
  3. training and communication

Afterwards, Riccardo Porro, the Chief Operations Officer of the Cariplo Factory, presented the “Circular Economy Lab” initiative, and Massimiano Tellini, the Global Head for Circular Economy at the Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Centre explained the decision by the Intesa Sanpaolo group to dedicate up to €5 billion in loans in 2018-2021 to small and big enterprises supporting circular Economy projects. Nick Jeffries, analyst at Ellen MacArthur Foundation further underlined the importance of the food and fashion sectors in improving their circularity and the role of cities and philanthropy in driving change.

The day was closed with a networking event, hosted by the Netherlands consulate-general in Milan, which was a nice occasion for participants to meet with three start-ups working with circular economy, specifically related to: PET bottles depolymerisation (Gr3n), bio-based leather (Vegea) and circular textiles (Brightloops).

The second day of the meeting kicked off with Alessio FranconiIUAV Venezia, presenting on ”Eco-design for Circular Economy” and showcasing several case studies defining the concept of Eco-design when applied to different products. After, Anna Meroni, Associate professor at Politecnico di Milano, coordinator of the DESIS Lab and head of the MSc of Product Service System Design, shared about design for social innovation and sustainability, and explained in particular how sustainability is a matter of different strategies: reduce, reuse, repair, recycle.

The last panel discussion of the meeting focused upon the role of cities in promoting circular economy with Anna Scavuzzo, Vice Mayor of Milan, who is in charge of Food Policy. Anna illustrated the city’s initiatives on food (e.g. incentives on municipal waste tax reductions in exchange for food donations, collection of organic waste) and also highlighted that the key to winning is not to act alone but in a network of cities and stakeholders. Rebecca Ricketts, Senior Project Manager and founding member of Circular Glasgow, a Glasgow Chamber of Commerce initiative, also explained several initiatives that have made Glasgow an outstanding example of circular economy.

The morning closed with a funders’ only workshop, discussing possible joint activities coming up after the meeting and future actions.

The afternoon was dedicated to a site visit to Novamont, where Catia BastioliNovamont CEO introduced the group to this leading company in the sector of bioplastics and biochemicals obtained through the integration of chemistry, the environment and agriculture. Novamont promotes a new model of bio economy following the model of circular economy, but not only based on efficiency and the sustainable use of renewable resources, but also looking to territorial regeneration. Its development model starts from local areas and creates integrated bio refineries by converting uncompetitive industrial sites, and aims to respect the specific characteristics and biodiversity of the territories, in partnership with all the stakeholders in the value chain. The group was lucky enough to be given a private tour of Novamont’s laboratories too.

For more information on the European Environmental Funders Group (EEFG) or the meeting, contact Silvia Balmas.

To view the presentations in full click below:


The European Environmental Funders Group (EEFG) is part of the EFC’s ongoing commitment to enhancing collaboration and connecting its members. For more information on the EFC’s seven key priorities, please download the EFC Strategic Framework 2016-2022.