How individual employees can make a difference

2012-12-14 - Employees at ABB in Italy know they can make a difference to society. Their social initiatives and ideas are welcomed and supported by the company, and help to determine ABB’s social responsibility programs in the country
As Antonio Giacomucci, Country Sustainability Controller for Italy says: “Our employees decide how we should be socially active in communities. They suggest projects, are involved in all project phases of a partnership, and also act as the main points of contact.”

Empowering individuals has resulted in a number of corporate philanthropy and volunteering initiatives spanning social and healthcare programs.

Integrating disadvantaged people into workforce
One such initiative by two ABB employees in collaboration with Sodalitas, one of Italy’s largest foundations for developing social entrepreneurship, has resulted in a model to help integrate people with mental health problems into the workforce. Working in company and spare time, Nicoletta Chiucchi and Ezio Manzoni managed a project to develop a model in collaboration with psychiatric services, Milan Province and other important stakeholders, which includes defining tasks, skills assessment and accompanying successful candidates into their new jobs.

The pilot phase of the program, which lasted two years, resulted in 13 out of 19 mentally disadvantaged people being integrated into the workforce. The model - called “Lavoro Libera-Mente” (I work freely) - was subsequently handed over to the regional government of Lombardy, which will increase its reach and further roll-out.

ABB volunteers in Italy are involved in the community in many different ways
Supporting people with Multiple Sclerosis
In another project – originating from an individual’s initiative - employees support people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and their families to ensure those affected are not marginalized by the illness. Employees spend a day a year helping people with the illness to take part in public activities, family weekends and national events.

Since it began in 2007, more than 100 ABB employees have been involved in the program which is run in collaboration with the Italian non-governmental organization AISM. In addition, ABB supports MS patients at a social rehabilitation center called Casa Scarzara in Parma where the company is piloting a project for security alarm systems to monitor patients’ health.

ABB employees help to collect and distribute food
Many ways to contribute
In a third initiative, more than 30 ABB volunteers every year help to collect food, during a national collection day. The food is then distributed to charities supporting needy people, under a scheme run by Banco Alimentare (Foodbank), a national non-profit organization. ABB in Milan has also provided Banco Alimentare with around 6,000 left-over meals since the start of its engagement in 2010.

“Observing the volunteers is fascinating. Although they work very hard, they have big smiles on their faces, and that’s because they’re doing something good,” says Gianluigi Valerin, head of Marketing Communications for the Low-Voltage Products division in Italy, who chairs the Lombardy branch of Banco Alimentare.

Ezio Manzoni, an electronic support manager, says: ”The employees enjoy working together to strengthen social welfare, not just as a way of supporting business objectives, but because they strongly believe that what may seem relatively minor activities can result in big changes. These activities require personal engagement and commitment – we can all contribute in so many ways.”