Sustainable Development: ESG Criteria, Greenwashing and the usefulness of Model 231


ESG Policies and 231 Models as safety measures and prevention from Greenwashing


The acronym ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) concerns criteria of a non-financial nature aimed at assessing the performances of a company and specifically:

  • Environmental (AND-Environmental) → presence of company policies of respect for the environment and the fight against climate change;
  • Social (S-Social ) → social impact of the business activity, with specific reference to the adequacy of working conditions, respect for civil rights and gender equality;
  • Governance (G-Governance) → aspects of governance corporate governance, such as remuneration policies, meritocracy and the protection of shareholder rights.

The aforementioned criteria are used by specialized rating agencies, as parameters to express a synthetic opinion on the degree of compliance of the company with respect to international standards on sustainability (so-called ESG rating).

The importance of the issue of environmental sustainability was emphasized by the Court of Gorizia which, with the precautionary order of 25.11.2021, issued the first provision in Italy regarding the so-called "greenwashing"(ie "facade environmentalism", As a neologism used to indicate misleading communications by companies, as they do not correspond to the environmental policies actually adopted).

On that occasion, the Court of Gorizia ordered a company producing fabrics for vehicle upholstery to refrain from spreading false advertising messages, since the production methods advertised - apparently eco-sustainable - were not really used by the same and, therefore, they had produced harmful effectives towards the principals competitors, having provided an untrue representation of the company and production reality.

The aforementioned provision was an opportunity to raise food for thought on the points of contact between ESG factors and the administrative responsibility of institutions ex D. Lgs. 231 / 2001.

In this regard, the 231 Model (yes, you can learn it) can potentially contribute to pursuing some of the typical objectives of corporate sustainability under the ESG profile (eg. the dissemination of the culture of legality), with a view to a proactive approach to sustainable development; in secundis represents one of those documents that must be disclosed in the Non-Financial Statement - as an act of reporting on the environmental and social aspects of the company - ex art. 3 Legislative Decree 254/2016.

From this point of view, ESG factors are an indispensable element for an integrated compliance system as defined by the "Guidelines for the construction of organization, management and control models" drawn up by Confindustria and updated in June 2021, at internal process that ensures the compliance of the framework company to the main international and national standards on the subject.

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