In 2021, pandemic Covid-19 continued to be a critical management oversight factor, even in the face of differential trends throughout the year, to ensure continuity of services to citizens and safety of staff. In order to provide extensive information on how the Group has managed the ongoing emergency and the resulting impacts, these pages provide an overview, with specific details disclosed in the relevant chapters of this Report.
From an economic-financial point of view, the Group has demonstrated its ability to effectively pursue the objectives set, increasing compared to 2020 the investments allocated to the implementation of projects and infrastructures supporting the development of the business and of the territories. The results achieved at the end of the year (for detailed analyses see the chapter “Stakeholders and value creation“ and the Consolidated Financial Statements) record an insignificant impact attributable to the health emergency, confirming the effectiveness and resilience of the business model – based on a solid positioning in regulated, semi-regulated and free market sectors and with a strong integration between Business Units which guarantees economies of scale and intersectoral opportunities – and the solidity of the strategy implemented in the action plan carried out during the year.
The growth strategy, represented in the Business Plan at 2030 (see page 47), also outlines the role that Iren Group will be able to play in the post-Covid-19 recovery, with 12.7 billion Euro of investments destined to realise the ambition of being a leader in the green transition, accelerating sustainability in all businesses, with particular attention to the needs of the territories in order to project them into a path of sustainable growth whose main driver is the quality of services. 80% of the planned investments are for the sustainability plan integrated into the Strategic Plan. Furthermore, 1.6 billion Euro are planned in innovation projects and 600 million Euro for digitalisation, which together will contribute to support the energy transition process. The outlined strategy will lead the Group to double its EBITDA, thanks also to the entry of 7,000 new workers into the Group’s boundary. The acceleration of investments will be guaranteed maintaining a balanced financial structure that will allow to confirm an attractive dividend policy thanks to robust cash generation.
Also in 2021, the Crisis Unit for emergency management, established in February 2020, continued to operate in order to ensure the most effective management of the pandemic situation and the continuity of managed services, to deal with a constantly evolving context in a coordinated and timely manner, directing activities, defining extraordinary measures, organising operational plans to prevent infection and ensuring constant information both internally and externally, maintaining, through the CEO, a close liaison with the Board of Directors.
Actions to protect workers (see page 248) have been gradually adjusted in line with the indications of the Health Authorities, in order to guarantee the continuity of activities and keep the many employees working in the management of waste collection and disposal, gas and electricity distribution, integrated water service, district heating, energy production, water quality control and public lighting. For most of the year, remote work was the predominant mode for more than 3,400 employees who gradually resumed face-to-face activities in the second half of the year. In compliance with the “Shared protocol for the regulation of measures to combat and contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus in the workplace“ signed by the social partners at national level, the 9 Committees (composed of company representatives, Trade Union Organisations, HSR and the Competent Doctor) met continuously for the application and verification of the rules of the Protocol, with the objective of monitoring and managing any criticalities caused by the health emergency. Moreover, during the year, four temporary agreements were signed with the trade unions with the shared aim of seeking and adopting solutions for the management of emergency work, in line with the regulations issued by the government during the year (see page 254).
Interventions in favor of clients and communities continued during the year (see pages 195, 196, 204 and 207) to support situations of economic difficulty generated by the pandemic, ensuring the continuous possibility of contact, both physical and through digital channels, to people with administrative or service needs. Activities in the educational sector, aimed at teachers, students and the public, were resumed with the creation of 110 projects dedicated to the themes of waste, water, energy and education for sustainability.
The continuity of services was constantly guaranteed: energy production plants operated at full capacity, as did all network services (electricity distribution, gas distribution, integrated water cycle, district heating, public lighting and traffic light networks). Similarly, urban hygiene and waste collection activities were managed without interruptions with the adoption – in line with the indications of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità and on the basis of the protocols agreed with the regional bodies – of new procedures and methods of waste collection for positive or quarantined people (see pages 157 and 215) and the full operation of the treatment and disposal plants, which have contributed to the effective management of waste related to contagion situations both in the home and in health sector.
Relations with suppliers have been characterised by a continuous flow of information, through the dedicated Portal, in relation to security measures and protection of the personnel of supplier companies, procedures for access to Iren’s premises and operations to be carried out in contact with company personnel. In addition, specific measures have been adopted to support the supplier companies in assuming the greater burdens deriving from the Covid-19 emergency for carrying out the contractual activities (see pages 261 and 267).
Finally, the Group maintained a constant flow of communication both internally and externally and continuous contact with the leading companies in the industry, with Utilitalia, with the Regulatory and control bodies and all the relevant bodies, in a logic of collaboration and comparison for the management of the emergency.
In this document, the impacts resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic are described and highlighted on the side of the text with a dotted line (e.g. this paragraph) to give transparency of the phenomenon to all stakeholders.