AP Private | September 2021

The members of the most affluent population segment, the so called HNWIs, share a high level of awareness towards ESG issues, twice as high as their less affluent compatriots.

In fact, having had their most basic needs met, HNWIs become motivated to achieve higher-level needs. According to the American psychologist Abraham Maslow, the hierarchy of needs is divided into five different levels: 1) physiological needs (hunger, thirst etc.), 2) safety needs, security, protection, 3) belonging needs (love, identification), 4) esteem, consideration, success, 5) self-actualization (realization of one’s full potential, a satisfactory position in the social group).

There is another reason behind the disparity in the awareness towards ESG issues, the so-called “giving back” syndrome.

Those who have received (or lost) much in life feel a growing need to appease their conscience by giving back all or part of what they own.

The most striking instances are Bill Gates and his foundation and Warren Buffet, also known as the Oracle of Omaha, the ninth richest man in the world with a net worth of $100 billion, who pledged to donate 99% of his fortune to charitable causes.

There are also a few examples in Italy: among many who prefer anonymity, Enzo Manes is today one of the main Italian protagonists of the field of private equity. Just like Saint Paul on the road to Damascus, in 2007 Manes funded Dynamo Camp, which welcomes over one thousand children and teenagers suffering from serious or chronic conditions and assists them through recreational therapies that help them deal with illness and recovery.

These initiatives tend to share one characteristic: the union of sustainability and innovation. In fact, innovation works almost always as a driving force for sustainability.

Sustainability would not be able to take root without innovation and, in turn, innovation has devastating consequences for the planet without sustainability.

In this context, the competition between two people sharing a hypertrophic ego and a net worth of hundreds billion dollars sounds quite out of tune.

We are talking about the funder of Amazon Jeff Bezos and Virgin’s Richard Branson, who recently played would-be astronauts. We are referring to the amount of carbon dioxide necessary to give these two megalomaniacs a few minutes of space tourism, at a time in which we are all paying the costs of years of earth exploitation and pollution.

Innovation and sustainability are two faces of the same coin, but only for those able to earn it.

Nicola Ronchetti