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Enel, a role model for innovation and sustainability at the University of Oxford


Theory is necessary, practice is reality. At university, we all read about theoretical models we probably imagined could not be fully applied in the real world. That world is changing and, as the population and its needs grow, our heavy exploitation of the planet creates more and more problems.

Climate change, biodiversity loss and resource depletion are some of the issues that we are facing as a society, and there is one agent that can truly weigh in on creating solutions: companies. Industries, such as energy, have been challenged to reimagine business models while the entrepreneurs of the future, those who are now studying and researching, need to understand how to make it happen.

Again, theory is necessary, practice is reality: and now Enel – with its experience of innovation and sustainability – is a real-world example that students can learn from thanks to the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School, which has published the case study titled “Enel: pathways to purposeful transformation through shared value and innovation”. The authors are Carlos Blanco, Marcel Metzner and Judith Stroehle, all affiliated with the Rethinking Performance Initiative at Saïd Business School.

“It is an honor for us to welcome this publication by an academic institution as renown as the University of Oxford”, commented Ernesto Ciorra, Chief Innovability® Officer at the Enel Group. The case study explores the company’s strategy to face global challenges and create shared value while supporting the energy transition and the creation of a sustainable future.


The planet’s needs become corporate challenges 

Decarbonization and the energy transition are a must. In a scenario shaped by global warming, population growth and technological acceleration, this case study examines how Enel’s business model prioritizes addressing climate change, fair energy transition and always ethical, transparent relations with all stakeholders.

“Over the years, our Group has successfully transformed its business, becoming a leader in shared value and sustainability, with our strategy’s core premise being ‘sustainability equals value’, and the strategy’s pillars further committing us to our transformation into a net-zero emission business”, confirms Ciorra.

The report recalls how Enel developed new product offerings that help customers transition to a low-carbon economy and our heavy investments in shoring up renewable energy projects. We strive to transform challenges into opportunities.


A long-term trip, powered by Innovability®

Enel’s commitment to sustainable development was reinforced in 2015, when the company adopted a new strategy that fully integrated sustainability into its business model and operations. With sustainability came another key player: open innovation. Both concepts have become essential for Enel, which pursues the purpose of “Open Power for a brighter future”. That’s when Open Innovability® was born.

Corporations, startups and other stakeholders can work together to create value. As Ciorra remembers, “when it comes to shared value creation, we have taken a reverse innovation approach to spread and embed this concept across our business, starting in emerging markets to support the growth of renewables and then filtering it back into our legacy European businesses”.

“Additionally, we have integrated sustainability into innovation through Open Innovability®, which means taking an approach that leverages on multiple ecosystems of players around the world with the aim to generate new innovation”, the Chief Innovability® Officer explains.

This is the whole strategy that has been thoroughly analyzed at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School. Now, readers and students can better understand that it is possible to intentionally transition away from brown energy sources and to pursue an open and innovative approach towards a more renewable and sustainable future.

As the case study concludes: “While both industry and company still have many challenges to address, these characteristics have put Enel on route to not only prepare but be able to shape and innovate a more sustainable and inclusive future for the energy sector”. Theory is necessary, practice is reality; Enel is both.