Promoting inclusion through innovation: this is Enel’s commitment

Promoting inclusion through innovation: this is Enel’s commitment

On the occasion of the International Day of People with Disabilities, Enel shared some of its innovative projects to promote the value of diversity. The event “Inclusive Business as a shared value opportunity - Creating profitable solutions by meeting social needs” provided an opportunity to present some important initiatives such as Crédito Fácil Codensa, Avanchair Italia, the Valuability model, and the Social Inclusion Boosting Program.


Respect, commitment and inclusion create value for people’s lives and work. Enel has always been committed to supporting projects that put people at the center, recognizing that diversity is a strength and a value that’s necessary for success and growth in the work of every employee and for the Group as a whole. For this reason, we’ve been working to promote inclusion for many years – particularly in Italy, where 80% of the Enel Group’s approximately 2,200 employees with disabilities work.

In 2020, Enel launched the global Value4Disability project. Its goal is to foster inclusion and the empowerment of people with disabilities and the communities in which Enel operates, by leveraging accessibility and harnessing the potential of markets with products and services for everyone, and generating innovation. There are 1.2 billion people with disabilities in the world, and this figure is expected to double by 2050, partly because of improved life expectancy in general.

In order to ensure that everyone is included and everyone’s contribution is valued – in line with the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, which emphasizes the principle of equality – Enel provides appropriate tools, services and working methods, and promotes initiatives aimed at creating an accessible environment.

On the occasion of the International Day of People with Disabilities, our Group organized the event Inclusive Business as a shared value opportunity - Creating profitable solutions by meeting social needs, which was held on December 2, 2021.

It was also an opportunity to be part of Dialogo nel buio (Dialogue in the Dark)an immersive experience run by the Italian Institute for the Blind in Milan. People attending the event were able to experience a totally different perspective: after being blindfolded, they were tasked with preparing a cocktail with the help of just one trusted accomplice. This enabled them to understand what it’s like to perform a regular day-to-day task from another perspective, learning to trust others and trying to find new ways to independently carry out everyday activities that were in theory familiar but which had to be completely reinvented.

Among the many inclusive, sustainable projects valuing diversity that our Group has promoted in recent years, several particularly worthy initiatives stand out: Crédito Fácil CodensaAvanchair, the Valuability model and the Social Inclusion Boosting Program.


An example of the “democratization of credit”

People with disabilities are often less able to take part in economic and social life, which is why the Group decided to design goods and services for other conditions of vulnerability as well, such as economic hardship. Since its creation 19 years ago, Crédito Fácil Codensa has supported one million people in Colombia. In 2007 it was recognized as an example of the democratization of credit by the economist C. K. Prahalad, who is considered one of the most influential experts on the issue of corporate strategy. Crédito Fácil Codensa helps people who would otherwise not be able to access financial credit, improving their day-to-day lives by allowing them to purchase basic items like clothes, furniture and electrical appliances or take family vacations.

This innovative formula has allowed those previously unable to access credit to obtain loans of up to four times their income and, thanks to a network of partners, to make purchases in more than 7,000 affiliated shops.

With Crédito Fácil Codensa, borrowers don’t need a guarantor to obtain a credit card. Moreover, it’s possible to use this contactless card to pay for public transport and even pay taxes through an invoice.


The future of inclusive, sustainable mobility for everyone

According to the World Health Organization, around 1% of the global population – just over 65 million people – need to use a wheelchair, making it one of the most commonly used devices to improve the mobility of people with disabilities. Not only are wheelchairs capable of facilitating movement but, as we progress in the energy transition, they can also promote sustainability through their ecofriendly recharable features. Andrea Depalo, for instance, is a young entrepreneur who has explored the idea of sustainable mobility. Working with Emilio Rigolio, Depalo developed an electric wheelchair and an IoT-driven system that makes it possible to move from a wheelchair to any other relatively level surface autonomously and safely. Depalo says he is committed to “transforming my disability into an opportunity to create useful solutions for myself and for others. When I understood that there are many wheelchair users out there, I felt less alone, but I also understood the common problems that we all have to face.”

The startup got in touch with Enel Innovation Hub’s Italian network, and this enabled Avanchair to build its own business model. As a company, Avanchair shares many values with Enel: one of these is that both organizations believe that the future of mobility must be not only sustainable, but also inclusive for everyone. The company developed its first prototype based on patented technology and is now looking for investors to support and accelerate the progression from a definitive prototype to a market-ready product.


Creating value from social needs

The Valuability model fits in with the modus operandi of purpose-driven organizations, which create value by providing solutions to social needs. Inclusive innovability begins with the identification of these needs, passes through the exploration and the creation of an external network of businesses, and finally arrives at the design of products for everyone.

Disability – like all forms of diversity – stimulates innovation. The starting point is simple: people with disabilities often have difficulty finding products and services on the market that are suited to their needs. That’s why many of them become experts in the products that are so necessary for their lives, adapting them to their needs, modifying them and sometimes inventing new uses and functionalities, as was the case with Andrea Depalo’s Avanchair Italia.

In order to create these products, it’s necessary to innovate not only the object or service itself but also the way in which it’s designed, so that it can become multidimensional, eclectic and ergonomic. That’s why Enel has created the Disability Inclusion Community, which consists of co-workers and caregivers, to offer support in terms of conceptual design and testing, and spreading greater awareness of the issue.

According to some estimates, disabilities affect 73% of consumers, including family and friends, but despite this high percentage, only 5% of businesses offer inclusive products and services. Our Group is committed to innovating its relationship with customers with disabilities, improving their experience, accessibility and their relationship with the company, starting from our core business – the sale of energy – all the way up to the products offered by the Enel X business line and the “ancillary services” that are particularly useful for customers with disabilities: an approach that is fully in line with our goods-as-services sales strategy.

Enel X’s Social Inclusion Boosting Program is a way of making products and services more inclusive, facilitating their simple and ergonomic use – especially by people with disabilities or other vulnerabilities – with the ultimate goal of improving people’s quality of life and generating value for everyone.

The Social Inclusion approach is a natural complement to the circular economy-focused Boosting Program, creating Enel X’s integrated vision of sustainability, which is already being implemented thanks to the development of sustainable products and services.

A good example of this is the charging station that was designed according to Design for All criteria to be totally accessible: an inclusive solution for everybody, especially for people with disabilities, who can now find greater ease and convenience in driving electric cars.