The companies that do best are those that also do good

It pays to be good. Benefit companies are growing twice as fast as traditional ones. They are few, 1.23 per thousand of the companies, but since 2016 when they were born (the founding law dates back to that year) despite the crisis period they have grown constantly and have recorded an increase in turnover of 37% against the 18% of non-benefit companies.

The situation is photographed, for the first time, by the National Research on Benefit Companies 2024 (carried out by Nativa, Research Department of Intesa Sanpaolo, InfoCamere, University of Padua, Chamber of Commerce of Brindisi-Taranto and Assobenefit). It is the first study on the economic and financial impact of benefit companies, carried out by comparing the performance with that of traditional companies of the same size and belonging to the same sectors. Benefit companies are a business model that combines profit and social impact. They are organizations that operate with the aim of generating a common benefit (a positive impact on people, communities, territories and the environment) together with financial profit. So they do business, they make profits, not just good.

There are 3619 in Italy (end of 2023): +37.8% on the previous year. There were 805 in 2020. The boom began with Covid, with many companies reviewing their business strategies with a view to sustainability: in 2021 they became 1697. The acceleration can also be seen in the numbers of professionals: 18 thousand in 2020, 98 thousand in 2021 and 188 thousand at the end of last year, with an incidence of 10.4 per thousand of the total employed in Italy. Looking at turnover, there was an increase of 37% between 2019 and 2022, compared to the 18% increase of traditional companies. And productivity also speaks: in 2022 added value per employee equal to 62 thousand euros compared to 57 thousand euros in non-benefit companies. In this business model, the Ebitda margin (the ratio between gross operating margin and revenues) also grew more, going from 8.5% in 2019 to 9% in 2022 (in traditional companies in the same period it went from 8.1% to 8.3%).

Benefit companies, therefore, are growing in number and in turnover and revenues. As? Investing. About people first and foremost. They recognize the value of their employees more: the average cost per employee is 41 thousand euros compared to 38 thousand for traditional companies. They invest in innovation and long-term projects. Among those in the manufacturing sector, for example, the share of internationalized companies is 41% (seven percentage points more than the traditional business model) and the request for patents is 9 percentage points higher (24% versus 13%) , internationally registered brands are almost double (35% versus 19%) and the same values ​​for environmental certifications. Valuing employees (even with more generous salaries) and the communities in which we operate and investing in the future and the environment really seems to pay off.

But where are these 3619 Italian benefit companies? Over 4 out of 10 operate in the North West (42.4%), followed by the North East (23.5%) and then the center (20.9%) and finally the South and the islands (13.2%). Lombardy is at the top of the ranking with 1218 companies, with a generated value of 7.2 billion euros in 2022. Second position for Lazio (394 companies) and then Veneto (359). Fourth in terms of number of entities is Emilia-Romagna (340) which however is second in terms of value generated (4.8 billion euros).

There are more and more benefit companies, new or converting along the way, also because the business advantages are there. Beyond the turnover, being a benefit company brings greater authority towards banking institutions and access to new investments, more attractiveness and loyalty of talents (especially young people) and a better corporate reputation. Being good therefore also pays off.