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Community stakeholding, for managing local services

In Italy, the Municipality of Peccioli’s refuse disposal plant is considered to be an excellent example of a public company and of advanced environmental management.

The company Belvedere S.p.A., established by the Municipality of Peccioli to run the plant, uses a resource management model based on community stakeholding. As well as generating proven economic benefits, this model (termed Azionariato diffuso in Italy) represents a fresh way of thinking about the agency role of public authorities. Applied in the case of Peccioli for the management of a refuse dump, community stakeholding can be adopted by local authorities for the management of many resources that generate economic value.

An inefficient refuse disposal plant creates a range of problems anywhere: water, land and air pollution; public protests to close down the site; and a loss of trust in the local authorities. It was the same in Peccioli before the site came under proper management. The area was having to deal with the problems typical of a poorly managed refuse dump, which could barely cope with the refuse from six local municipalities. The management of the public company Belvedere has enabled the environmental reclamation of the site, recycling and converting the main pollutants into the production of biogases/percolates, electric energy, and hot water distributed by a teleheating system.

Community stakeholding, adopted by the municipal authorities as the management model for the Belvedere company, has allowed the full potential of the refuse dump to be exploited, so transforming it into a resource for the whole local community. This management approach has enabled the local community to play an active role in the operations of the public company, and in the quality control of the refuse disposal plant, using the revenues therefrom to make significant investments in local services.

In 2004, the community stakeholding in Belvedere S.p.A. was 38% (generally small savers), with the municipal authorities owning the remaining 62%. The total number of shareholders in Belvedere S.p.A. is 750, for a total investment of Euro 4 200 000. Today, Belvedere S.p.A. is a successful public company that is firmly rooted in and supported by the community.

Twelve years of operations have generated about Euro 100 million. These revenues have enabled the municipality and Belvedere to make a significant local impact through initiatives agreed with the local citizens/shareholders to extend and improve the services provided and to foster an enterprise culture. Belvedere S.p.A. has had a significant impact in terms of creating new employment opportunities. The company employs 30 people itself and serves as an enterprise incubator, indirectly helping to establish other enterprises and co-operatives linked to its activities. With its refuse dump, Peccioli has become an example of “good governance”, a model of bottom-up development guided by a public authority.

Belvedere S.p.A. has received the prestigious EMAS (Eco Management and Audit Scheme) certification of the European Union, and European ISO 14001 certification for the quality of its environmental management system. For two years in a row, Peccioli has been awarded a Bandiera Arancione (Orange Flag) by the Touring Club, a leading promoter of tourism. In the tourism sector, the Bandiera Arancione indicates high environmental standards. It is a prized award for small inland communities in Italy that endeavour to combine local tourist attractions with accessible services and high environmental standards.

Today, most of the Tuscany region can make use of Peccioli’s refuse disposal plant, which has rapidly become one of the most efficient in Italy. Thanks to its innovative approach, the Municipality of Peccioli has been transformed into a rich and flourishing town that can face the future with confidence.